Dear Annie: Two years ago, I got on my then-17-year-old son for using a very derogatory term for women. I told him that the word should not be a part of his vocabulary, and it would cause great harm to his reputation if he were to use the word in public. He got angry with me. The argument ended with him leaving my home. He went to stay with his mother and didn’t come over to my house for his normal visits for his entire senior year of high school.
My son blamed me for the rift and refused to see me. I got married later that summer and even though he said he would attend, he didn’t show up, and neither did my younger son. A year later, I attended his high school graduation and things seemed to be on the mend until, during a discussion, he said he was not sorry for cutting me out of his life for his senior year and doesn’t regret it.
His blazon arrogance and narcissistic personality are very much reminiscent of his maternal grandfather, whom he idolizes. This has caused me to not enjoy being around him, and I did not want to spend much time with him the past year. As a parent, should I just ignore the bad behavior and suffer having him around? Or should I continue to refuse to see him until he matures and learns that my wife and I deserve to be treated with respect, requiring him to apologize for his past behavior if he wants to spend time with us? — Dad with Questions
Dad with Questions: If you refuse to see your son until the day he wakes up having spontaneously metamorphosized into a mature human being, you might never see him again. But if you silently suffer his bullying behavior, it will poison your relationship. Fortunately, you have other options. Continue to see him as often as is comfortable for you, taking breaks for as long as you need. When you do see him, call out any bad behavior as it arises. If and when he persists in rudeness, firmly (not fiercely) end the visit. It is unlikely that he will become a new man overnight, but he could become a better one over time. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com
Oh my goodness. This guy’s a total control freak. First of all, he overstated his point about the derogatory word. He was beating a dead horse over the issue. His son might’ve been like, “Fine, Dad, I won’t use that word,” but he didn’t let up.
A year later, I attended his high school graduation and things seemed to be on the mend until, during a discussion, he said he was not sorry for cutting me out of his life for his senior year and doesn’t regret it.
We’re to believe here that the son brought the incident up. Notice how the letter writer slyly doesn’t specify? I’ll wager everything that the letter writer went there first, and then the son affirmed his decision to cut Dad out because, hello, his dad’s a control freak.
Having arguments is fine, but this letter writer is really in it to win it. I almost admire his perseverance. (Almost. Mostly I find it amusing.)
Here we have the pièce de résistance:
Or should I continue to refuse to see him until he matures and learns that my wife and I deserve to be treated with respect, requiring him to apologize for his past behavior if he wants to spend time with us?
No, no, no, no, no. Apologies for past mistakes should only be required if the person did something awful to you, like assault and battery, stealing several thousand dollars, getting caught in bed with your spouse, etc. Demanding an apology two years later for using a derogatory term for women (and he’s a teenager who hasn’t figured it all out yet), is ridiculous.
I mean, he should’ve just lectured his kid about it and then… here’s a thought… moved on with his day. He could’ve eaten an apple or taken a walk or gotten some work done. Instead, he became obsessed with the need to rule over his son like a tyrant. Even though it’s been two years since their ridiculous argument, I’m still hopeful that he’ll eventually move on. We can hope, right? Hey, it’s never too late.
But the mere act of demanding an apology for past disrespect is ludicrous in and of itself. The goal should be to get along, not to dominate. And yet the dad still wants to dominate. As long as he keeps fighting for dominance, there won’t be any companionship worth speaking of. Geez.
Here are some tips for the dad:
- Focus on the moment. Let the past go. DO NOT bring it up under any circumstance.
- Try to find some common ground and activities you both enjoy.
- Don’t force your son to spend time with his stepmom. Just start with simple one-on-one bonding for a while. I’d take it slow.
- Find reasons to compliment your son and be proud of him.
Annie Lane seems to have missed the mark here:
But if you silently suffer his bullying behavior, it will poison your relationship.
This kid isn’t a bully. He’s just trying to deal with an overzealous father who really wants to win an argument. How’d that even go down?
Dad: Hey, don’t use that word! It’s derogatory!
Son: Fine, sorry, forget I said it.
Dad: No, that’s not good enough! How dare you use such foul language? You heathen! You roue! You bastard!
Son: Lay off, dad, I said I won’t use that word.
But here’s how the dad wanted it to go:
Dad: Hey, don’t use that word! It’s derogatory!
Son: You’re right, oh imperial father, and I do rely upon your wisdom to enter unto my adulthood status with my dignity and our household’s virtue intact. Thank you for your guidance. It’s too kind. Please allow me to kiss your feet.
Two years. Geez. Part of me hopes he gets the outcome he wants. His son could say that to him any day now, right? Right?