Self-Involvement to the Max
Dear Margo: I am a married woman with high school- and college-age children. My younger sister, “Joanne,” and I are very different. She has not always made the best choices and is now divorced with a young son. I am happily married, and according to her, I am just lucky. We have worked hard, and yes, sometimes luck is involved, but hard work pays off.
She also feels that our mother favors me. I cannot figure out where that is coming from, and neither can my mother. She has been able to be there for Joanne’s son now that she is retired — something she was not able to do when my children were young, and that’s fine; I don’t keep score.
I love my sister, but we are not close, and this is mainly due to the fact that for as long as I can remember our relationship has been one-sided. She calls; she talks; I listen. There is never a reciprocal “How’s work? How are the kids? How was your weekend?” When we are with a large group, people leave the conversation when she talks about her problems and her son nonstop. This has been going on for 20-plus years, and quite frankly, I’m exhausted. I find myself emailing rather than calling so I don’t have to listen to the constant complaining.
I know I should talk to her about this, but she is so defensive that I can’t face it. She was given medication, but I’m sure she’s not taking it anymore. Do you think I should send her a letter to explain why we don’t talk on the phone much anymore? — Confused Sister
Dear Con: My father used to say, “The harder I work the luckier I am,” so I’m with you about the luck factor. What is clear is that your sister’s life has not worked out well, and she’s clearly self-involved and needy. I don’t know whether it will solve the problem or change your sister’s behavior, but go ahead and write a letter. Say that you don’t mind offering advice or even listening, but you cannot plough the same field over and over again. And perhaps suggest that taking her meds might make life a little easier. The result may be silence, but honestly, would that be so bad? — Margo, pragmatically
An Ongoing National Problem
Dear Margo: I am a teacher with many Asian students. They consider themselves as having “dishonored the family” if they don’t do well in school, and I think this may be one reason why many Asian students do so well academically.
Our American culture puts greater value on “pursuit of happiness,” which often does not include “completion of homework,” which may be the reason many students fail. It is heartbreaking to know that a great many students are heading toward a mediocre future, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Why can we not, as a country, get on top of our education system? I know this is not a personal problem, and there may in fact be no answer, but I write on the off chance you might have some ideas or perhaps know of efforts in this direction. — Just a Teacher
Dear Just: I suspect that a few more years of the U.S. ranking below Slovenia in math and science will produce much-needed changes and more money being appropriated. Teachers are not well paid, and many inner city classrooms feel like bedlam. When enough people, such as parents and legislators, decide our future is literally tied to the education of our children, then perhaps people will get serious about regaining our place in the world by making education a top priority. — Margo, hopefully
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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