I Have a Dad Problem (long)

Well, Sunday I was teaching in the afternoon and then I had to run to the grocery store before the pharmacy closed… before I turned around it was about 6… a college friend called… it was 7. I called my dad, the line was busy. I called at 8, the line was busy (what the…?) I called at 9, the line was busy.

I emailed, thinking he was online. My email went something like “Dad, are you online? I’m trying to reach you but keep getting a busy signal. Happy Father’s Day!”

At 10:30 I called, the line was busy. I called my mom’s cell phone (turned off or out of range, went right to voice mail) and left a message like “mom, I keep getting a busy signal. I’m trying to reach dad. Call me back if you get this message.”

Then I went to sleep, having not “officially” spoken with my father on Father’s Day. :frowning:

Monday around my lunchtime I called again. Dad picks up the phone “Dad! I finally reached you! I…”
“I’m busy*, I’ll call you back”
“…? okay…”

*My parents spent the weekend at their small vacation house out on Long Island. I cannot imagine what business he could be occupied by that he couldn’t exchange a few words if he wanted to.

Well he didn’t call me back. I emailed again, apologizing for not reaching him and explaining about the busy signal, my final line was “these explanations aren’t that important, what’s important is that I was thinking of you on Father’s Day, and I wanted to wish you well, With Love, HelloAgain” No reply.

Father-Daughter Realtionship background:
My dad can be somewhat, shall we say “moody?” (I think I would say “big whiney selfish baby.”) We haven’t had the greatest of relationships since about High School (I’m 27). He hassles me constantly because I choose to live in the Midwest, its quite unthinkable to him. Whenever we speak I get the distinct impression that he feels I’m wasting my life (my priorities are just different than his right now). He is a city guy through and through. I have a quiet life that I enjoy, and spend most of my free time and money on my horse. They want me to call weekly, but its hard when most of my weeks go like “work, horse, teaching, consume food, see movie” repeat. I don’t always have something to say, and I am not emotionally close with either parent (a little more so to my mom).

I’m supposing he’s upset with me for not calling on Father’s Day, but I’m not exactly sure what to do about it. Its complicated by the fact that my parents got me a very nice gift for my birthday (a camcorder) and I would like to call and thank them, since it arrived in the mail yesterday, but I am not looking forward to the usual round of bitching and guilt because I am an ungrateful daughter. I don’t feel I screwed up that badly, and also that a reasonable person would take into consideration my many attempts at communication. However, I feel that if he had accepted my apology and explanation, he would have replied by phone or email by now.

Oh, and the gift thing: I didn’t send a gift, but when I was home for Passover I gave him a book I thought he would like “just 'cause.” I’m really opposed to the whole “Hallmark Holiday=Automatic Gift Giving Obligation Thing.”

So, where do I go from here? Any ideas on what the right next move would be? Did I really screw up worse than I think I did? Help!

The thing is, Dad could be upset about any number of things that have nothing to do with you. Since you aren’t in touch every day, it’s really hard to tell.

Also, you did make a solid effort to reach him a number of times. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

I’m familiar with the type of “moody” behavior you describe. It’s manipulative, and the silence/refusal to communicate is as manipulative as the critical things that are said out loud. Try to let his behavior bounce off you, as you’ve apparently learned to do with the criticism.

Finally - and you probably were not looking for this advice, sorry - for the long term it might not hurt to find a counselor to talk to. Just to have a sounding board, someone to help you realize that you’re OK, and maybe a source of some really helpful coping strategies.

Best of luck -

Gosh, I wish I could help, but that kind of relationship is totally alien to me. All I can suggest is that when next you visit, you guys should really sit down and have a heart-to-heart about all this. I know that’s not too helpful…sigh…

LOL, TroubleAgain if me and my father had ever had a heart-to-heart about anything, I doubt I’d be in the place I m now.

12hazel counseling is something I have often considered but never “made time for.” But I am thinking about it in the near yet indefinate future.

Hello Again, been there, done that, have T shirts in half a dozen sizes. This is going to sound harsh but if your pappa is anything at all like mine was- I’d give up on the warm fuzzy relationship concept right now. Once I stopped being daddy’s adoring little girl and became a person in my own right, I don’t think I ever did much that pleased him again.

**12hazel ** was right on the money with that statement. I was in therapy for a total of 6 months 20 years ago and it all revolved around my need for paternal approval.
I learned not to care to deeply about what he thought I should do or be.

You called, you apologized-that should be plenty. Quite frankly, I suspect that if you moved next door to them and followed their life plan to the letter, it still wouldnt be enough.

An aside-what kind of horse do you have and what do you ride?

