This week, readers offer words of empathy and advice for “Tired of the Dad I Love,” who wrote in last week to say that his father repeatedly tells him that because he doesn’t have a military haircut, he is not going to end up in a good place. Apparently “Tired” isn’t the only son or daughter out there who does not measure up to a parent’s expectations. Let’s see what readers have to say:
I can empathize with “Tired.” Sometimes parents just don’t know when to cut the apron strings. There comes a point when they need to realize that you are no longer their child, but are an adult capable of making your own decisions. They may not agree with every decision, but they need to respect your right to make them.
Since our marriage, we have always been active in the Church, so that was never an issue. But my father would express his opinion on the most trivial of matters. One time he was upset because I had given him a check that had a picture of a landscape printed on it. I was informed that checks should have a plain tan or blue background, and should not have pictures on them. They were official documents and not works of art.
Another time he complained that we were painting our house trim green, when everyone knew that house trim should be white.
He told me that I was a deadbeat because I had worked for three different companies in 15 years (he had spent his entire working career at the same firm). He told me I was stupid because I had sold some of the stocks he had purchased for me and put the money into other investments.
Because he knew I had little tolerance for his criticism, he would sometimes wait until I was out of the room, and would then tell my wife how stupid we were for some minor transgression.
Sadly, for the most part he was a good father, and it was only during his later years that we had to endure such criticism. But this created such an unpleasant situation that we finally moved from the state and rarely visited my parents – which gave them just something else to complain about. It was really sad that our relationship was tarnished over such minor and unimportant issues.
Parents will always be parents, and I guess that means they will always want to give advice, whether that advice is desired or even relevant. Sometimes giving advice to adult children is good, such as when the children are living their lives in ways that don’t adhere to gospel standards. But even then the parent has to be careful and honor the child’s agency and respect him as an adult.
I would hope that all parents with adult children will analyze their relationships and correct any behavior that would cause rifts or hard feelings. It is not worth losing relationships with children or grandchildren over issues that have no eternal significance.
“Tired” needs to just be patient with his father, and realize that the underlying issue may have nothing to do with facial hair. It could be caused by a physical or mental issue, or perhaps some unresolved experience from his father’s past. Perhaps “Tired” could contact his father’s bishop, and see if the bishop might be able to convince his father that longer hair and facial hair have nothing to do with personal righteousness.
FJR in Sugar Land
Thanks for sharing your story, FJR. Your examples of things that some people consider to be important were real eye-openers. As you pointed out, it’s not worth destroying your relationship with a child because he chooses to put pictures on a check.
Myself havinghad parents who misbehaved, over time I chose to set appropriate rules such that if my dad went off on me, I would leave. Once I did that, he started to behave and our relationship improved. This was particularly true when he realized I did not harbor any ill will; I was just not willing to be lectured as an adult. As soon as I was no longer angry over my parents’ many years of misbehavior and learned to love them just as they were, all was fine.
In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This man needs to accept his dad without judgment, just as he wants to be accepted by his dad. He will not change him.
At Peace and Happier That Way
I appreciated your observation that “Tired” is not going to change his father. Your suggestion that “Tired” should up and leave when his father misbehaves is a good one. Leaving when Dad goes on a rant will not change Dad’s beliefs, but it may just change his behavior. And that alone may make the situation bearable.
After reading this letter and thinking about the problem I thought of one thing I emphasize in my Investigator classes on Sunday and other classes I have taught through my years. That thought is tied to the understanding that Families are forever and goes simply like this: If you will feel comfortable in heaven, you will be there! The Lord would not put us in a situation where we are uncomfortable. That goes for our relationship to the Lord and our relationship to our family members.
It is easy to see how this father is way off base on not just his understanding of the gospel but how he relates to his family. I would bet that this idiosyncrasy shows up in other relationships in his life. What I am trying to say is that something has happened in his life to make his understandings unbalanced and unreasonable. This could be a physical, emotional, or even medical or psychological event. Things like this just throw a person off balance. His actions will seem unreasonable to the rest of us.
