Dear Prudence

The Dear Prudence column was updated today. I usually read the letters whenever I visit the Slate magazine. Some are interesting whiles you can relate to, but this week there are two letters that I want to share since they deal with young people.

Dear Prudie,
I am 19 years old and doing my best to live with multiple anxiety disorders. My dad is very smart, with a type A personality and a successful, high-pressure job. I am very shy and sensitive, and cannot work in such a setting. If I did, I would get a panic attack every time I did something wrong for fear that everyone would be mad at me. The only jobs I feel comfortable doing are those with children and a few motherly adults. Right now, I have four such jobs as a preschool aide: three of them are one day a week, and the other is as often as they need me. All of the adults I work with constantly tell my parents how well I'm doing at work. Yet my dad is unhappy. All he says when I mention these accomplishments is, "That's great, but you should be doing more. You need a full-time job that's challenging and that you can learn valuable skills from." Whenever I tell him how much his put-downs hurt me, he just says he wants the best for me—even though his idea of what's best is way too much for me to handle. How do I let him know how much it hurts when he shows that he cares more about my status than my happiness?
—Can't Measure Up

Dear Can't,
Your father is dealing with anxiety problems, too. He wants so desperately to feel that his smart, lovely daughter is on a path that will lead to her being able to support and protect herself as she goes out into a tough world that he loses sight of how hard he is on you. It's great that you can tell him both about the praise you get at work and that it hurts when he doesn't seem to appreciate how others see you. Being able to assert yourself with him is good practice. And it's not that I want to pile on, but I also think your father is making a valid point. It's great that you feel your niche in life is working with preschoolers. But I agree with your father that you should make it a real career choice. Bouncing around in a series of part-time jobs is not going to give you the work record or the stability you need to advance in your career. Address what is holding you back from finding a full-time job and from continuing your education, so that you can thrive as a professional. I hope you are under treatment for your anxiety problems. If not, you need to look into possible medications and therapy. Cognitive therapy can be an effective treatment for panic and anxiety disorders. Don't do it to prove something to your father. Do it so that you can give your best to the children and get the most out of your life.

Dear Prudence,I have a question regarding etiquette for my high-school graduation. Space is limited, and graduates are given only eight tickets. I was going to invite my mother and father (they are divorced, and my father is remarried), my younger sister, and three grandparents. This leaves me two tickets. My father has bluntly informed me that since I am inviting him, I should invite his wife, too. I do not have a close relationship with her and do not consider her a member of my family. She does not fit in with my mother's family in the least, and inviting her would mean not inviting my aunt and uncle, with whom I am much closer. I view the ceremony as a celebration of my graduation and those who helped me get there. My father and stepmother have been married for only a few years and, while she thinks we are indeed best friends, I do not view her as someone I should invite. How do I approach this with my father?
—Irritated Graduate

Dear Irritated,
Despite what I'm sure is an excellent education, some information has apparently been withheld from you: Your stepmother is part of your family. And now that you're about to become an adult, it's time you acted like one. You don't even attempt to make a case against inviting your stepmother; you don't say she always gets drunk and makes a scene, nor do you say she is verbally abusive to your family members. Your stepmother actually thinks that during the "only a few years" that she has been married to your father, her attempts to win your friendship have worked. Well, even if they haven't, she is your father's wife and your stepmother, and on your big day, you need to be big and graciously invite her. Since space is so restricted, maybe your family could have a small party afterward and invite the family members who couldn't come to the ceremony. Not only will they understand, some will even be grateful they weren't required to sit through the graduation.

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  • I find the advice about the stepmother and graduation completely ignorant. Graduation is a time of celebration, and the graduate should not have to be forced to invite somebody that they do not personally feel is a "family member" to them, even though the stepmother is technically part of the family. Just because something is viewed as "customary" does not necessarily meant that it is what you should do. It should be a personal decision. Whoever responded to that question was probably just an angry stepmother anyways:P