My horse (whose show name is Hello Again) is a Appaloosa x Thoroughbred cross, 16hh. She has a very tasteful “snowflake pattern” of white flecks on a dark background of chocolate brown. She has a star in the shape of a pentagon.

I ride at an eventing barn and I’m working up to my first Horse Trial this summer. Unfortunately, I got chucked off at a clinic on Memorial day and I got a bit injured, which set me back about month.

This is us (her pattern isn’t very visible due to the sun)

Since no other dad has chimed in here yet, I’ll chip in with my .02 worth. I think your dad is acting in a very immature manner.
Why was his phone busy all evening on Father’s Day? Do you have eight siblings? Or was that phone deliberately busy with no response to your e-mails or voice mail so you could be put on a guilt trip?
As the parent of adult children, I’ll state that after a certain point in time, parents no longer deserve total respect from a child just because they brought said child into the world. After a certain point, that respect should be earned. Constant acts of petulance aimed at your choice of lifestyle and location are not acts that should be rewarded with respect. I think your dad needs to grow up.
Enjoy your horse, and enjoy your life in the wide open spaces. If your parents choose to act like immature brats, then treat them as such. This may be one of those “easy for you to say” things, but it’s true, none the less.

Are we sisters?? My Dad is so like that! I will say, counseling is so worth it. Now, my parents tell me they are coming for a visit & I’m so much more mellow, it’s like I’m not even me. You’ve gotten some great advice from everyone, just come back & ask if you need more support.

If counseling isn’t possible right now, one of those smarmy books about assertiveness might help. I don’t mean you need help coming out of your shy, retiring shell (heh). But I know when I was having a LOT of trouble with a manipulative friend, a counselor recommended I work on assertiveness (at least in dealing with the friend and the situation) and I must say it really helped. At the very least, I came up with some things to say that put the brakes on the whole guilt-manipulation cycle. It helped me to see where the problem really was (with the other person, NOT with me), and how I tended to take it onto my own shoulders with the way I reacted.

With parents it’s really hard because often we’re programmed to become sort of pliant and childlike with them, even when we’re adults.

I would make a video of you and your horse, sort of a day in the life video and send it back to you parents

Honestly all the intellectual understanding of the situation doesn’t translate well into action, for me at least. On those few occaisions when I’ve gotten completely fed and more or less hollered “lay off!” then I get “but I’m just saying this because I caaarree… and looove you…” (biggest cop-out ever! gag). And what’s the response to that? I think I might have said “well then, care a little less” which um… didn’t really fly to say the least.

Anyhoo, I need specific help now on how to thank my parents for the gift. … I wrote something else then deleted it because I realized that I’m tiptoing around my dad’s “moods” which drives me %^$#@! crazy because that’s what everyone does. That’s how he turned into such a brat! Should I just call up and cheerily say “thanks for the camera! Its awesome! I can’t wait to use it! etc.” and let the whole Father’s day thing be as if it never happened, unless he wants to bring it up?

The whole thing is filling me with a sense of dread. I should email my brother. He not only contributed to the gift, but is well aquainted with the situation to say the least.

Sorry, I didn’t realize that you were asking specifically how to handle thanking them for the gift.

Yes, I think your inclination to just call and say thanks, and express your genuine delight, is just the right thing.

An important aspect of dealing with your situation is being able to just be genuine - not getting wrapped up in all the drama of the moods and manipulation. So the Father’s day troubles are one thing; the nice gift you received is a separate thing. No need to mix one in with the other.

In fact, the gift allows you to speak to the 'rents about something positive - they must have thought it was a nice gift to give you, and you certainly agree. Great! Tell them all about how you’ll get lots of use and enjoyment out of it.

And in the future, when you hear the cycle of negativity start up again in your conversations, you can always try to shift topics back to something positive: “Oh, hey, that reminds me - remember that great camera you gave me? Well, last week I lent it to X, and she really loved recording her trip to blah-blah-blah…” This little trick is something I’m still learning - but my husband is truly talented in using it. Works pretty well for him!

[minor horse hijack]
Thanks for sharing the horse info-I’m rapid on the subject as I have three of my own(or they have me). If I ever 1) get the guts up and 2) get my own trailer, I’d like to try novice eventing. My trainer’s doing prelim right now.
[/minor horse hijack]

Girl, if you’ve got what it takes to gallop an 1100 pound animal cross country, you’ve certainly got what it takes to tell your father that he’s being a jerk.