In “heaven” that unbalanced condition will either be fixed, or the person with these feelings will not be with his or her family because they will not feel comfortable there. I tend to feel that the Lord will let us see these areas in our lives in so clear a way that we will understand how we got unbalanced and understanding what caused it, we will get over it.
I know that this does not solve the problem here on earth. For that to happen I see two possibilities. First is for the whole family to get together and confront the issue head-on (assuming the rest of the family does not have the same unbalanced view of the problem). Call it an intervention if you like, because that is in essence what it is.
That, I would hope, would lead to some counseling that would help the father see what caused his unbalanced view of the situation and figure out how to bring him back to a more balanced view of his son. Trying to force understanding on any of us when we do not want it is a very upriver task that, in most all cases, is doomed to failure.
Do all in love! It is always the Lord’s way and should always be ours as well.
The end of Moroni 7 comes to mind where we are advised to seek charity, the true love of Christ and a gift to all true believers. I can only say that with love I have found others, including family members, to be open to seeing things in a new light.
I agree with you, Dan. In the next life, all of us are going to see places where we’ve gone astray. If we’re unwilling to change, I, like you, believe we’re going to end up in a place where we are comfortable. All it takes is enduring until we get there.
I can understand “Tired’s” dilemma – funny as it may seem, it causes real pain and division in their family.
My family has suffered the same pain for many years, all stemming from a parent so controlling that they will go to any length to force family members to comply with their wishes, no matter how important or inane.
There is always a child or spouse of a child who is ostracized for not complying with the often ridiculous demands of this parent. From marriage, employment, choice of where to live, missions, family planning, and even uncontrollable health issues, our parent micromanages, browbeats, and attempts to threaten children and their spouses into total compliance and obedience because that parent believes that this is how children prove their love.
This person has gone so far as to contact church authorities, law enforcement, and social services, all in an attempt to force total and blind submission. Grandchildren are told horrible things about their parents, and church members and friends endure long diatribes on the sins of the current “outlaw.”
Our family is constantly humiliated as private family business is flung far and wide to the embarrassment of those forced to listen. It seems to go in cycles, with one child or spouse targeted for months to years, and then when another person “transgresses” that relationship is magically healed and all is forgiven.
My spouse and I are the current targets of this parent’s wrath. Oursolution? Total and complete severance of the relationship. Our family (young children included) has zero communication or contact with the offensive parent. Our children are mature enough to recognize the aberrant behavior of their grandparent and give the person wide berth if our paths do cross at church to avoid being grabbed aside and interrogated or berated.
We are sad that our children cannot have a healthy relationship with this grandparent, but we are now able to recognize that the relationship has never been healthy and that great distance is necessary for their emotional well-being. Our family is the happiest and most content that we have ever been now that we are free from the psychological bondage we have been imprisoned in for years. We are able to function as independent, intelligent adults and are able to carry out family plans and goals without fear of wrath or retaliation.
I have struggled with this severance because it seems to go against the counsel we have received to not have rifts with family members. However, I feel confident that Church leaders were referring to the common practice of not speaking to others due to anger or resentment. It is perfectly acceptable and expected to cut off someone who is physically or sexually abusive, and I feel the same is appropriate when dealing with emotional abuse.
My siblings and I came to the sad realization that we, along with our spouses and children, have been emotionally abused by this parent for decades. We deal with our abuser in different ways, but thankfully most of us are supportive of each other’s circumstances and actions.
I realize that “Tired’s” situation is not as extreme as my own, but his father is acting in a similar manner. (At least he doesn’t report “Tired” to the hair police!) I would counsel him to evaluate the scope of his relationship with his father.
Does he have any real communication with him that does not involve hairstyle choices? Is this the only area in which his father is critical or controlling? If so, my first thought is about camels and gnats. If my parent’s obsession was only one insignificant thing, I would be apt to simply make an old person happy. After all, hair grows back. It sounds to me, however, that there are other underlying issues and hair is simply the trophy argument.
If the relationship is salvageable, then do what you can to salvage it. If there is no true relationship left, then step away from the abuse and give your family room to breathe and be liberated from constant criticism.
