Hi, Carolyn: My mother and I have been at odds for the past five years about her cats. My now 11-year-old son has allergies to cats, his eyes swell shut and he becomes incredibly congested. He was 1 when he was diagnosed. My mother had no cats then, and never seemed to want one.
Now she has two. My family lives 1,000 miles away, and before the cats we would visit regularly. About four years ago we visited, but my son became very sick due to his allergy and we had to leave early.
My mom has made me feel bad that I am unable to visit, however I cannot afford to stay in a hotel and will not risk my son’s health because of her cats.
My mom thinks I am being selfish and should subject my son to allergy shots so he can visit. I think it is absolutely ridiculous that she would even mention that as a possibility. I love my mom but it hurts that she would choose to have cats instead of seeing her grandchildren more often. Who is right here?
– Missing Family
Well, the defender of the kid who can’t breathe is right by default.
But that doesn’t solve your problem, so let’s keep going.
You’re both being stubborn in your own ways. Her way is obvious – guilt-tripping you over your kid’s health? I struggle to see how she justifies that to herself.
Your way, though, has potency of its own. You live 1,000 miles away, so you’re clearly not there twice a month. She is allowed to manage her days between visits however it suits her to, also without guilt, and companion animals are a comfort for millions. Cats are also relatively easy. So at least respect her decision to prioritize the quality of, what, 350 days of her year, even though it complicates the other 15.
Yes, “complicates,” meaning cats aren’t the end of Grandma seeing Grandson unless you both make it so, meaning you both just need to drop your dukes. Your mom, for example, can pick up that hotel tab. Or you can both agree to meet at a neutral, group-vacation location. Or you can talk to an allergist; information doesn’t hurt and you can still decide no. What would you do if he made a cat-owning best friend?
Presently both of you think you have the right not to budge. Which you both do, of course, but – does exercising that right serve anybody well?
Student is extra sleepy
Dear Carolyn: I’m in my second year of college. Ever since my senior year of high school I can’t seem to focus on schoolwork. I fall asleep during class and my mind drifts off somewhere else. Even if I don’t sleep in class, I can’t seem to focus on the subject. I get six to eight hours of sleep every night, but that still doesn’t seem like the problem.
Now I’m practically failing one of my classes and I don’t know what to do.
– Can’t Focus
Please get a full medical checkup, describing exactly what you noted here, to explore a possible medical cause. If none turns up, then explore the emotional through campus mental health resources. And plan for persistence: The path from what to why is often indirect.