Abby: Mom’s hints become criticism in girlfriend’s ears

Dear Abby
Jeanne Phillips

Dear Abby: I’m frustrated on how to connect with my adult son’s 18-year-old girlfriend. He told me she has a bad relationship with her divorced parents, so he’s hoping we can bond.

A problem that comes up frequently is, she’s so anxious to show me how skilled and knowledgeable she is, she misses any tips and techniques I try to subtly teach her. They live together in another state, so our weekend visits at each other’s homes seem to amplify the problem.

I’ll give you an example: When I removed ice cubes from an ice tray, I ran water over the bottom briefly before twisting the tray. She laughed like I was clueless and said, “You don’t have to do that, just twist the tray!” I said the water helped release the cubes more cleanly “because of the physics of the warmer water.” She teared up, left the room and told my son I was being critical of her.

I have expressed appreciation for her, and my son has reassured her of my intentions, but I’m getting tired of tiptoeing around her issues. How can I help her understand that she can learn from me without it meaning that I think any less of her?

On Eggshells in Montana

Dear On Eggshells: It might be a good idea to quit trying to mother or teach this young woman anything unless you are specifically asked, because it appears she’s not interested in learning from you.

From where I sit, you not only were not critical of her, but the opposite was true of what happened in that kitchen. If she hadn’t laughed at you — ridiculed you — for the way you emptied the ice tray, you wouldn’t have felt it necessary to explain your technique.

So take a step back and stop trying to help her, because it’s obviously not appreciated.

Dear Abby: I have new downstairs neighbors. While they appear to be pleasant in most circumstances, I can’t ignore the wife who cries inconsolably in their bedroom three or four times a week, late at night. I never hear any yelling or disruption that leads up to this, just loud sobbing that keeps me up several times a week. I don’t think she’s being abused, but I do think she might be depressed.

Can you think of any kind way to send her to my therapist up the street for some help? Stick a business card in their door anonymously? Bring it up more directly?

Up All Night in

Washington, D.C.

Dear Up All Night: Talk privately with the woman and tell her you’re concerned about her because you have heard her crying. Do not ask her why, but if she volunteers, listen to her. She may need a grief support group or, as you suggested, a therapist. If either of those is the case, you should suggest it.

Dear Abby: My 86-year-old mom was living by herself. My ill, unmarried sister, “Anne,” has moved in with Mom. Anne wanted a dog. At first Mom was against it because they both have cats, but she finally gave in and Anne got a year-old beagle mix.

I have been afraid of dogs since I was little. My family knows this. Usually, once I get to know a dog I’m OK, and I have had several of my own. But this animal has abandonment and abuse issues. He’s very aggressive and barks, growls and lunges at anyone who comes into the house. It makes me afraid, so I have quit visiting and hardly ever drop by.

Mom and Anne have very little control over the dog. I worry that in an emergency the EMTs would not be able to get past the animal. What can I do?

Scared in Iowa

Dear Scared: Tell them that not all emergency medical technicians have been formally trained to handle unruly or vicious animals, and precious time might be lost.

If your sister or mother wasn’t around to control the dog and the EMTs were unable to lure it to another room, animal control would have to be summoned or a neighbor found who could assist, and the consequences could be serious. Then cross your fingers that nothing bad happens.

Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.