Wow, Finally! If anyone can make “Tired” happy about his own father, your horror story would do it. I commend you on having such a non-judgmental attitude about your own situation. Many people would allow a situation such as yours to embitter them. You, however, seem to be handling it with as much grace as is humanly possible.
Remember how Lehi hopscotched over Laman and Lemuel when handing out the promises of a better relationship with God, and instead went for the grandkids? I wonder if “Tired’s” kids could do the same in reverse.
Although “Tired” may not be able to make any headway with his father, his children might be in a position to gently correct their grandfather’s behavior. The senior involved is not going to change his attitude; that much is clear. And there are times when the whole parent / child broken record can sometimes get in the way of real communication.
But grandparents and grandchildren often have a different type of relationship, and maybe a simple, “My dad has always been a great example to me, and you should be proud of the son you raised,” will have an impact that “Tired” couldn’t hope to effect.
That may be a good solution, Wondering. Thanks for the suggestion.
I once sat in a training meeting where the presiding priesthood leader lectured at length about the need for men to have a part in their hair and that they would only be successful in life if they had a part like his. He backed up his argument by saying that the most successful businessmen had parts in their hair and that he did too and he was successful.
I found it difficult to stay in my seat because I couldn’t believe that he was spending time on that topic. His wife then launched into a lecture about closed-toed shoes.
Anyway, I wonder who in their lives influenced them so strongly that they felt that those topics were of merit. Perhaps your father was chastised by someone important to him about his hairstyle. Even in middle age, I am still sorting through counsel that I thought was the gospel truth once upon a time, only to discover that a great deal of it was personal opinion. Maybe once, this was the gospel truth for him in his little part of the world. Look at BYU where you are expected to be clean-shaven today, but a few generations ago, most of the priesthood leadership sported a beard.
It saddens me that this is such a source of stress in your family. My first thought would be that perhaps there is something mentally amiss with your father if he is so fixated on this concern. Perhaps it is time for someone he actually respects to call him on the carpet for creating such contention within his family.
Understanding in Canada
Some people get crazy ideas, Understanding. I know of a stake president who preached very strongly from the pulpit that the women in his stake were to wear bandages over the tips of their breasts because if men saw the outline of their breasts through their clothes it was vulgar. My first question was why he was looking that closely. My second question was to wonder what he was going to have men wear under their pants so their anatomy wouldn’t appear vulgar to women.
Human beings are endlessly fallible, and endlessly fascinating. God must get a real kick out of us.
I do feel for this brother’s situation. It must be very frustrating and distressing to have one’s father persistently undermining one’s position as a father and grandfather, never mind as a worthy church member.
What does the mother think of her husband’s obsession? Does she agree with him? Did “Tired” and his father argue over the length of his hair when he was a young man (which might go to explain his current thought processes)?
I wonder when the father last had a medical checkup. He’s obviously harking back to a time when a young man’s haircut indicated his social acceptability and moral worthiness, and clearly believes that the length of his son’s hair is a sign of moral turpitude. The extent of his obsession, particularly the way he tries to enlist the assistance of his grandsons and the degree of anxiety he feels that his son is destined to go to hell (an unusual thought process for a Latter-day Saint) purely because of his hair could be indicative of a deeper rooted mental health problem. I would suggest getting him to a doctor as soon as possible and having his cognitive abilities tested.
Otherwise, I’m afraid that this good brother must try to preserve what he can of his sense of humour and be patient with this old man, who must surely be in his 80s. It isn’t uncommon for elderly people to look back at what they recall as a golden age of moral living, and bewail its loss in more modern times.
You’re not the only one who wondered if “Tired’s” father may have a screw loose, Angela. So many people suggested that in the comments area on Meridian that I got a note from “Tired” himself. It said:
Kathryn, this is “Tired of the Dad I Love”: You can assure the readers my father does not have dementia, as some of the posted comments postulate. Hair and absolute obedience to all his opinions has been a life-long thing. Hair is only the example I gave. He requires absolute obedience to his beliefs and opinions from his children, grandchildren, and he’s starting on great-grandchildren. I am just the first one to verbally and by action disagree and hold to my own opinion.
