Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

Is there any point in confronting a crappy parent?

Asked by nikipedia (27523points) May 11th, 2011

I don’t have a good relationship with either of my parents. My dad left when I was 12 and, in short, has not been much of a parent since. It’s hard to summarize but enough things have happened over the years that I just see no real point in trying to maintain a relationship with him. He has never been abusive, but he has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t give a shit if I live or die.

Perhaps his only act of parenting since then occurred when he bought me a cell phone for my 18th birthday. I’ve been on his family plan ever since. He recently said he wants to take me off because he can’t afford to pay for it anymore.

This is completely fine with me, since I am an adult and it’s my responsibility to pay my own bills. The problem is, the money thing is just untrue. He and his wife have two houses, horses, nice cars, take great vacations, etc. So, I guess I am interpreting this as another situation of “I don’t care about you enough to pay for this.” (Which might be unfair.)

So, I’m wondering, is there any point in communicating this to him? He has been a non-parent and basically an asshole for so long that I can’t imagine anything I say is going to change him. On the other hand, I am really hurt by his many years of selfishness and neglect. I know that someday he will no longer be here and I won’t have any chance to change our relationship, but I have also pretty much given up any hope that our relationship will ever be anything other than a few phone calls a year with me silently resenting him.

So, older and wiser jellies, what to do? Send an angry email, or meditate on this and accept it for what it is?

Also, even though this is social, please be nice. This is not an easy situation for me.

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28 Answers

Seelix's avatar

Whether it’s the “right” thing to do is another question, but if I were in your situation, I’d confront him, but not angrily. I’d say that I understand his not wanting to pay for my phone, but that he doesn’t need to make up excuses that are obviously untrue. You’re an adult, and should be treated as such. I’d bet he’s pretending it’s a money issue just to make himself feel better about it, and I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

bob_'s avatar

I think you should tell him how you feel, but in a more calm manner. I know from experience that this is easier said than done, but I’ve also learned that when the tone is angry, the message tends to not get across.

Hibernate's avatar

You could try talking. Even for a few minutes. You can get some closure from it.

cockswain's avatar

I’ve got a 13 years old daughter, and her mom bailed on her when she was 1. She hasn’t had any communication with her at all since mom hasn’t tried in the slightest. My daughter is undoubtedly hurt by this, even though she loves my wife. She will want to find her one day I’m sure, but she’ll likely be disappointed by what she finds.

Your dad is just some fool that had sex. That doesn’t take genius or responsibility. You can’t hope you’ll have a father-daughter relationship with him in the traditional sense given his current attitude. I get that you want him to provide some level of parenting to you, but he sounds like an asshole.

It could be that your best chance of establishing an ongoing relationship with him is to relieve him of the pressure and guilt he may feel about being a crappy father. Perhaps if you communicate this to him in a non-confrontational way (easier said than done), he mihgt be able to see you as a friend more than a daughter and would be more relaxed hanging around you.

Sorry for your situation. I feel awful for my daughter sometimes, but some people suck and it’s out of your control.

Coloma's avatar

He probably can’t, or more likely, WON’T be able to hear you if it goes against his grandiose self image.
Sounds like my daughters father. He is a 1st class narcissist, miserly as they come and is very financially comfortable.

I doubt this has anything to do with him not caring for you, and everything to do with caring only for his own wants. Honestly I have never met a generous narcissist, regardless of income.

My ex dropped our daughter off his medical insurance and didn’t tell her for 2 years! All the while she is asking for her membership info. and he was stringing her along to avoid her anger which was, obviously, quadrupled after chasing him around for 2 years and getting excuse after excuse.

Your father sounds like a very selfish and self centered man, don;t take it ‘personally’, meaning he’d most likely do the same thing to anybody that gets in the way of himself.

I admire your responsible attitude. My daughter is the same way and I love doing whatever I can for her because she, thank god, did not inherit her dads ’ all about me, all of the time’ disease. lol

wundayatta's avatar

I’m a little unclear on what you would confront him about. This isn’t really about the cell phone plan. I don’t think it is really about him lying that he can’t afford it. I don’t even think this is about your anger about him not being in your life, or doing precious little for you, and now he will be doing nothing.

I think this is about your anger for him being absent from your life.

If that is the case, then “confronting” him on these other side issues won’t really help you get what you want. Which is another thing that I don’t know. What do you want? Do you want to get angry with him? Do you want an apology? Do you want him to admit he did you wrong? Why?

Do you want him to play a greater role in your life? Do you want to get to know him?

I’m guessing that’s what you want, and I bet you don’t believe there’s a chance in hell of it happening. Which means you want a fallback position of getting pissed off at him and telling him off so you can make sure he never appears in your life again.

But the real question is whether there is any chance of changing your relationship, so you can get to know him.

I know that getting angry and telling him off won’t work. So scrap that idea.

I’m not sure what I would do in such a situation, but here’s the idea that is coming to me at the moment. I’m thinking you should ask him for a date. Maybe take him to dinner, but I’d prefer you take him to the ocean and go for a walk with him. That’s all. If you can get him to do that, then take the walk. Be near him. Don’t raise any of your issues unless he invites it.