A short story follows
When I was working through my issues with my parents, I realized that a large part of the problem could be attributed to the fact that they always relegated me to the “child” role and I fell right into it. Things came to a head on afternoon when they insisted on lecturing me about every little detail in my life. I was self-supporting at the time, working my way through school, and living on my own. Instead of getting into the typical knock down drag out, I countered every snarky remark with "Well, we’ll just have to disagree about this " in a very nonconfrontational way over and over. My father got so angry that he stomped out of the house and drove off at about 100 miles a hour. My mother turned on me and said “If you’re going to be like this, I don’t think we want to see you again.” I replied that although I loved them both dearly, she did have that choice and I would not call or visit again unless they indicated that they wanted to see me first. It took her a month to call, and trust me, I really really wanted to pick up the phone and apologize and beg for their approval. By not calling however, I redefined our relationship and forced them to see me as an adult.

(Sorry, I guess this wasn’t so short after all)

What 12hazel said.

In case anyone was wondering, I had a re-prioritization and have an appointment for some Professional Assistance on monday.

(I’m mainly posting this cause whenever I read this type of thread I always wonder how things turned out, what happened next, etc. I assume all of you freaks think just like me. :slight_smile: )

The bad news is that I have acted evasively (and imho wrongly) in not calling them to thank them for the b-day present. Its hard to up and do something you’re fairly sure will be unpleasant.

Thanks for the update!

oooh… this made me wince.

You didn’t screw up AT ALL. You made an honest effort. He was unavailable. You left him multiple messages. In the grown-up world, which your father has evidently not availed himself of, that is a stellar performance. Circumstances sometimes intervene, life goes on.

If Dad has a problem with it, that’s his problem.

If you want to thank them properly for the camcorder, you could always do the Miss Manners thing and send a thank you note or card.

And in addition to seeing a professional, I would seriously take a look at exactly what you’re getting out of this relationship. It’s toxic, and if you’re getting nothing but grief… why are you still in it? Not to sound harsh, but I myself eventually had to face the fact that my own father was NEVER going to treat me any better, regardless of how much I sucked up to him and begged for his approval, and he didn’t care enough to change. [slight hijack] I haven’t spoken to him or had any sort of relationship with him since 1998 (I’m also 27), becuase I finally realized that the ‘relationship’ hurt me far more than it ever gave me anything positive. This wasn’t a ‘go to hell’ move, but simply removing myself from a situation that was always going to have a negative effect on my self-esteem and mental health. He emailed and snail-mailed me a couple times in the first 2-3 years trying to reconcile, but it was just so clear from the way he addressed things (e.g. it would be such a shame to let this mess you made come between us, yadda yadda {emphasis mine}) that he had no interest in actually DOING anything to repair our relationship, that I just tossed them and eventually he stopped trying. [/hijack]

I’m NOT saying this is necessarily how YOUR relationship is, but I do think it’s worth it to take a good hard look at it. If he’s only hurting you, then I can’t see a reason to hang on. (Of course, I’m of the opinion that blood relatives don’t deserve special priveledges simply because of an accident of fate. YMMV.)

And I will say it’s not easy. My mum is one of my best friends, and she’s still with dad (mainly financial reasons… she has no illusions about what he’s really about. Breaks my heart. :frowning: ) Continuing a relationship with her and not with him is NOT easy.

On the other hand, I am much MUCH happier without him. I don’t need the degradation. :cool:

My 2 cents, anyway.

You aren’t going to like what I have to say, but that’s all right.

I have a dad problem too. I lost my mom five years ago. My dad is 83 and although he is healthy, I don’t expect he will be around all that much longer. He isn’t perfect. He is stubborn and doesn’t want to get into it with me about things…for instance, when he doesn’t hear me (his hearing isn’t all that good anymore) instead of asking me to repeat things, he just nods. He doesn’t want to admit he didn’t hear me, because he doesn’t want me to “nag” him about getting a hearing aid. I guess he doesn’t want to get one because that would mean he is old.

That is just one example. I adore my father. But he drives me nuts. I learned, when I lost my mom, that when he drives me nuts…I need to remember how much more I would rather have him HERE, driving me nuts, than to not have him here at all.

I learned a painful and valuable lesson when my mom died. I think that in the bottom of my soul, I never really believed that I would ever lose my parents. They have always been here for me, and although we have disagreed many times over the years, they were bedrock for me. I may not have always appreciated the WAY they supported me, and believe me…I DIDN’T, much of the time. But I always knew they loved me and would be THERE for me. And they always were.

So…what I am saying is that you should relax. Learn to appreciate WHY they behave the way they do instead of getting annoyed by WHAT they do. I know that is hard. By all means, get some counselling. Send them a thank you card, telling them how much you appreciate their gift. Tell him/them you love him/them
even when they/he is being a child. Someone has to be the adult …why not let it be you?

He won’t always be here. Make it easier on yourself to handle when he ISN’T here by being the bigger person now.

I know how hard it is…but I also know how hard it is to remember every little time that (upon reflection) you should have been more patient, been more tolerant, loved instead of expressed your impatience.

Best of luck.