DEAR AMY: I am a 52-year-old man, very successful in my career. I adopted my son two years ago as a single parent. He is 14 and going into high school. He raised himself on the streets, with a drug addict mom and grandma. His mom was 13 when she got pregnant with him.
Recently I jokingly told my son that I was going to watch him practice for a "sweet 15" dance he is going to attend. He told me if I did he would immediately leave/quit.
Later I asked him about this, and he stated that I am "an embarrassment." My heart broke in two, but I didn't say anything. I am extremely protective, which he resents. As a result he is dishonest, pretty consistently.
I love my son more than I have ever loved anyone. This kid has more now than he has ever had in his life.
Did I bite off more than I can chew, or is this normal behavior? — Heartbroken Dad
DEAR DAD: In at least one regard, your son's behavior is completely normal. No 14-year-old boy would want his dad to watch him practice for a "sweet 15" dance. This is a universal truth. Perhaps you can search your own memory bank to find an episode from your own life when you considered your parents to be too embarrassing to walk on the same side of the street as you.
Given the extreme deprivation in your son's early life and your own late start as a parent, you need to realize that you and your son are both learning how to be in a family. You lack the wellspring of other experiences which would have helped you (both) prepare for this one.
He must see a counselor — preferably a man to whom he can tell his story and vent about you — and anything else in his life. You two must learn to communicate well. You should take a very long view of his progress.
Spend time around other fathers and sons — perhaps through sports, music or a game club. You must learn the toughest part of parenting — to temper your protectiveness with compassion, understanding and good humor.
Do not expect him to express gratitude to you. His sole job is to grow up well (and that is a tough job for any child). Your role is to be the mature and loving dad, forever in his corner.
The best book I know about the inner life of boys is "Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys," by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson (2000, Ballantine Books). You should have it on hand.
DEAR AMY: Is a person ever too old to create and distribute a wish list? My sister is 31, and every year, without fail, she has distributed a very carefully created, well-populated wish list. She sends it in time for specific gift-giving occasions such as her birthday and holidays.
This seems like a blatant attempt by my sister to just get as many gifts as she can without actually interacting with people who would be buying these gifts for her. It seems selfish and completely uncouth.
I don't want to hurt her feelings by telling her this, but should I? — Younger Sister
DEAR SISTER: Your sister is too old to offer wish lists. Her focus should be more on what she can give — not what she can get.
Tell her, "Your wish lists make me uncomfortable because I feel boxed in. I don't know how other people feel about getting them, but an item on my own 'wish list' would be to be left off your list."
DEAR AMY: "Hurt Wife" didn't like her husband wearing the wedding ring from his previous marriage. I suggest she take her own ring off.
I did this, and my (now) ex-dud got really upset. I wouldn't put my wedding ring on until he did. When I would see him without his, I'd slip mine off.
I'm just saying this worked for me. — Cat
DEAR CAT: If this was your technique in dealing with your "ex-dud," then I'd say it didn't actually work that well.
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamytribune.com. You can also follow her on Twitter askingamy or "like" her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.)
By Amy Dickinson
Tribune Media Services