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by Abigail Van Buren

Son at Arm's Length Won't Join His Family's Embrace

DEAR ABBY: Our 42-year-old son and his wife live in the same city with us. We never make demands on them and are self-sufficient and able to take care of our needs. We do, however, enjoy seeing them, and invite them to join us for dinner from time to time.

They never drop in, but we would be delighted if they would. My husband and I never go to them uninvited, and they rarely invite us over.

When friends or relatives visit us from out of town, we would like to include our son and his wife and ask them to share a meal. But when we do, they seem very annoyed and resentful and claim that our guests are ours, and they don't want to be bothered.

I occasionally coax them by telling them that if they would come, they are free to leave anytime and don't have to give up the whole evening. I try to be thoughtful -- they call it "manipulative."

It upsets us terribly that our adult son can't understand that family relationships mean a lot to us, and we would be proud to have our friends and relatives meet him and his wife. When he and his brothers were growing up, our home was always open to all their friends.

He is a nice and pleasant person, but he refuses to give of himself. We can't seem to make him understand that caring adults sometimes make an effort to please others -- not just themselves. What are your thoughts on this, Abby? -- CARING PARENTS

DEAR PARENTS: For whatever reason, your son is not interested in maintaining a close relationship with you or "the relatives." Too bad he has never learned the joy of doing something for the sheer pleasure it affords others. Your "nice, pleasant" son is also selfish.