Sage Advice: Birthday Mom Gets Hurt by No Phone Call
Do you take it personally – or not – when a grown child doesn't acknowledge your special day?
Dear Amy: I am a divorced mom. I raised my four kids pretty much on my own.
We are a close-knit family. We get along well.
The kids are all in their 20s now and doing well, but I have a dilemma about my birthday.
I recently turned 58. Two of my kids spent the evening helping me celebrate. It was wonderful.
One child recently moved a few states away for grad school, but he checked in with a phone call. It was great.
However, my youngest, who is doing a college internship in another city, made no contact with me at all. I know that his siblings reminded him of my birthday. This is now two birthdays in a row (as well as Mother’s Day) that he has blown me off.
I feel hurt, and I called him out on it. Amy, I am not looking for fancy parties, gifts or travel to celebrate my day. A phone call is all I ask.
He responded that he didn’t call because he was having a bad day and that he doesn’t need me to pile a guilt trip on top of it.
He said the same thing regarding Mother’s Day.
Should I continue with life and pretend it doesn’t matter?
Should I blow off his birthday and show him how it feels?
– Sad Mom
Dear Sad: When he neglects to celebrate you on special days, your son is not necessarily and exclusively expressing his feelings about you – he’s actually showing you how he feels about himself.
It would be easy to dismiss this as the immature act of a spoiled youngest child, but I believe it is more complicated than that. Your son is rebelling in a way that looks, and feels, like rejection.
You have done a good job of being honest in expressing how this deliberate neglect makes you feel. His siblings have likely delivered a message along the lines of, “Dude, really?” You should assume that he got the memo.
Immature people don’t apologize and work to make things right – instead they double down on their transgressions and make things worse.
Your son might be depressed, and/or angry about things he can’t articulate. His guilt trip started long before you called him out.
More pressure won’t help. Don’t pretend it doesn’t matter to you, but do accept that he has messed up. Tell him, “I want you to know that a call or a text on these special days makes me happy in a unique way. I don’t want to box you in, but it’s just one of those little things that nice young men do for their mothers to make them feel good.”
And then make your own choice – to forgive him. When he finally knows better, he will do better. No, I do not think you should blow off his birthday, because I don’t believe it would make either of you feel better.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2019 by Amy Dickinson