Father’s family values result in estrangement
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.