Published On: Tue, Feb 6th, 2024

Carolyn Hax: Not feeling the empathy for friend who’s too old to adopt

Carolyn Hax: Not feeling the empathy for friend who’s too old to adopt
Carolyn Hax: Not feeling the empathy for friend who’s too old to adopt


Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: A friend from high school, “Susan,” turned 45 this year. All of us have been pretty close. Most of us have kids. Some of us don’t. It’s not a big deal.

Susan and her husband found out recently that they can’t adopt because of their “advanced” ages, and they’re trying with no success. I had no idea they wanted to adopt, or else I would have told her that myself. We don’t really know what to say to Susan because, well, between the two of them, they have six degrees, so surely they know that starting a family at 45 wasn’t the most realistic choice? Again, no judgment here!

It’s more that I’m shocked at their attitudes. The only thing Susan ever says on the issue is, “It’s just not fair! I’m not the person I was at 35 or 40. I’m so much more mature and ready now!” Okay, but babies tend not to care about things like that.

I know she knows all these things (she has to, right?), so I struggle to find the best thing to say. Is there any chance she feels some weird pressure to have kids and she’s grasping at straws to defend what others might see as an unpopular choice?

Anonymous: The best thing to say is, “I’m sorry,” and, “I think you’d be great parents,” then you remain present for your friend through her disappointment.

Saying “No judgment here!” does not make your comments nonjudgmental any more than my saying “This is a diamond!” makes some pebble go bling.

I also can’t think of anything better for a baby than a mature parent. (You have to know this, right?)

So be a friend. I swear it won’t kill you. Plus, hello, men become bio dads in their dotage. Stop eye-rolling her pain.

· Your friend is grieving the life she thought she would have, a life that would have included children. You don’t actually know how long Susan and her husband were trying for children, or trying to adopt and having doors shut in their face, and what it must feel like to be grasping for anything that could help them fulfill their goal of having a family — and probably not, as you seem to think, some outside pressure to have kids. Can you try to find some empathy for your longtime friend for her frustration and grief at where her life is at 45?

· I had my one and only at 43. What is not realistic about it? The additional emotional maturity or the additional financial stability? That question had so much bias and judgment, I wonder what you find likable about your friend.

· I was 47 and my wife was 46 when we adopted our newborn daughter (now adult). I would suggest Susan consult different agencies that aren’t so judgmental. And speaking of judgmental, I think Anonymous needs to visit a mirror. Repeatedly claiming “no judgment here” while dripping with contempt isn’t a pretty look.

Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend periodically tells me my 25-year-old son will be a failure if he doesn’t get a job right away in these economic times. My son is a full-time nanny. I set boundaries — “Don’t talk to me about my son!” — but he violates the boundary I set. I need to know what I should change so he stops it.

MYOB: Boyfriends. Change boyfriends.

For future reference: Boundaries are for you (since it’s not your place to control others). For example, “I won’t talk to you about my son.” He can’t make you, so it’s inviolable, except by you.


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