Hi Carolyn! I was hoping you could help me avoid blowing my stack at my mom. I am in my mid-20s and live in a different state from my genuinely wonderful mother, so phone calls and emails are the typical ways we communicate. I would say we are close.

My partner and I have finally made the decision to adopt a dog because we have wanted one forever and I now have ample time to dedicate to training, care, etc. (I am a teacher, so I won't be back to work until September.) My partner and I are incredibly responsible people who always overthink big decisions like this. We have both wanted to get a dog for the entire six years of our relationship, but chose to wait until conditions were perfect. We have researched our chosen breed to death. We have spent untold hours discussing every concern we have and how we will work through challenges related to puppy-rearing. We have stable jobs and a modest home with a yard. Our neighborhood has sidewalks perfect for walks and we live near several pet-friendly parks. We both grew up with dogs. We understand the costs and have budgeted. We are ready.

When I asked my mom what kind of dog food she uses for her puppy, her response really upset me. She did give me the brand name, but the bulk of the multi-paragraph email was just a list of what supplies and veterinary care a dog needs, peppered with phrases like, “I don’t want to burst your bubble, but …” and “I don’t mean to upset you, but …” and “this concerns me.” I just felt so talked-down-to and irritated that her first thought was that I had somehow not considered the extremely basic costs of pet-ownership!

I need help. I don’t want to send her a response that justifies every single reason I am ready to have a dog — as I have done here — because I don’t want to encourage her to argue with me about my decisions. On the other hand, I don’t want to thank her for her condescending email and encourage further nonsense. Do I let her know I found her email upsetting? Give her a noncommittal “thanks” and send along photos of my dog later? Help!

— Dogged

Dogged: Whew.

Justifying “every single reason I am ready to ___" is never the answer in an emotional transaction.

You are not reporting to anybody. We didn’t even need the details.

Also a nonstarter? Stack-blowing. The whole issue is a mom-mail making a highly detailed case that she still views you as a child — so, a childish outburst is not the counterpunch you’re looking for.

The response you want: “Mom, I'm 25. I asked you what brand of dog food you buy.”

Re: Mothers Over-Mothering: My older brother got so tired of our mom’s heartfelt “Be. Careful!!" every time he left the house that our mutual farewell is now “Drive fast! Aim for trees!”

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Brilliant. Thank you. [Furtively scratches “Be careful!” from goodbye sequence with kids.]