Dear Father-in-law,

Your son needs you now more than ever.

I will admit I don’t know much firsthand about the father/son dynamic. I have simply watched your relationship from afar, seeing two men wrestle with their emotions toward one another. I watch his frustration rise as you harp on his life choices, and I can see the hurt in your eyes when he rejects your opinion.

You both have many similarities, yet when I see the two of you interact, it is as if you are on different planets. I sit and watch your movements through life, and I can’t help but see how challenging your relationship seems. You both tiptoe around issuesholding your cup full of anger, trying to keep it from spilling. You both know the steps to this particular dance, and you do your best not to step on each other’s toes. The closer to the surface your conversation stays, the more likely you are to exist in the same room together.

Then, it happens, your moves become entangled, and the glass hits the floor. Bitterness and resentment paint the canvas of your interaction, and it is more than you both can handle.

It doesn’t have to be so hard.

I am sure it is strange watching your children blossom into adulthood. Taking note of their every life decision, measuring it up to your own, and feeling the need to constantly critique. I get it. What I don’t understand is your shallow means of communication.

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Your son needs you.

He needs advice in these murky waters of fatherhood. He needs guidance with job transitions and financial uncertainty. He needs your love and support, yet you seem to come at the issue tightfisted. When the relationship between the two of you requires maintenance, you quickly retreat. Your inability to effectively communicate your emotions has corroded at the relationship for far too long.

I have watched you two dance this dance for 10 years. He, confiding in me that he just wishes you would call and have a genuine interest in his life. You, unsure of why the relationship feels so rocky. The two of you are playing a role, a role meant for a dad and child,  not ever having switched over to an adult-to-adult relationship.

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I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I do see what it is doing to your son. I watch as he pretends not to be hurt when you don’t call him for his birthday. I see anger in his eyes when you favor the cousins over our own children. I see a man, trying his best to live up to impossible standards of another and falling short every time.

You know what I don’t see?

I don’t see a lot of effort on your part and therein lies my frustration. Dear father-in-law if you put in 1/10 of the effort you do now, your son just might try a little harder.

I implore you, please try.

Try to see your son as a man.

Try to tell him how much you truly love him.

Try to have a conversation without harping on his mistakes.

Try to sift through your emotions and pull out the ones that have an encouraging word.

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In life, we don’t have a lot of second chances. Do I understand the father/son relationship? Nope. You know what I do understand, though? I understand what it is like to be at odds with my dad. A dad who died before I had the opportunity to tell him I loved him. I know how deeply that wound hits, and I pray you both have the opportunity to resolve things before it gets to that point.

Dear Father-in-law, just make the call.

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