He may be reluctant… hell, he surely will be reluctant to go with you because he knows you hate him and will probably want to drill him a new one. I’m not sure that you could even sell the “getting to know you” idea. He’s from an older generation, and I doubt he is a sensitive new-age guy.

In essence, you become the father and he the child. You take him for a walk—an hour at most, and tell him you’ll buy him an ice cream. You tell him that’s all you want, and you keep your word (if you can get him to go). I’m of two minds about whether you should let him bring his wife if he wants to. On the one hand it shows an openness to forgiveness. On the other, it gets in the way of getting to know him.

I guess that if you pull this off, you can follow it up later with something similar. You need to build some kind of comfort with him before you can ever address the issues you want to address. You may never be able to address those issues, but if you want to know anything about him, you have to take the initiative, and it has to be positive, not pay-back. In other words, you have to be the adult.

nikipedia's avatar

@wundayatta, he lives in another state, and I don’t think I want a relationship with him. I guess I don’t think he deserves it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There is a point. Not in getting results of any kind. But in speaking your truth, in stating vocally that they have been bad parents to you. It’s important for you.

wundayatta's avatar

@nikipedia What do you want, then?

marinelife's avatar

@nikipedia @wundayatta is right about one part of it. You need to know what your goals are if you confront him.

If they are, as you say, to let him know how you feel, then tell him. But have no expectations of getting anything back.

Tel him that him paying for the phone represented the single piece of father-daughter connection and caring that you two had, and that it hurts you that he is cutting it off with a transparent excuse about money.

Tell him that this is the last in a long line of hurts he has handed you, and that you are tired of it. Tell him that you will no longer strive to maintain a relationship with him.

Tell him that you are are a brilliant, attractive person and it is his loss choosing not to know you.

nikipedia's avatar

@wundayatta, good question. I guess in an ideal world, I would want him to smack his forehead and say, “My god! You’re right! I’ve been an asshole all these years!” and then develop a better personality and be a loving, caring father.

Short of that, I guess I want him to acknowledge that he’s being selfish, to apologize for his failures as a father and to drop the “I can’t afford it” shenanigan.

@marinelife, thank you for your kind words and your good advice.

cockswain's avatar

I wouldn’t be surprised if he has terrible regrets about not having a relationship with you much later in life. Some folks are adults by age 17, others in their 40s, some people never become real adults. Possibly he could be in his 60s and may finally have horrendous guilt about what he’s done. He may come begging for your forgiveness. It wouldn’t be unheard of, and it would help him have more peace on his death bed one day.

My brother was estranged from my father. I had a fine relationship with both. Our dad died suddenly a few years ago, having not spoken to my brother in years. It bothered my dad, and it will bother my brother the rest of his life.

Coloma's avatar

Yes! Exactly as @marinelife said.

Like ‘they’ say..we are never upset for the reasons we think we are!
The phone itself is not the issue, it is only symbolic of your deeper feelings of being rejected and/or not appriciated.

I agree…he probaly does NOT deserve to know you! His loss, but try to have some compassion, he truly can’t help himself. We can’t really hate someone that is simply not capable of relating in a healthy way.

It’s like hating a tortoise for not being able to run like a rabbit. haha

If you can accept the fact he just can’t be any different, it helps, won;t take away the sting but will keep things in perspective.

geeky_mama's avatar

I like @marinelife‘s suggestion the best – but based on my past experience I think I’d just send it in a letter.

I’d write the letter in a pleasant tone keeping it to “just the facts” stating (as suggested by @marinelife:
– from your perspective his paying for the phone represented the single piece of father-daughter connection you had – and while you are able to take financial responsibility for paying your own phone bill you can’t help but be hurt by his excuse that he can’t afford it when at least outwardly it appears (multiple homes, horses, vacations) otherwise.
– tell him that this is the proverbial straw that is breaking the camels back and you no longer wish to attempt to maintain this relationship.

Leave it at that. Leave if brief, leave it factual. You don’t need to tell him you’re a wonderful person and it’s his loss—sadly if he doesn’t get it by now he won’t “hear” it by seeing it in a letter either, y’know?

I tried confronting one of my less-than-perfect parents during college when I was literally starving (no money for food, working 5 jobs, not sleeping, not making ends meet) and asked to be emancipated so that I could take out student loans.
I was my dad’s “tax shelter” (he earns a very high income and I couldn’t get student loans based on the fact I was being claimed as his dependent. I needed to get the loans based on my very very low income) – and he was unwilling to change things. It was a very bad situation made worse by the fact I was financially tied to him (without actually seeing any of the money he was claiming to give me on his taxes).

When he wouldn’t budge I threatened to sue for emancipation and it was a bad scene. Ended up devolving into a screaming match and me storming off in tears. He didn’t care about what I found “unfair” and nothing from the “past” counted for anything.

Anyways, I wish I’d sent a letter an left it at that.

