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Ask Lisi: Dad feels left out in chaos of teen daughters' lives

Advice: Perhaps you should schedule some family-only time during the week. That would give you a chance to connect with your daughters and your wife.
Lisi Tesher, for Ask Ellie column

Dear Lisi: I’m a married man with two teenage daughters. My house is constantly filled with their friends. When I return from my morning run, there are three eating breakfast and borrowing my girls’ clothes while they all get ready for school. When I come home from work, there are at least two watching TV in the den with my girls, and we often have extra mouths at our dinner table.

One of my daughters is a cheerleader, so there are often girls over practicing … loudly). And my other daughter is a singer and a musician, as are most of her friends. My wife loves the chaos, the noise, the bustle, the liveliness of it all.

Somehow, I’m lonely. How can I be part of the fun?

Distanced Dad

No pun intended, but it sounds to me like you’re the odd man out. Seriously though, perhaps you should schedule some family-only time during the week. That would give you a chance to connect with your daughters and your wife.

I also suggest you schedule a date night with your wife, which would give you two a chance to reconnect away from the hype and excitement of the household. And I suggest you find something special of your own, but not something solitary. You said you run in the mornings: perhaps you could join a running club and run with others once a week.

You need balance. Your family’s lifestyle is pushing you away. Find ways to enjoy their happiness while still finding your own.

FEEDBACK Regarding the cast-aside grandparents (April 10):

Reader — “How are these grandparents supposed to heal the rift when their repeated overtures have been ignored and their emails blocked? In recent years, I have heard so many similar stories of grandparents being cut off.

“One son told his parents, retired, of very ordinary means and not in good health, that if they wouldn’t remortgage their house to provide him with several hundred thousand dollars they could no longer see their grandkids. When they pointed out how close they were to the grandkids and that they’d always been there to babysit whenever needed, the response was ‘Well, we don’t need your babysitting now.’

“Another friend was ghosted by her daughter the day she was in a terrible car accident! All overtures have been rejected and though the grandchild hugged and professed to love the grandmother when she came by with Christmas presents for her and her child in the first year of the rift, she didn’t invite her to her wedding. And like her parent, she hasn’t spoken to her grandmother in ten years — though she lives in the same small city.

“When rifts like this happen and all advances are rebuffed, parents need to do a thorough and honest analysis of the relationship with their grown children — probably with the help of a therapist and/or trusted friend who knows their family history well. Were there hints of trouble to come before the final blow-up? Does the adult child have a major legitimate grief, i.e., significant neglect or abuse in childhood, overbearing behaviour, and interference from the parent in adulthood, a failure to respect boundaries, etc.? Did the adult child display similar self-centered, manipulative, or stubborn behaviours in childhood that the parent overlooked? Is the hostility largely coming from the spouse of the adult child, with the latter feeling they must side with that spouse?

“The grandparents might then make one last overture suggesting counselling to see if reconciliation is possible. If they are again rejected, they should figuratively sit shiva for the relationship while still treasuring the memories of their children in earlier days. They should also realize that such family fractures are not rare — and perhaps consider whether their wills should be rewritten.”

FEEDBACK Regarding the woman commenting on her frumpy friend (April 2):

Reader — “Unless the friend has said anything about wanting to change her appearance, butt out! Why is ‘looking much older than I do’ the writer’s concern? Your suggestions just reinforce a silly obsession with appearance.”

FEEDBACK Regarding a few letters (March 13; April 16):

Reader — “Reader’s comment on three couples planning a holiday, where one is more well-heeled than others, to have the other couple speak up about their different financial level.

“This comment should also apply in the previous problem where a ‘friends’ grandson has invited himself and girlfriend for six months to their grandparents’ place. This is nothing short of an imposition, even if it was for a week, one asks, not just announces. The grandparents should kindly tell them this is not on and indicate that good manners dictate asking first.”

Lisi Tesher is an advice columnists based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: [email protected]