4/1/2024 | By Amy Dickinson

A woman is angry that her elderly widowed mother is manipulating her into taking her to a church service. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says about driving Mom to church – and more. 

Dear Amy: 

I live four hours from my elderly widowed mother. I will be in her area for a week very soon doing some work, and I plan to take her for brunch on the Sunday that I am there. She does not drive. Making the arrangements, she managed to slide in, “I thought you might like to go to church with me.” Meaning: “I want you to take me to church before brunch.”

Even though I don’t disagree with the church’s teachings, I just don’t want to go.

My mother essentially would not take no for an answer. I felt so pressured that finally I lied and said I had a meeting early that afternoon.

I feel manipulated. I would likely have accepted her request with a kinder attitude if she didn’t have a history of doing this. The incident that stays in my mind is when my husband and I invited her out to dinner for her birthday. We were planning to make the four-hour trip to take her out.

The day before, I found out from someone else that she had, behind my back, invited my estranged sister and her husband. We ended up staying home.

Now I can’t seem to get past the idea of her tricking and manipulating me.

Elderly woman holding a bible close up

I’m probably angrier than I need to be. I also have a sense of guilt about the whole thing.

Do you have any advice? Should I cave in and take her to church? If I’m being hard-hearted, please tell me.

– Tricked in Illinois into Driving Mom to Church

Dear Tricked: 

Your mother pushes your buttons because of her history of being manipulative, at least when it comes to you.

However, sometimes an elderly woman just wants to go to church, and she will resort to being sneaky in order to get there. (Don’t you remember what it was like to be a teen without a car, and that feeling of always having to shag rides?)

Unfortunately, you have a knee-jerk reaction to your mother; this likely goes way back in your shared history.

But – I repeat – sometimes an elderly woman just wants to go to church.

Yes, you are angrier than you need to be, but you are on high-alert and have over-compensated.

(By the way, your lie to get out of this is also sneaky.)

Yes, you should cave in to driving mom to church. You can get her seated and sit in your car or the fellowship hall until the service has ended. You should also investigate any programs the church might have to give rides to elders. Having this social lifeline might cause your mother to be less sneaky on Sundays.

After church, you should do your best to speak with your mother very honestly about what happened on her birthday. Use “I statements” and be polite, frank and authentic regarding how this made you feel.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from driving mom to church, to the gift of fear and clearing the empty nest. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

Amy Dickinson