The Formal Father | All Things are Not Equal | Sentimental Shrubbery

The Formal Father


I would consider this more of a venting than seeking advice. Just wondered what you think of the situation.

My son is on a team, I won’t say which because some people are going to recognize this story and know what I’m talking about. Sometimes the players and their parents get together for cookouts. There is one father who always addresses himself as “Mr.___”, and not just to the kids. Example: We had a parent join us recently who hadn’t been before. I introduced myself, using my first name, then I introduced another dad using his first name, then I introduced the man in question by his first name and he corrected me and said, “Mr. Smith” (not it) while he shook the guy’s hand.

This is obnoxious to the rest of us. He does it every time. He wants us to address him as Mr. Don’t you think it’s obnoxious?


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Dear Dan,

Yes, I do. I can think of only two valid reasons he’d do this and neither of them are that important. I know some men of business do not like their employees to be too familiar with them, so they keep a distance between themselves with the “Mr.” wall. But that era really died about 30 years ago, and if he has a kid on a team sport then he’s too young to be holding on to that dinosaur of an idea.

The other reason could be that some people do not like it when kids call them by their first names, even if they add a “Mr.” to that. “Steve” doesn’t want to be called Mr. Steve; he wants to be called Mr. Smith. He thinks that’s more respectful for children. Again, that idea is a dying one. I always disliked the whole “Miss Lisa” stuff myself until I had a kid and I had to climb on board the new normal of adult/children communication. Every parent I know refers to me as “Mr. Micah” to their kids. I’d rather them just call me Micah, but then I guess if they did, we would have eliminated any respectful titles before their elders’ names. It would probably be rude and presumptuous to most people to have a kid just call them by their first name, but it’s too formal to be called by their last name, so someone back in the 1990s split the difference and started calling people “Mr. Steve” and “Miss Jennifer.” Maybe he is just not adjusting well to that development in etiquette. Either way, he looks like an ass when he’s telling grown men to call him “Mr.”

I would continue to call him by his first name and see if he gives in to it. If he ever says anything to you about it just tell him, “Look friend, I am trying to help you fit in with the group. You’re being too formal with people who are trying to befriend you. We are not your employees, we are not children, we are just parents like yourself. When you inject ‘Mr.’ between us, you are sending out the message that you do not think we are all equals, and I am quite sure that isn’t the message you want to send.” Or if you aren’t a man of many words who feels like explaining it to him, just tell him, “Dude you’re being a dick.”

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All Things are Not Equal

Dear Micah,

Two months ago I had a baby girl with my boyfriend of two years. This little angel is the light of my life. As you can imagine, I am very defensive of her. My boyfriend’s parents have one other grandchild who is a couple of years older. When that child was born, they set up a college fund and contributed a little money to it to get it started. I had assumed that they would do the same for their other son’s child so the other day I mentioned it. My boyfriend’s mother told me that they would set up a fund once we got married. That stung. It was like she said my child wasn’t valid until I was married to her son. It also brought to light another problem because I too have half expected that my boyfriend would propose after the birth of our daughter. He hasn’t. So I brought it up yesterday. He told me he needs time to think about things and figure out what he wants to do. We are not that young. We are both in our mid twenties. I don’t understand the need to figure anything out. My world of expectations is crumbling. I don’t know what to make of any of this.


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Dear Lissy,

As for your boyfriend’s parents’ situation, clearly they do not approve of their son having had a child out of wedlock and want the situation rectified if the two of you indeed have a future. You didn’t say whether or not the pregnancy was accidental or planned, but judging by the boyfriend’s reactions, I would guess it was accidental. Regardless of your relationship with their son, his parents are still your daughter’s grandparents, and they should always consider themselves such and include her as a part of their family. It isn’t right to devalue their connection to her based on the relationship status between you and their son.

However, I can see that if they think you and their son are not going to end up together in the end, they may not want to settle any money into any accounts you may be able to access. Their argument would be that they would have no real control over how that money was spent for their grandchild. However, there are several ways accounts can be set up for college funds that would keep the parents’ hands out of the money, so that isn’t a very good reason for the difference in treatment between the two grandchildren. Regardless, don’t get too resentful towards the parents. They may be your in-laws one day, and you’ll be glad you didn’t get into a fight with them over a few dollars. I think they are really just sitting back and waiting to see what their son is going to do before they decide anything.

Your boyfriend is the real issue before you right now. You need to know what he’s feeling and what his intentions are. This is too important a time in all of your lives to be in flux. I think you need to have a sit down with him and get some answers. Understand me, though–I am not saying he has to propose to you. That would be a mistake if he isn’t really feeling it right now. In my opinion, if he were in love with you, he would have married you before the baby came, or the emotion of the baby’s birth would have sparked a proposal from him. That doesn’t mean that I think unmarried people aren’t really in love. There are tons of unmarried people out there who truly love each other, but based on his parents’ reaction and his response to you when you brought the subject up, it sounds to me like this man is questioning what he really feels for you. I don’t think he is in love with you. He probably cares for you a lot, and it may be growing stronger with the baby here, but it isn’t yet marriage material.

As time passes, he may actually fall truly in love with you and want a life with you, or you might both discover that you aren’t meant to be together. You need him to tell you in a straightforward way what he feels right now at this time. Your baby does not need to feel the stress of you walking around with your emotions unsettled, waiting and wondering if this man wants you. Settle that question today and then agree to move forward as best you both can, parenting this child together. Maybe it is as a couple who is waiting to see if love develops between them, or maybe it’s going to be as two friends who had a baby together during a spate of time when they were experimenting with a relationship. Who knows? But the two of you can raise this child together in a healthy, pleasant environment if you both give it a try.

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Sentimental Shrubbery

Ask Micah,

This is sort of weird to ask, I know. In recent weeks my mother passed away. There were not a lot of keepsakes or mementos to hold onto due to a fire a few years ago. My mother was a quite a gardener. I have so many memories from childhood of her outside tending to her flowers and shrubs. Some of our best talks took place while pruning and weeding. Mom hadn’t lived in the house I grew up in for years, but it’s still there along with many of her old shrubs and bushes. Is it crazy for me to go over there and ask those people living there now if I can dig up those plants? Those plants are the keepsakes I would love to have. How would I even go about that? Showing up with a shovel doesn’t sound like a good idea.


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Dear Emily,

It is a little crazy, but speaking as a sentimental person myself, I think you should at least give it a try. You may look like a crazy person and they may tell you no, but at least you asked. If you go about it just right, it may work out. Knock on the door and tell them that you grew up in that house and ask them if they have a few minutes to talk to you. Explain that you recently lost your mother and, like you told me, explain that a fire robbed you of any mementos from the past. Try to tell your story quickly because they are strangers and aren’t going to care as much about your story as you do. Ask them if you could remove and replace three shrubs. I say three because any more just gets scary for the homeowner and presumptuous on your end. No one would agree to all of them being removed—three is even pushing it.

Tell them that you will go with them to a nursery beforehand, and they can select three replacement shrubs of their choosing at your expense and that you will also pay someone to remove the older shrubs and plant the replacements at your expense. Assure them that you do not want to disrupt their landscape or inconvenience them in any way. Tell them that you understand they might feel an aesthetic connection to their landscaping, and you will do your best to respect that and keep it intact, but you have an emotional connection to it and would cherish those shrubs in your own yard for the rest of your life. Let me know what they say!

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