QUESTION: Five years ago, I married a wonderful woman who had a son I’ll call David who is now 7. We now together also have another son, Jason, who is 4. David was very excited to have a little brother when Jason was born. I consider my stepson my son and do not differentiate between the “step” and the son who is a blood relative. I also do not play favorites between my own son and stepson.
My problem is my father who will not accept David as a member of the family.
My mother, who is divorced from my father, treats David as her own grandchild. I’m really angry with my father because this has gone on for five years, and the discussion became particularly heated after Jason was born.
Should I just let this
go, or is there something I can say to my father that could help him change his mind?
~ Family Man
Dear Family Man,
First of all, I very much appreciate the love and caring you have for your son David. How lucky he is to have you as his dad. I also appreciate your concern over your father’s attitude and his rejection of David as a grandchild and your concern over the impact this might have upon David and his feelings about himself. A child’s self image, good or bad, is often shaped very profoundly by his or her family and the way they are treated, valued and regarded by their elders.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to directly confront and change your father’s mind. No matter how hurtful, your father is free to have his own opinion. Clearly, your many discussions have not resulted in any change in his mind regarding this issue. There is no point in banging your head against the wall with any more unfruitful confrontations.
The healing you seek is not going to occur on
The healing will occur inwardly, on the spiritual level. All the great saints and mystics have shown that
life reflects back to us what we think (imagine or feel) into it. The outer world reflects the inner world. So
there is no need to go outside yourself for the healing relationship you seek between your father and
David. It can happen right inside you through affirmative prayer. Prayer is the great miracle worker
and the belief in the power of your prayer (i.e. faith) is the engine for its accomplishment. Whenever
you desire, or especially when you are angry or fearful over this issue, you can say this little prayer.
Keep at it until it manifests. Believe me, it will manifest. Here it is: “In the name of God, I declare there
is only perfect peace, love, harmony, happiness and goodness between my father and David. They
treasure and delight in one another’s company. And so it is, Amen.”
Anthony Kelson, RScP
La Crescenta Center for Spiritual Living
Dear Family Man,
Blended family relationships often have their challenges, especially at first. It’s wonderful that you and most of your family have been able to successfully navigate them and have formed loving bonds with both David and Jason. People, being human, can take more time than others in our families to also come to this same point.
God’s plan has always been to restore broken relationships in families. He is “a father to the fatherless and a protector of widows, and He sets those deserted into families” (Ps. 68:5-6, paraphrased). He has placed you in David’s life to be a loving father to a little boy, who certainly needs one. Your unconditional love and fathering of both of your sons will help them grow as men and as fathers to their children.
Your relationships with both David and Jason speak volumes to your family members. Even though your father may not acknowledge it, when he is with you and your boys, he sees you living out your commitment to love both sons and not play favorites. Your consistency is key in sending that message to him.
Since your father has harbored his attitude toward David more than five years, it may not change any time soon. Hopefully at some point it will. There probably isn’t much that you haven’t already said to encourage your dad to change his mind. The best thing you can do is pray that God changes your father’s heart, where lasting change happens. You might remind him how he, as a loving grandfather, can play an important role in David’s life. Scheduling outings where your father can interact with David, only, may also help to foster more relationship.
Something important for you, personally, is to not allow difficulties with your father to diminish your respect and love for him. If you are harboring any resentment or unforgiveness, I would encourage you to release it to God, so that He can work in your heart as well as your father’s. Continuing to honor, love, and respect your father will encourage him to reciprocate.
Blessings to you and your family,
Pastor Dabney Beck
YMCA Volunteer Chaplain
Dear Family Man,
It seems to me that you are caught between two loyalties. You want to love and respect your father, as well as to love, protect and nourish your sons. Of the two loyalties, being a good father trumps the former, especially in your situation. While I’m not sure you can change your father’s mind, you can protect your sons. The big question is this: Is this impacting the value and self-worth of David? If it’s not, then I encourage you to let it and let go of the anger. If it is, you should take steps to protect your son.
