Carolyn Hax: Son’s firm intention to join the Marines before college irks mother

DEAR CAROLYN: My 20-year-old son wants to enlist in the Marines. He is a very smart kid who was accepted to several good colleges and chose not to go. If he wants to go into the Marines, I would like him to go in with a college degree, but he refuses. I have also asked him to consider another branch of the military, but he refuses. He knows I am dead set against this, but he says it is his life and he gets to make the decision.

Saying “It’s my life!” and expecting us to support his decision seems unfair, in the same way that if I were to head to Africa and start working with Ebola patients, admirable as that might be, my family would be justified in feeling angry, worried and sad. Help me frame this issue in a way that I can get through it.

Aching Already

DEAR ACHING: Worried, of course; sad … OK. Angry?

If someone you loved risked his or her life to help others, someone who wasn’t shirking other life-and-death responsibilities to offer that help, you’d be angry?

I’m sorry, I just can’t join you there.

Your son may have other objectives here – yes, possibly to escape overbearing parents – and you may be able to see that better than he does.

But since you’re clearly terrified of losing him, please realize you can’t stop him – but in trying, you can surely drive him away.

DEAR CAROLYN: A good friend has a milestone birthday soon. Friend’s husband has been rallying people to help plan a party, which I believe he is paying for. The chosen planners are Birthday Girl’s Best Friend, Sister, me and Husband. The first two are big-time spenders, as is Birthday Girl, and they go all out: catering, live band, photo booth, exquisite decorations.Husband and I are more of the backyard-bash type.

Best Friend and Sister are about to throw in the towel and host their own party. They don’t feel heard by Husband, and Husband doesn’t want to spend the kinda cash they’re talking about.

The girls have contacted me saying they hate his ideas. I told them I won’t get in the middle or pick sides. Is there anything else I can do?

No Drama Please

DEAR NO DRAMA: Suggest to all the following: Husband decides the maximum he’s willing to spend, then hands it to Best Friend and Sister, who plan the party from there. They can choose to stay within the budget or add to it themselves.

Therefore, Birthday Girl gets her kind of party, Husband doesn’t get stuck with the tab for things he deems wasteful, Best Friend and Sister don’t have to chafe under anyone else’s idea of excess, and you avoid drama. Deal?

Email Carolyn at or follow her on Facebook at