There you have it. He doesn’t have dementia. He was always that way. Poor “Tired”!
I really like what you wrote about the “golden age of moral living.” I must be getting elderly, because I sometimes think like that myself. Thanks for pointing out the fallacy in that.
This one gave me a chuckle; I’ve been feeling your pain for decades! Both my parents spoke with forked tongue!If it had only been comments about my hair…
However, over the years I’ve spent struggling to think of workable responses – and how to cope with the command from God to honor those folks while not letting the insults devastate me.
I’ve found it’s best to say something while the offender’s words are still “in the air,” so to speak. Otherwise, they usually act or actually areoblivious to what they’ve said. Also when I’m on the receiving end, I’m too shocked to think of something appropriate quickly. So I like to keep some easy responses in mind to “mark the place” or draw attention to the problem right on the spot. Here’s some I’ve collected:
- “Aren’t you glad you don’t have to worry about that, Mom (Dad)?” This one came from an older friend whose children used that line as a signal when she was overstepping boundaries. I thought it’s great for parents who actually care about boundaries and listen. Those people aren’t usually a problem, but I love the line and shared it with my adult offspring to use on me when I overstep! It’s a nice way of saying,”It’s not your business.”
- “OUCH!” This is my standard “go-to” line for insults that come as a surprise. It lets them know it hurt, and saves me the bother of thinking of a response fitted to whatever latest verbal dig. Sadly, people who are willing to hurt me act confused when I say “ouch!” but it helps me deflect the insult.
- “What?” In this case I’m asking the person to repeat the line, as if I didn’t understand. I’ve done this when my mother insulted me at lunch with my family (in public). I just kept asking her to repeat it with a confused look on my face. I continued until she wound down.
I’ve found that people can be quite rude, and since I grew up with parents like that, it took me decades to stop allowing other people like that into my life. After all, it was what I was used to!
I also spent decades struggling with the imperative to honor my parents when they were so hard to cope with for a variety of reasons. Finally someone told me the best way to honor your parents is to bea good parent. Check!
I loved what you wrote about honoring your parents by being a good parent, Leah. If people in “Tired’s” position can do that, at least the negativity won’t be perpetuated to the next generation.
It’s the age-old dilemma between agency and force. A responsible parent will teach their child all the things parents have been counseled by the Lord to teach during the time that their child is growing up. Then they should step back and allow that child to live his life and exercise his agency.
This does not mean the parent will no longer take part in his child’s life, but there is a proper way to do this. A parent should remain prayerful and follow inspiration as received from the Lord.
The proper pattern has been set by the Lord himself. He sent us to earth with all the guidelines in place. He continues to encourage and counsel us through His living prophet and other Church leaders, as well as through the scriptures that we prayerfully study. But he does not force us. It was Satan who wanted to force us back to heaven!
Notice when you receive a special priesthood blessing, how the Lord focuses on the positive.
He commends us, encourages us, and counsels us. He does not dwell on the negative. When we receive direction in such a loving way, we naturally have a desire to please Him. We want to improve ourselves!
This is such a different attitude from what is derived from listening to one who constantly badgers us with unwanted advice and who actually rejects us by their actions. They are actually displaying a form of pride that President Ezra Taft Benson warned about in his memorable talk on pride in 1989. And unfortunately, they are also displaying judgment upon us.
We know that the Lord is the only One worthy to be our Judge. Sadly, such people, as this man’s father, push their loved ones away from themselves by such actions. Let’s hope his father repents of such actions soon, so that he can enjoy fellowship with his son and grandchildren.
OneWho Understands in Kansas
Thanks for your thoughts, Kansas. I hope your input and that of all the others will help “Tired” in his journey.
Next week we’ll have another topic. Readers, if you have any ideas for future topics, be sure to send them to [email protected]“. DO NOT USE THE FORM ON THIS PAGE, BECAUSE THINGS GET LOST THAT WAY. JUST USE THIS EMAIL ADDRESS! Be sure to put a subject on it so I’ll know it isn’t spam.
Until next week – Kathy
“Dream as if you’ll live forever; live as if you’ll die today.”
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