The Absentee Daughter | Love or Family | Missing her Friend


The Absentee Daughter

Dear Micah,

I have virtually no relationship with my daughter.   My son and I are on good terms.  He and his family moved away out of state a few years ago, however, he calls me like clockwork the first of every month.  He and his family also come by to see me when they are in town for Christmas or vacations.  His wife’s family also live here so they are always home for the holidays.  My daughter never calls me and never visits.  I get cards from her on special occasions but that’s really it.  It’s a rather formal relationship now.   I want to know what is wrong, but my son and daughter-in-law tell me that it will pass, that she’s just going through something and to let it alone.  It is going on now about three years since I have spent more than 10 or 15 minutes with my daughter.   For the life of me I cannot guess what happened.  We did not have a parting scene or fight.  If I knew that there was something I could do to repair this relationship I would give it a try.  I just don’t know what I could have done.  Do you think I should go against the advice of my son and call her and ask her what I did to make her treat me like this?  Or should I wait and let her work it out on her own?  I don’t want to make the situation worse.

LBN

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Dear LBN,

I want you to re-read your email to me and see if you and I see the same thing “My son and I are on good terms.  He and his family moved away out of state a few years ago however, he calls me like clockwork the first of every month.  He and his family also come by to see me when they are in town for Christmas or vacations.  His wife’s family also live here so they are always home for the holidays.”  Maybe this is just an incorrect perception on my part, but what I read from that is how your son gives you an obligatory, maybe mandatory, call every month at the same time as if it’s scheduled on his To-Do list.  Mow Lawn.  Buy Stamps.  Take Dog to Vet.  Call MOM.

Are there ever any spontaneous calls?  Do you ever get a call where he says “Hey Mom, I was just thinking of you,” or something like, “Mom, you won’t believe what little Joey did last night.”  It sounds like his contact with you is very structured.  It also sounds like he comes to town Christmas to see his wife’s family and just drops by to see you for a few minutes out of obligation.  Do you ever have any family dinners or holiday meals at your house?  It’s possible that you do and I am just reading the letter wrong, but it reads to me like your “good terms” with your son aren’t really as great as you think.

A question I am wondering is why he isn’t trying to patch up the relationship between you and his sister?  It makes me think that he understands her point of view completely and doesn’t think you will, so he is just telling you to let it alone and don’t rock the boat.  I don’t think he believes that any further interaction on your part with your daughter will improve anything, but I think he’s wrong.

I don’t think you should be concerned about rocking the boat, I think you need to hop in the boat and let it take you wherever it rides.  You are the parent in this situation.  A parent should never be okay with having a child that doesn’t like them.  It’s your job to find out why she doesn’t like you and fix it.  Whether you actually did anything wrong or not, you have at least one child that doesn’t want to be around you.  It’s your duty to find out why and to fix it.

Perhaps you have truly done nothing wrong and your daughter is a cold heartless woman, but even if she is, you still want a relationship with her.  You are the only one who can put you back into her good graces.

My opinion is that you alienated her somehow by either doing some big thing that pissed her off or a series of little things over time.  In either case you still have some fence mending to do.  Start by going to your daughter—not calling.  Calling takes no real effort and affords little humility.  Your daughter needs to see with her own eyes that you love her enough to sit on her front steps until she comes home in order to get her to talk with you.  Do not give up until your child tells you why she doesn’t care anymore.  I doubt it will be something you can fix in one visit, but at least you’ll have a starting point to try.  And receive what she tells you without anger or defensiveness.

Keep in mind you are not there to prove to her that she’s wrong and you are right—you are there to restore a relationship.  That means accepting the blame even if you don’t think you deserve it all.  But before you can do that, you have to go to her and find out what’s wrong.  You can’t fix anything until she will talk to you.  So go to her tomorrow.  You know the old saying, “If Mohammad won’t come to the mountain, the mountain will follow Mohammed all through the Winn Dixie until finally the mountain will talk to him.”

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Love or Family

Dear Micah,

My boyfriend accepted a position with a company in another state and is moving at the end of next month.  He told me that he’d like for me to move with him and I really, really want to.  The only reason that gives me pause is that I am very close to my family and friends here and I can’t imagine not being able to see them more than once or twice a year.  I am almost 100% certain I can relocate my job to the new city.  I just don’t know if I can leave my family and close friends.  This is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, so I truly don’t know what I should do.  Help me quickly because I have to tell him something soon.

Emily

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Dear Emily,

Stay home.  He may be the man you want to spend the rest of your life with, but he isn’t the man you are going to spend the rest of your life with.  This is a man who took a job out of town and then asked you if you’d like to join him after the fact.  He is going to leave whether you are with him or not.  Clearly he can foresee a life without you in it, even if he’d prefer you join him.  This isn’t the relationship you give everything up for.  If you move, you will be back home within a year in a worse place emotionally than you will be if you just let go now.  Emily, if he really truly loved you, then he would not have accepted a job that took him away unless he had already proposed to you and made certain you understood that the two of you are in this together.  Doesn’t sound like that’s the way it went down, so let him leave.

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Missing Her Friend

Dear Micah,

I had a close friend years ago, until I did something really terrible to her.  It has haunted me for years and I still feel so awful about it.  I see her around with her other friends sometimes and I wish so much that I could be with them again and be in her life again.  We were so close.  I am expecting a child in a few months and I heard that she just found out she is also pregnant.  I dream of our kids being friends.  Do you think I should make an attempt or just move on?

Sorry

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Dear Sorry,

Obviously, you can’t move on.  If it has been years and she is still on your mind like this, you must really miss her.  I say take the chance.  I have no idea what terrible thing you did or how unforgivable it might be, but there are few things that are all that unforgivable if the person is truly remorseful.  Did you have sex with her boyfriend?  Unless it’s the man she married, she might possibly forgive you and be able to move forward.  Did you steal from her?  If you are truly sorry and return whatever you stole, she might forgive you.

Amends have to be made with whatever you did.  Just a hollow apology isn’t going to mean very much.  But I bet if you called her up and just spoke the truth to her, told her how haunted you’ve been all these years and how much you have missed her and regret what you did, she might forgive you.  She may not, but it’s worth a shot.

When people hurt us that deeply we get angry, but eventually the anger disappears and we’re just left with disappointment that someone we loved let us down. Sometimes all it takes is an honest acknowledgment on their part that what they did was terrible and they regret it.  Tell her that you have suffered by being without her in your life and that you acknowledge what you did was bad, and explain that you have grown and changed over the years and you have learned that friendships should not be abused the way you abused yours with her.  Tell her that you have heard she is expecting and that you are so happy for her.  Tell her that you too are expecting.  Then ask if there is any way she could find forgiveness enough to start over with you.  The answer may not be what you want to hear, but what if that phone call was all she has needed to hear all along?  And if she does manage to forgive you, don’t @#ck it up!  She may forgive you, but forgetting is never an option.  There is no slip-up room with second chances!

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