DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Lonesome for My Daughter," whose youngest daughter, a married college freshman, has quit communicating with her parents.
I, too, married at 19. My parents didn't approve because they were afraid I'd drop out of school. When we would visit my mother, she'd talk with me and ignore my husband. This made our visits few and far between. Could the mother have done something to alienate the son-in-law?
My marriage has lasted 12 years. However, the times in my life when I quit communicating with family were when I was undergoing severe marital stress and depression, and didn't want to discuss it or pretend all was well when it wasn't. In a more drastic scenario, my niece cut out family visits for years. When we saw her at Christmas, she'd barely speak to family members. She recently divorced, and now we have learned she had been in an abusive marriage.
I do think "Lonesome" and her husband should pay a drop-in visit occasionally. Her instincts may be "heads up" for some reason. Keep the visit brief in case the daughter's college schedule is on overload. That way, they can see, talk to, and hug their daughter and new son-in-law -- and while they're at it, scope out the situation. Dropping off food is always a good excuse for a quick visit or, if there's time, invite them out for dinner.
Mom could also send her daughter a phone card to save them money. Mom should be sure no strings are attached, and her daughter and son-in-law know it can be used to call anyone they need to. I also strongly recommend the Internet. Mom and Dad should learn how to do instant messaging: Ask a quick question, want an answer, gotta go. These quick messages let parents know their offspring are alive and well, and allow parents to be involved -- at least a little -- in their children's everyday lives. -- ALICE IN VINE GROVE, KY.
DEAR ALICE: Those are all wonderful suggestions. Many readers wrote to offer input (and insight!) to that mother. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Why don't "Lonesome" and her husband get weekend tickets to a play or sporting event at the college, and go there to have dinner and see a show once a month? That way they'll get quality time with their daughter, and there will be less stress over time management for the couple. After all, she's both a student and a newlywed, and that's a lot to handle.
Also, in my experience, cell phones dramatically increase calls to parents because an hour between classes or waiting for a bus is a convenient time to call Mom or Dad for a quick chat. -- CHRISTINA IN CAMBRIDGE, MASS.
DEAR CHRISTINA: Thank you for lending the younger person's perspective.
DEAR ABBY: I have a heads up for "Lonesome." Newlyweds may not want to come home for the weekend. They're happily enjoying their time together.
Here's how my in-laws handled it 17 years ago: If they hadn't heard from us for a few weeks, they'd call and say, "Is there a day in the next couple of weekends when we can come and take you two out for brunch or dinner? Pick a place you'd enjoy." Or, they'd pick up some food from one of our favorites and we'd have a picnic at our place.
"Lonesome" and her husband should try it. It might be a lot easier for her daughter than a long drive and an overnight at her parents' home. -- PATRICIA IN LEAWOOD, KAN.
DEAR PATRICIA: I agree. This is a period of adjustment for all concerned. The parents are more in control of their schedule at this point than the daughter and son-in-law may be.