Carolyn Hax: the child loses the respect of his father who does not take care of himself
He is married and lives with mum, who leads an incredibly active and healthy life, but insists dad is fine and doing his best. Kids have tried healthy/fun/tasty alternatives — he says no thanks.
None of this is new, but the effects really add up and have notable consequences. It’s so painful to watch.
How can I understand the fact that he’s an adult, he makes his own choices, and freaking out over those choices just wastes the time I have left with him? His decisions undermine my respect for him, and it’s a crummy, choppy way to think of your own father. Ideas?
Permanent dad: There are three problems here, in fact, not just one.
Your father’s self-destructive personal habits are the obvious problem. Of course, you’re upset by this, seeing him deny even base health sustain. However, you have the good idea to redirect your attention to the company he offers as he can offer it. The persistent desire for something different is the biggest obstacle to appreciating what we have.
There is also the futility of wanting this particular outcome different. You have all clearly tried. So when the urge to keep cuddling hits you, remember how you I love it when someone looks at your plate and says, “Are you eating that?! (Shut things up for me, at least.)
The second problem is your diminishing respect for him. Yeah, that’s a “jerky way of thinking about your own father”, or anyone else. Judging is the mental equivalent of picking scabs: rude, fake, so satisfying. But, there is a but. You are allowed to have an opinion about your father as a person, just like you are allowed to have an opinion about anyone else. And that opinion may include updates to the mental list of things you do and dislike and disrespect about him, based on this new information. Our opinions can be complex.
So you can like him but not like him, like him but not respect him, this but not that. No matter. you can feel angry. Sad. Indulgent. The more comfortable you are with prickly feelings about people, the less strange and frustrating the world will start to feel. If ever so slightly less. Remember if necessary: You also drive your employees crazy sometimes.
Third thing: you don’t have to crush yourself to have complicated feelings specifically about “your own father.”
I may be misinterpreting you, and if so, my apologies – but I’m getting a hint of “He’s my dad and so I’m supposed to love, admire and heed him.” If this is true, then the most liberating gesture might be to dispense with any residual notion of a “supposed” mythical parent, consciously and for good. You are an adult. He is an ordinary human being. As human as your neighbor, your colleague, the guy behind you on the bus. Don’t bring any expectations, except maybe to learn from this. See if that lifts some of the weight.