Social Q’s: Does a Son Need a Male Role Model?

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Social Q’s: Does a Son Need a Male Role Model?

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Social Q’s

By PHILIP GALANES

My husband and I divorced when our son was a baby. It was messy, and my son has no contact with him — which is sort of the problem. I am an only child, my father is dead, and my close friends are women. So, my 12-year-old boy is without an adult male role model. I would like him to have one. A close friend has a wonderful son in college who will soon be coming home for the summer. Would it be crazy if I asked my friend (or her son) if he would be willing to hang out with my son?

ANN MARIE, NEW YORK

Crazy? No. But awkward and unlikely to achieve your goal? Most definitely. Twenty-year-olds and preteenagers are not natural playmates — unless you are living in the world of early Judd Apatow films. (And you probably don’t want your son hanging out with that version of Seth Rogen.) Even if you shared your motives with your friend, it seems unlikely to me that you will squeeze more than an outing or two from a kindhearted Joe College.

So, bring out the Benjamins. Be honest with your friend and her son, and offer to hire him to watch your young man once or twice a week. Depending on their interests (and your budget), they can play tennis in the park or go to dinner and a movie. Meanwhile, you can join a book club or catch up on your me-time. Win-win, right?

Now, this advice runs counter to Mike Mills’s terrific film, “20th Century Women,” in which Annette Bening, in a situation like yours, enlists even more women to help her raise a good man. Surrounding your son with good people, regardless of their gender, is your first move. But I get your desire for him to see how stand-up men operate in the world. (Also, check with your son’s teacher for school-sponsored options.)

Left Out, Then Invited

My lovely 27-year-old daughter has intellectual deficits and a seizure disorder. Unfortunately, the seizures cannot be predicted or prevented, and they are disruptive. Even more unfortunately, my brother and sister-in-law used the seizures as their explicit reason for not inviting her to her cousin’s bar mitzvah. (They said they were afraid she would distract their son during his speech.)

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I made my displeasure known, and soon we were both invited without another word. The problem: I’m still so angry that I’d like to punch my brother in the face. What should I do?

ANNIE

It is not uncommon for people to make mistakes, give way to bad impulses or even be unkind — especially when their “big days” are involved. Your brother and sister-in-law erred. But they also corrected their error, though silently, as soon as you pointed it out. Hold your tongue (for now), attend the bar mitzvah with your daughter and try to have a good time.

When you can speak to your brother and his wife without threat of screaming, tell them their behavior hurt your feelings. They will probably apologize. When they do, remind yourself that their mistake grew out of the same protective impulse for their son that offended your vigilance on behalf of your daughter. Then accept the apology and move on.

Concerned and Curious

A close friend and his wife had twins three weeks ago. My friend and I Skyped frequently during the pregnancy, discussing his excitement and fears. (I live 3,000 miles away.) When his wife went into labor, I got text updates from him every few hours. But when the babies were born, one had serious health issues that kept him in the NICU. Understandably, the updates stopped.

Since then, a guy who lives close to them has been designated point person and sends updates every few days. But I want to know much more than these emails contain. I’m desperate to speak with my friend. I don’t want to make him feel bad, but it’s hard for me to know so little of what’s going on, and I feel that I deserve to be more in the loop. What should I do?

ANNA

You are clearly suffering from a small loss of perspective. This situation is not about you — or your desires — at all. Your dear friend is under great stress right now. Unless otherwise requested, your sole job, at a distance of 3,000 miles, is to shower him and his family with love and support. This excludes calls or messages that seek to guilt him into replying to you.

To be clear, under no circumstances should your texts include the phrases “dying to hear from you,” “tell me how you’re doing” or “I miss speaking with you.” Your sole message is: “You are not alone. I am here for you if you need anything, day or night. Pick up the phone whenever you want to talk.” Trying to wheedle your way into more than that would be selfish — which I’m pretty sure you don’t mean to be. (But even if you do, don’t.)

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