DEAR AMY: I have a son, “Brendan,” but I didn’t meet him until just before his ninth birthday. His mother raised him as if I never existed. He was told another man was his father. Once we met and he began visiting me regularly, I realized that she had basically “flipped the script,” and that all of her problems, and all of the bad things she had done in her life were assigned to me: I was the abuser. I was the person who slept around. I was the bad student. My best qualities were assigned to her. This narrative is diabolical. It hurt me to hear my son tell me these things, but I followed the advice I read about not speaking negatively about her in front of him. Once he turned 15 and more fabrications were invented, he questioned me, and I finally told him the truth. During that time, I moved several states away. He visited me in the summer. He stopped visiting at 16. He does not acknowledge his baby brother or sister. He calls them “your children.” His mother will not acknowledge me or my children to him. He is graduating from high school, and I will not be invited. We hardly ever talk anymore on the phone. I’m just not sure what to do at this point. Should I just wait for him to figure out who is the liar?

Devastated Dad

DEAR DEVASTATED: You need to understand that in addition to his mother’s gas lighting, your (more recent) family system will have affected your son’s attitude toward you.

Your son is being raised by a toxic liar. He had a few years of closeness with you, and then you moved and now you have other people in your life. Any teenager would have questions about where he fit in your life, and this teenager has extreme challenges.

One way for you to be a great father would be for you to look at things through his eyes, and understand that if he is aligned with his mother, then he really has no choice but to reject you. He lives in a household where rejecting you is required.

Send your son a letter and a gift for his graduation. Include pictures of his siblings (maybe in a photograph, the two little ones can hold signs saying, “Congratulations, Brendan!”), and tell him that with these young children around, you realize how much you missed by not being in his life when he was a little boy. Basically, be the open-hearted, proud and loving dad you want him to have. Down the road, if you two have a decent relationship, various truths will be revealed over time. Your goal should be to stay in his life until he matures and can start to make some decisions on his own.

DEAR AMY: A family member is getting married. The bride and groom decided that they do not want children at the wedding or reception. However, they have made no provisions to provide babysitting for the several out-of-town relatives who have young children. They have also not even offered to help those out-of-town relatives locate a babysitter. Consequently, those relatives have chosen to stay home and not attend the wedding. Any suggestions on how this should have been handled?

Concerned Aunt

DEAR AUNT: An obvious solution would have been for out-of-town family members to bring along their own competent babysitters, who could watch the kids at the hotel while the adults were at the wedding and reception.

If all the parents shared the expense, it would keep the cost down.

DEAR AMY: I have just attended my second wedding in a row where the couple was married by a recently “ordained by the internet in 10 minutes” officiant. With wedding season upon us, I’d like to offer this reminder: When the bride enters, all stand. The congregation is welcomed, and then should be asked to, “please be seated.” In both weddings, they never said this, and as a result the congregation stood for the whole lengthy thing. There were octogenarians with bad hips, short people who couldn’t see a thing, etc. Usually these fly-by-night officiants are inexperienced, and are so worried about their own performance that they are oblivious to the crowd before them. Please print this friendly reminder.

Still Standing

DEAR STANDING: I attended an overly long event recently, and when one speaker said, “In closing...” everyone burst into applause. Thank you for this wedding tip.


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