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When I reach out to my adult sons, I get no response. How do I get them to reply to me?

The question

My sons are 28 and 25 years old. When it comes to my birthday, Christmas and Mother's Day, they are usually very generous and considerate in their gift giving. However, on a day-to-day basis, they are virtually nonexistent. They never initiate contact. I will extend invitations, make inquiries, forward photos, etc. The response is a deafening silence. Please understand, I do not harass them with endless texts and telephone messages. I reach out from time to time, suggesting we try to get together, and I get absolutely no response! I recently learned the term "ghosting" used in dating circles, and I feel like my sons are sending me a message by not responding to mine. I feel like I don't register at all in their lives. Okay, when I was in my 20s, my parents weren't the most important people in my life, but they had my respect and I answered them when they reached out. I'm worried that when grandkids come along, I will be completely left out of the picture. I would rather get a "Hey Mom, how's it going? Did you find a new tenant? Do you like your new car? Yeah sure, come by for coffee on the weekend" than a wrapped gift for my birthday or Mother's Day. I sometimes wonder if I'm making too big a deal out of it, but truthfully, I'm hurt, and I want to find a way to get past it, but I don't know how.

The answer

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I'm not making any excuses for your boys – they are being shockingly rude to their own mother, which is downright villainous – but I will say this:

Being in one's 20s is tough – especially these days.

During the day, you chase your dreams. How are you going to make a living? More confusing than ever, I'd say. "If there are even such a thing as 'jobs' when you graduate," I've always said to my boys, "they will only go to the best of the best, so you have to work your tails off, and when you get out of school–hustle!"

(Their eyes wide, lower lips trembling with fear.)

At night, you chase love – for me, it was girls in little black dresses as they vanished around the corner of parties, nightclubs and brunch spots.

(That dates me, I know: there are apps for that, now, I gather.)

People start pairing off. It's like a game of musical chairs. Those interested in becoming part of a couple start to wonder: Will I be stuck standing, single and alone, when the music stops?

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And for many, friends become family, and family drops off the radar, a bit.

Probably healthy and all part of the separation from the leaving-the-nest process.

Not that any of that excuses your sons' behaviour. Just saying they are probably distracted and not to take it too personally.

Obviously, though, they've taken it too far.

It's hard to know what to do when anyone "ghosts" you. I've seen it happen to people personally and professionally. The problem is: silence is so hard to interpret. Sometimes it means: I turn my back on you. Sometimes it's because the person is busy (though I don't endorse this excuse: how long does it take to write an e-mail?).

Sometimes it's just that they don't know how to deal with you, and you've been too persistent and won't take no for an answer (most frequent cause of "ghosting," IMHO).

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But none of these sound like the case with you – and anyway we're talking about your own offspring! They owe you, their mother, a lifetime of gratitude. They owe you for being alive at all! So I think you'd be within your rights to send them an e-mail or leave a voice-mail message complaining about your ill usage at their hands. Explain they are hurting your feelings: you, who probably loves them more than anyone ever will.

They'd have to have hearts of stone to continue to "ghost" you.

(Maybe drop a hint or two about your will, and a charity you've been involved with, how you're thinking of bequeathing everything to them. I kid. I jest – sort of. Might perk them up.)

The only other thing I would say is be patient, as my parents were with me. And eat right, exercise, and take your vitamins, so you'll live long enough for your sons to emerge from the confusion of their 20s with a renewed appreciation for family – especially for you, their mom.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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