Dear Amy: I am a 50-year-old father of two teen boys. Their mother and I divorced almost 10 years ago. My ex-wife 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.
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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.
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?
Dear Unfriend: The way you present this issue, this friendship seems to have been quite one-sided – 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.
Dear Anon: This mother is also going to have to learn how to let go.
Email Amy at email@example.com.