Emily Yoffe gets a letter from a father who is less than happy with his son’s choice of career and lack of ambition, but “Prudie” turns the letter inside out into a lesson about parenting and love:
As I started reading your letter I thought, “We’ve seen this movie so many times before.” Slacker Americanus: Cheetos-munching, tubby, semi-verbal, nocturnal, no prospects, repulsive to females. Think of the house of slobs in Knocked Up. Then you threw in a twist ending. The kid is employed, he’s got skills that are in high demand, he has a passion in life. He’s happy! (I understand he’s been on anti-depressants, but they’re effective.) I’m inferring that you and your wife would prefer, and understand better, an arugula-eating son toiling on a doctorate in comparative literature. However, it could be that at the end of that son’s labors, you’d wish he’d spent less time analyzing Love’s Labour’s Lost and more time getting some skills that resulted in a paycheck. Your son may be naturally monosyllabic, but it’s also unpleasant to constantly discuss with your parents why you’re such a disappointment. Since you say you were nurturing and attentive parents, I assume you engaged professionals to figure out what was going on with your son and got no definitive answers. So now, instead of working on your son, try working on yourselves. Start by letting him know how proud you are that he’s developed the skills to have a successful career. Take your car in for a tune-up to his shop as a paying customer. Tell him you don’t know ableed nipple from an output shaft, and that you’re impressed that he does. Ask if he would take you to some car races with him. Once you establish a better relationship, tell him you and his mother are going to start turning over his diabetes care to him. Before you do, say you’d be happy to pay for some consultations with a nutritionist to help keep his condition under control. Tell him you’re making this offer because the healthier he is, the better he’ll be able to do the things he loves, and because you love him.