My best friend had it worse believe it or not.. during college she found her father (who had been completely uninvolved in her upbringing, living in a different city – never called her, visited or maintained any relationship with her) had been bringing illegal aliens into the country and setting them up to live by using her SS#. She had all kinds of crazy credit card and tax debts that belonged to foreign nationals (who later left the US) ..all because her dad had been using her SS# to open up bogus bank accounts and credit cards. Scary huh?

There are lots of crap parents out there. No one says you have to keep working at the relationship if its toxic. Better to move along and make your own family (of friends who are like family to you).

FWIW, after the nasty blow out with my Dad we spent some time not talking, but we have (15+ years later) a very good relationship now.

So, while you might write-off your Dad for now..I wouldn’t close the door completely. He might come back around and try to redeem himself in the future. (Or not) You just never know.

tinyfaery's avatar

I’ve been wrestling with father/daughter issues forever. (My father was abusive, so that adds an entirely other dimension.)

There is some good advice here. Let me just add that once you know where you stand with him, you will be able to choose what type of relationship you want to have, if any. The best way to gague his intention is to confront him about it. (I had to wait till my mom died and my dad had a breakdown for this to happen.)

6rant6's avatar

I don’t have any advice to offer. I just wanted to say I’m sorry you’re in this situation.

flutherother's avatar

Sorry to say this, but it isn’t the money, and it sounds like your Dad is deliberately trying to be hurtful. In a way that makes it less hurtful. There isn’t an obvious way to respond. You could maintain a dignified silence, or you could see if you could trigger a sense of shame by saying that being a part of his plan is important to you and you are prepared to pay the difference in costs. I wouldn’t fall out with him, the situation is painful enough as it is.

I would also be prepared for the day he dies leaving a will that doesn’t mention you. I have seen this happen to decent, nice people who didn’t deserve it and it is extremely hurtful and with no possibility of it ever being made right.

Sorry for giving such a negative reply and I hope it never happens. All you can do is take care not to respond to your father in kind.

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stardust's avatar

@nikipedia I’m sorry you have to go through this.
My father’s been absent in my life for the most part. It’s an issue I come up against frequently. I agree with much of the advice given. Mind yourself and please do not let your fathers fears, insecurities and cowardice cast a shadow on your beautiful self.

BarnacleBill's avatar

What are your father’s parents like? What is his relationship with them?

You will not get the smack-the-forehead moment, nor any sort of epiphany. It doesn’t work that way, except in movies and on Hallmark cards.

For father’s day, I would write him a sincere thank you for anything that he’s ever done for you that involves spending money—cell phone, paid for college?, braces?, etc. Tell him that you’re sorry that your relationship is so estranged, and that you’re envious of the close relationship that some of your friends have with their fathers, but that you know he’s doing all that he’s capable of doing.

The closest thing to the response you’re looking for came when I told my dad that when I was in high school, I used to be envious of my friends whose fathers were dead, because at least they didn’t have to wonder if there was something wrong with them that their fathers didn’t choose to spend time with them—they knew where their fathers were and why they weren’t coming around. At that point, my father told me more about his relationship with my mother than I really wanted to know.

nikipedia's avatar

@BarnacleBill, unfortunately he has recreated the relationship he had with his parents with his children. His father died last year and as far as I know they had not spoken in 10 years.

He did not pay for college (although he could have) or braces (although I needed them).

I know I am not going to get the response I want, or ever have a close relationship with him. So, I guess if I extrapolate correctly, what you’re saying is there’s no point in letting him know how disappointing he has been as a parent.

tinyfaery's avatar

Letting him know might not change him, but it might change how you feel about him and your relationship with him.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Then you might start my asking him if he ever wished his relationship with his own father was different. Ask him if he thinks he’s like his father. Sometimes you can get further with questions than with statements.

Coloma's avatar


When ever we speak our truth it matters not if the other person hears you, it is about expressing your own feelings and healing.

Maybe write a letter/email, and just sit with it for awhile. Don’t be hasty in anger, but, if you need to tell him how you really feel you should!

augustlan's avatar

Ah, girlie. I so feel your pain. Talking to my mother about her bad parenting never had any effect on her. I kept trying, for years and years, doing the ‘silent resentment’ thing you’re doing now. Finally, I wrote her a letter outlining all of the reasons I would no longer maintain a relationship with her. Still didn’t change her, but it changed me, for the better. Wishing you peace. <3

If you want to talk, you know where to find me.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“Send an angry email, or meditate on this and accept it for what it is?”

Move towards whichever one is more difficult to achieve. Then move beyond it.

mandiemom's avatar

First of all, don’t blame yourself. Nope. Not even a little.

Some people just don’t want to be parents. Simple as that but ruthless to accept.

Confronting him will do nothing to change how he treats you. He will not suddenly see the light and become the loving dad you have needed and still need. He just won’t.

Forgive yourself for whatever you feel. Don’t judge your emotions. In my opinion, don’t bother acting them out because you will just end up feeling more hurt. Does this person, this stranger who did your mom two decades ago, really deserve the satisfaction and power of knowing they can hurt you? HELL NO.

You need to accept that the dream of a father just wasn’t meant for you. Accept that and you will begin to understand that it truly is his loss.

mandiemom's avatar

I know how you feel and I’m sorry for your pain. (((hugs)))

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