DEAR AMY: I raised my daughter as a single father. She’s graduating soon with a master’s degree. Even though I’m very proud of her academic success, I’m very disappointed in her other life choices, such as who she lives with, as well as her bad financial decisions. Two years ago, she got upset because I expressed my disappointment in her bad life choices — mainly the financial ones. I didn’t teach her about finances growing up, but recently learned a lot about how to handle money. As I tried to tell her what to do, she got loud and cursed at me. We both said a few choice words. I hung up, and we haven’t spoken since. I got an invitation to her graduation. My mother and other family members want me to go, but I’m unsure. As a father I feel like I should honor her achievement, but I don’t feel she appreciates what I went through to get full custody and to raise her by myself. I don’t want to reward her disrespect, but I don’t want to send her on a guilt trip either. What do you think?
DEAR FATHER: Parenting does not end at the college door. Nor should parenting end after an argument.
By hanging up and not speaking to your daughter for two years (!) you are demonstrating the following: Disputes cannot be resolved. The consequence for losing your temper is estrangement.
Parents occasionally have to suck it up and love their children through their immature and disrespectful displays. Your response should have been: “I’m sorry we got so angry with each other. When you cursed at me, I was shocked and disappointed. But I’m ashamed of my own reaction, and I hope you will forgive me for that. I want you to know that I’m proud of your accomplishments. I also hope you will understand that as your father, I do want to weigh in on choices you make that worry me. All the same, you are an adult now, and I want you to know that I am in your corner. Don’t ever forget that.”
Your reaction to her so far is upside down. You basically walked away from her bad behavior — letting her off the hook — and now you aren’t rewarding her for her good behavior.
Of course you should attend this ceremony! To miss it would be needlessly punishing, so long after the fact. It also puts the focus on you, your needs and your wounded feelings, when it should be on her and her accomplishment.
DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been dating for four years. His mother dislikes me. I feel like she is a little upset that I “took her son away.” Every time we speak, she has an attitude toward me. I don’t want to disrespect her because she is my boyfriend’s mother. When I address the situation, she gets even more upset. Now, I have stopped coming around because I do not want to be where I’m not welcomed. My boyfriend and I live together and he stops by his parents’ house from time to time. I have spoken with my boyfriend about these issues and he says not to worry: “They like you.” He really wants me to come around, but how can I? I believe actions speak louder than words. I haven’t spoken to them in months. I’m not sure what to do.
DEAR WORRIED: You are correct: actions do speak louder than words. So let’s look at your actions. You have withdrawn completely from your boyfriend’s family, and then you blame them for not accepting you.
You should behave the way you would like them to behave: with maturity and respect. This doesn’t mean that you have to force yourself on them every time your boyfriend goes to see them, but that you should make an effort to let them know that you are his partner.
He has an important part to play in this family drama. Liking you isn’t as important as respecting you and accepting your role in his life.
DEAR AMY: I usually agree with you, but you blew it in your response to “Loving and Blessed,” who was worried about her kids’ stepmother overstepping her boundaries. You stated that if she was in the grandchildren’s lives from birth, she should be granted “full grandmother status.” NO! She is a STEP!
DEAR FAITHFUL: Every reader who responded to this question agrees with you.