Fa­ther’s fam­ily val­ues re­sult in es­trange­ment

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - LIFE - Email: askamy@tri­bune.com Twitter: @ask­ingamy

Dear Amy: I am a 50-yearold fa­ther of two teen boys. Their mother and I di­vorced al­most 10 years ago. My exwife and I are very dif­fer­ent — our most marked dif­fer­ence is in our par­ent­ing styles.

I grew up in a large fam­ily where I started do­ing chores by age 8, re­spected my par­ents, and was taught to re­spect not only my el­ders — but every­one, (es­pe­cially el­ders).

My 17-year-old had is­sues with me get­ting on to him about his lan­guage at the din­ner ta­ble. He used a very deroga­tory term aimed at women.

My fi­ance (at the time — she is now my wife) was present, and I told him that the term he used was un­ac­cept­able. I also ex­plained that us­ing terms of that na­ture should not be a part of his vo­cab­u­lary and had no place in so­ci­ety.

This all hap­pened over a year ago, and my son has not come for a visit since. I have reached out to him on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, but have only got­ten a “no, thank you.”

Since the di­vorce, I have al­ways sup­ported the boys be­ing re­spect­ful of their mother, mind­ing her, and be­ing help­ful to her, even though I never got the same con­sid­er­a­tion from her.

I am con­fi­dent that their mother is per­pet­u­at­ing this dis­tance be­tween my son and me, but I don’t feel it would do any good to bring it to the sur­face.

My ques­tion is, should I con­tinue to reach out to my son, or should I let go and let him come to me when he ma­tures and comes to re­al­ize that a foul mouth can cost him re­la­tion­ships, jobs, friends — and all sorts of other things. — DIS­CON­NECTED FA­THER

Dear Dis­con­nected: Yes, you should con­tinue to reach out to your son. And yes, you should now move on from the orig­i­nal in­ci­dent that brought on this es­trange­ment (you should also as­sume that this alien­ation is more com­pli­cated than one in­ci­dent). Un­der­stand that par­ents have cor­rected teens, and teens have pushed back at their par­ents from time im­memo­rial (even if you didn’t when you were young).

You mod­eled com­pletely ap­pro­pri­ate fa­therly men­tor­ing.

Most par­ents and teens have to make up and even­tu­ally work things out be­cause the teen needs some­thing from the par­ent: i.e. a ride to soc­cer prac­tice.

The dif­fer­ence in your house­hold is that your son doesn’t live with you, and his other par­ent is fur­ther­ing (pos­si­bly ac­tively en­cour­ag­ing) this es­trange­ment.

Ex­press an in­ter­est in your son’s life and ac­tiv­i­ties, and keep your door open with­out con­di­tion. Once he is out of his mother’s house­hold, his per­spec­tive should shift.

Dear Amy: I had been mar­ried for 42 years. Dur­ing my mar­riage, I lived close to my best friend.

My friend and I talked on the phone a cou­ple times a week. She mostly com­plained about her life, and couldn’t seem to find the time to ever meet me in per­son to do any­thing so­cial.

Long story short, I ended my mar­riage, moved to an­other town, and now have a boyfriend.

I hadn’t phoned her in a long time be­cause of all my life changes, etc., so she abruptly “un­friended” me on Face­book and cut off all com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Now I hear that her mother is gravely ill.

Should I reach out when her mother passes, or let things stay as they are, which is ap­par­ently the way she wants it?

— UN­FRIEND Dear Un­friend: The way you present this is­sue, this friend­ship seems to have been quite onesided — or it felt that way to you.

Don’t wait un­til your (for­mer) friend’s mother dies — you should reach out to her now to ex­press your con­cern. Even if your call is not ac­cepted or re­turned, you should leave a warmly worded mes­sage. You will feel bet­ter if you’ve tried — be­cause it is the right thing to do. You and your friend have been in one an­other’s lives for al­most a half-cen­tury. Let those years stand for some­thing.

Dear Amy: “Grounded Mom” was freak­ing out be­cause a fam­ily from church gave their son a gift of sky­div­ing for a high school grad­u­a­tion present.

Amy, most high school grad­u­ates are 18 years old. The gift of the sky­div­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was not the mother’s to op­pose. Whether her son went was none of her busi­ness. I think she owes her son and the other fam­ily an apol­ogy for be­hav­ing so badly.

— ANON Dear Anon: This mother is also go­ing to have to learn how to let go.

Dear Amy: I’m a 28-yearold mother of two young kids un­der the age of six.

My spouse is not work­ing. I work full time and sup­port our house­hold while he goes to school. He will fin­ish school by the end of next month and hope­fully will get a sta­ble job.

I re­cently caught him send­ing mes­sages through Face­book to an ex-co­worker, ask­ing when they could “kick it.” (She never re­sponded).

He’s had a ten­dency in the past to search for exes on so­cial me­dia, and that makes me feel be­trayed and very in­se­cure.

I con­fronted him, and as usual, he de­nies it and pre­tends to be the vic­tim.

I can eas­ily af­ford to move out, but it breaks my heart to sep­a­rate my kids from their fa­ther (they re­ally love him and are very at­tached to him). Plus, I am

wor­ried that if I leave him now he will stop pur­su­ing his ca­reer and will drop out of school and not com­plete his last month to grad­u­a­tion, since he will have to work to pay the bills.

I just don’t know what to do. I know this is not the way I want to live my life. I love him, but it makes me won­der if he will ever stop?

— BRO­KEN TRUST

Dear Bro­ken Trust: You sound ready to walk out the door over this, but I think you are over­re­act­ing. Leav­ing your mar­riage is not some­thing to do when you’re up­set or dis­ap­pointed. End­ing the mar­riage with your hus­band would pro­foundly af­fect four lives — and would have the largest im­pact on your chil­dren.

So­cial me­dia has made it very easy (and tempt­ing) to ba­si­cally go shop­ping for company, es­pe­cially when you’re bored, stressed, or over­whelmed. Rather than deny this, your hus­band needs to own up to his be­hav­ior, apol­o­gize to you, and as­sure you that he wants to be faith­fully mar­ried. He also needs to un­der­stand that this be­hav­ior is up­set­ting, dis­ap­point­ing, dis­re­spect­ful, and em­bar­rass­ing (to both of you).

Work­ing this through, hon­estly, will be best for every­one. Con­fronting your mar­i­tal prob­lems is a process you will both have to mas­ter.

AMY DICK­IN­SON ASK AMY

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