Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 6:12 AM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (9)
  • Print

3 fathers on Father’s Day one too many for dad

Carolyn Hax explains to an upset son, a father himself, that hurt feelings don’t always need to be mended, just acknowledged.

Syndicated columnist

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
M5po you are a terrible person,obvious woman hater,and homophobe.Do us all a favor and... MORE
Don't feed the trolls. m5po is still disappointed about the fishing trip his son... MORE
To the woman who views her daughter as a 'band-aid' to her mother-in-law's grief: you... MORE

advertising

Dear Carolyn

DEAR CAROLYN: Last year, my father, father-in-law and I went on a fishing trip for Father’s Day. It was the first year I was also a father, and so I figured it’d be a good time to do something with the three of us.

As it turns out, almost a year later mind you, my father was disappointed that my father-in-law was there to share the day, and says he was hurt that it wasn’t just the two of us.

Now I’m hurt that my memory of my first Father’s Day is tarnished by my father’s disappointment. Did I do something wrong by inviting my father-in-law? Do I have the right to be hurt? Does my father? Thank you much.

— J.

DEAR J.: Funny thing about other people’s negative emotions — they seem to come with an implied obligation to fix them.

A disappointed father is a to-do list item, be it to have his hurt feelings mended, or his perspective changed, or his erroneous conclusions redrawn, or even his claim to sympathy superseded by yours.

It’s understandable, of course. You care about your dad, and want him to know that. You cared about being part of something larger than either of you. You put your heart into that fishing trip, too, and conceived it in a way that put two-thirds of its significance in the other fathers’ hands. The temptation to salvage it all must be strong.

But you also did your best and you don’t get a do-over, so why not just let it stand? “I’m sorry, dad — I didn’t think of that.” And ...

That’s it. No defense, no justification, no self-flagellation, no helpful reframing, just acknowledging his feelings. Even though a week or weeks have passed since your father expressed this disappointment, you can still go back to him with this. Just say, “Hey, about the fishing trip ...”

And in doing so you’ll answer your other questions: No, you didn’t do something wrong (you were being inclusive!); yes, you have the right to be hurt; yes, your father has the right to be hurt, too.

Loving, well-meaning people can have different ways of expressing these qualities in the choices they make — and they can remain close regardless if their respect for each other is intact, even when their idealized weekend is not.

DEAR CAROLYN: My husband’s brother recently died, and his mother is finding great solace in spending time with our daughter. My husband is unable to set any boundaries with his mother regarding the amount of time she spends at our house. He has even asked if my mother can give up one of her baby-sitting days to his mother (they currently split the week).

I’m annoyed with this request, and am uncomfortable with my daughter being used as a Band-Aid for his mother’s sorrow. What’s the best way to handle this? Am I being insensitive?

— Call Me Angie

DEAR CALL ME ANGIE: Um — yes?

Her child is dead. Her grandchild is a welcome dose of life. The “best way to handle this” is with as much patience and compassion as you can lay hands on as she and your husband push through this difficult time.

Your husband, too, is invested in the outcome here. Death doesn’t just visit grief on loved ones, but also brings with it a sense of helplessness. Taking steps to ease his mother’s suffering is one way for your husband to ease his own.

It’s not an all-boundaries-are-off situation — there’s really no such thing — and if your mother-in-law is pulling your daughter in over her head emotionally, then it’s time to spell this out for your husband and figure out some limits that give proper weight to your daughter’s needs.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living.

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

The summer is wide open.

The summer is wide open.

Follow our three-part "Washington's National Parks" series running through August 10 for an in-depth look at some of our local treasures.

Advertising

Advertising

Homes -- New Home Showcase

Model home opens for tours this weekend

Model home opens for tours this weekend


Advertising