Dear Amy: I am a 71 year old man, retired and happy married for 44 years.
We have a 45 year old son and a 43 year old daughter.
Do you remember Harry Chapin's song "Cat's in the Cradle"? This song perfectly describes our relationship with our son.
When I was working, it was going, going, going, a lot of traveling and building for the future.
When I was at home, I thought of giving enough of my time to my son and daughter, but looking back – maybe not.
Today, our son has a lot of success, but like me, he is going, go, go, he is always at work.
He and his family live 400 km away. We try to see them at least twice a year. In the meantime, we have with them only one session per month on Skype with our grandchildren.
Our relationship with our daughter and her family, who live three hours away, is much narrower.
I want a closer relationship with our son, but I do not know how to attract us. No suggestion?
Rebellious dad: Thank you for the Harry Chapin ballad recall, which tells the somewhat heartbreaking story of a busy father who raises a son who then embraces his father's values and who is then too busy for his father.
I would first like to suggest that you be the patient, present and caring grandfather your grandchildren deserve to have. Given the extreme distance between your families, this would ideally involve summer visits where children will travel to accompany you. Establishing family-centered rituals and trivial rituals with them could result in more than just monthly calls on Skype. For now, write letters to both children regularly.
Regarding your relationship with your son, it is difficult to establish a closer relationship without spending time alone. Even a short annual stay or a weekend with only two people would make your relationship progress. Ideas include traditional father-son activities such as fishing or camping, cooking classes on weekends, conducting a service project or attending a weekend of TED conferences. Ideally, you would choose an activity whose time is unlimited and unstructured, and where you would basically know. If this very busy man wants to spend time with his father, he will force the opening of his schedule.
I also suggest that you send him a sincere letter with your wishes, with the words – or a link – from Chapin's ballad; the idea being that if you had known then what you know now, you could have done things differently. Say you'd like to be a different kind of parent now – and hope it's not too late.
Dear Amy: We have good friends who invite us, my husband and I, to the same restaurant the same night every year during the holiday season. Their tradition is to go there and invite other friends to join them.
We went with them several times, but the truth is that I do not like this restaurant and I got sick after eating there.
They invited us again this year.
I would like to decline, but I do not know how. I do not want to lie and say that we have other projects that we do not do.
What should I do?
Reluctant guest: Ideally, you would find a way to attend this annual dinner without consuming foods you do not like. Otherwise, do not lie. Just a cop at a certain awkwardness. You can say, "It's a little embarrassing, but I do not like this restaurant. Aside from the good times with you, I had a bad reaction to their food. We love this tradition, but I think we have to withdraw this year. We would like to see you; can we plan a little time after the holidays?
Dear Amy: I have a big problem with your response to "Anxious", who wanted to talk to his daughter about his stepfather's suicide. I could not believe that you advocated keeping the secret about it! Suicide tends to run in families. The girl should be told.
Disturbs: I advocate to be honest and transparent about suicide. But this girl was in elementary school. It is the father of the child (not the mother) who should direct this disclosure because it is his father who died. This family should take the time to deal with this loss and then reveal it with honesty and compassion.