DEAR AMY: My boyfriend has three grown kids. I have a young son, and my boyfriend and I recently had a child together.
I knew he had custody of his children when they were young, so I assumed he was a great and caring father, but then I learned his children had rooms at his parents’ house and his parents “watched” them most of the time.
He spoke of coaching sports and of being a scout leader. These things made me think he was an involved parent.
We have lived together for a few years and he has been less than the ideal father to my child. I thought this was because he wasn’t my son’s biological father. When I became pregnant with our child, he seemed happy but rarely talked about it. People dismissed this as normal for a man.
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He ignores the children. He will bathe or dress them, change diapers, etc., if I ask him to. But he is always looking at a computer screen or TV. He doesn’t talk to the kids much. He gives the impression that he is only doing these things for me and it’s an uninteresting chore for him. But he doesn’t complain out loud and is never abusive.
I feel like he is very selfish and uncaring. I fear he is not bonding with the kids and I worry about how this will affect them. My child already has learned not to expect much from him.
I want him to change, but when I encourage him to play with the baby or talk to her he gets angry and tells me that he does talk to her.
I grew up without a father in my life, so I question what a father should do.
I plan to be with him for the rest of my life. How can I deal with this hurt and disappointment? Is this a valid concern? I want my kids to have a good father.
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Many people find taking care of young babies to be boring, repetitious, and enervating – even when it is their own baby. Your guy’s behavior is somewhat typical of an uninvolved secondary parent. And yes – it is very disappointing.
You might nudge him toward your older son by finding an activity the two can share. Your son might enjoy karate or soccer on Saturdays, and your guy can do this with him. The way to bond is to share experiences.
You two should have a serious talk. Will you marry one another? Will he adopt your son? Are there ways he can engage so that he will enjoy parenthood more? Do you need to step back sometimes without judgment?
This book might help: “The Dad’s Edge: 9 Simple Ways to Have: Unlimited Patience, Improved Relationships, and Positive Lasting Memories,” by Larry Hagner (2015, Larry Hagner).
DEAR AMY: Last year my friend asked me to register her son (along with mine) for soccer so both boys would be on the same team. They are best friends. I paid $130 and she said she’d pay me back. She never did. Fast forward to this year and again she asked me to register her son for soccer.
I did it, but now I’m getting aggravated.
I’ve asked her about the money, but she keeps saying they’re broke. But somehow she seems to pay for her three other kids to take part in various sports and dancing lessons.
Should I ask her to try and pay me in installments? I feel like I’ve been taken advantage of. This is putting a strain on our friendship.
DEAR UNSURE: If your friend never paid you back for the previous year’s fees, then why would you think she would pay you this year?
At some point, you either need to take well-deserved credit for your generosity, or admit to yourself that you’ve been a chump. A simple rule is – no more loans until the debt is paid. Definitely suggest installments.
DEAR AMY: I agree with your advice to “Caring Parents,” whose 25-year-old daughter complained about their “interference” in her life as an adolescent.
My adult son occasionally criticized decisions I made in his childhood, for example, “I would be a star in the NFL today, if you had allowed me to play football.”
My response to every complaint was the same, “I’m sorry, honey, the statute of limitations ran out on that just yesterday!” We would both laugh and change the subject.
DEAR DONNA: I like it. I will be using it.
Email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com.