If needed, you might try the following conversation with your father: “Dad, I love you very much, as I do both of my sons. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see you involved in the lives of your grandchildren and to participate in the significant events in their lives. However, as a father, I have a responsibility to make sure that my children feel loved and accepted. I cannot allow any of my sons to feel like a second-class person who is not fully a part of our family. If you cannot do that, I will respect that. But we will not be able to spend time with you as a family. I will continue to love you and I would want to continue to get together with you – just you and I. The decision is yours. I hope you’ll find it in your heart to welcome David fully into our family. But again, the decision is yours. Let me know.”
Obviously, this would be a difficult conversation. Frankly, your father may not respond well to it. However, I think you may need to “man-up” or rather “Daddy-up” and protect your son from rejection. I encourage you to let go of the anger, to spend time in prayer, and to fully discuss this option with your wife. If you feel that this step is necessary, set up an appropriate time to talk to your father, assure him of your love and ask him to carefully consider what you are going to say.
You sound like a very caring man, and my guess is that Jason and David are fortunate to have you as their father.
Pastor Bill Flanders
First Baptist Church of La Crescenta
QUESTION: When our children, both girls, were 3 and 5 years old, my wife left me for a man she met at work and they moved to another state. She left the girls with me. Thankfully, my parents and my sisters were helpful in raising them because I never remarried nor did I even date.
Now, they are 18 and 20. Recently, although she’s not seen them in the past 15 years and had made it plain that she didn’t want to, their mother has contacted me and asked see the girls. I forgave her long ago but I’m torn between asking my beautiful daughters if they want to see her or just telling her to bug off.
My parents and sisters don’t want me to tell them. The 20-year-old has vague memories of their mother, but the 18-year-old doesn’t.
I welcome any advice that would help sort this out for me.
~ Proud Papa
Dear Proud Papa,
It must have been difficult for you when your wife left you for another man and it’s wonderful that you were able to raise your daughters with the support of your extended family. You must have been very hurt to not venture into another romantic relationship for 15 years.
I can understand why your first impulse is to tell your ex-wife to bug off. But I think you’re asking for advice from all the wrong people. Your daughters are adults now and they are the only ones whose input matters. You did the right thing by providing a stable home environment for your girls when they were young. I hope you are able to continue to take the high road and not succumb to vindictiveness.
You don’t mention if their mother told you why she has had a change of heart regarding seeing them. Maybe she has health news that might be of interest to them. Did she have other children? Perhaps there is something about half-siblings she wants to share with them. I would let them decide if they want to see her or not. Give them her contact information and graciously step out of the way. You can stand by to help them cope with whatever feelings this unexpected contact from their mother generates.
Good luck with this sensitive situation.
Dear Proud Papa,
First, let me commend you on being a responsible, loving parent. I am also impressed that you have found forgiveness for the difficult situation you were left in by your ex-wife. It must have been confusing and hurtful. I can only imagine your concern now that she is interested in coming back into your lives after such a long time. There are no easy answers in this kind of controversy. I spent considerable time in reviewing this and had written a response that I was ready to send in to my minister.
Then, this morning I was sitting in church when our pianist, who was standingin for our guest soloist, started talking about “spring house cleaning.” She coupled this with needing to find forgiveness with a perplexing situation that has been troubling her for some time – clearing out the old in her heart to make room for new choices. The metaphor was striking and I immediately thought of you. This could be a gift in disguise.
There are four adults who have been affected by this traumatic situation. It is important that each of you have an opportunity to search your hearts for a solution. As the caretaker and protector of your daughters, it is imperative that you check your heart for any ill feelings you may have toward your ex-wife and clear the path. It is also wise to check with your ex to see what she is expecting to get from this sudden change of heart. Then, sit down with your daughters and explain the situation and let them make up their own minds about what to do next. At 18 and 20 they are adults and have the right to have an opinion.
Here is where faith comes in. Spiritually speaking, you have to trust that you have given them the guidance to make a clear decision for themselves – not an easy choice for any parent. Whatever decision is made, the ex-wife must allow that to stand. In a way, she forfeited her rights 15 years ago. This is a time for prayer and deep meditation for a solution of love and compassion. Namaste.
Gary Bates, Practitioner
Center for Spiritual Living – La Crescenta