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Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, Published January 16 2012

Annie's Mailbox: Take steps to reconcile with son

Dear Annie: We have five grown children. One of our sons, “Mark,” obtained a contractor’s license and asked to remodel our kitchen and bathroom so he could show his work to potential customers. He said the only cost to us would be for materials, which he estimated to be about $300.

Mark has always been a troubled kid and stubborn to a fault. He especially doesn’t like taking advice or suggestions from others. My husband and I decided to limit his first attempt to the bathroom. We figured the risk would be worth it, because he had asked so little of us in the past. Also, he is a good carpenter and has made some lovely furniture.

You probably already guessed what happened. Mark did a terrible job. He ignored our requests and didn’t do what he said he would, and we were left with some major problems. When we asked for an itemized bill, we got one line: “Total amount due, $400.” After we explained our feelings to him, he walked out and hasn’t spoken to us since. That was two years ago.

After months of having our cards and gifts returned, my husband and I finally decided to leave him alone and hope he will come around. We didn’t invite him for Thanksgiving, as he ruins the holiday for us. Now our daughter is upset, saying she wants him at all the family gatherings. But it’s uncomfortable to be around Mark, because he won’t speak to us. I feel we are being punished for his immaturity. How do we mend this terrible rift? – Sad Mom

Dear Sad: You already know that Mark is difficult and stubborn, and he may never “come around.” Excluding him is one way to make things easier for you. But if you want him to be part of the family, you will have to do the heavy lifting and be very forgiving. Tell Mark that you love him and would like to pretend the bathroom construction never happened, if that’s OK with him. Another suggestion would be to have your other children act as intermediaries to effect a reconciliation or to have family gatherings in their homes instead of yours.


Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.