Carolyn Hax: Advice

Daughter misses her dad, with new family

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Hi, Carolyn: After many years of being single, my dad is getting married soon to a woman he loves very much. She has two daughters, younger than my brother and me, and my dad has gotten very close with them, which is overall good for him and for them.

While this has been happening, I have seen him less, mostly because my mom was sick and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. She has now passed, and it’s become increasingly apparent that he’s slowly stepped out of the picture for me — he rarely calls or asks about how I’m doing (even after a lot of tragedy this past year), and every time we do talk it’s pretty much about the fiancee’s daughters.

I am truly happy for him that he’s found someone and been accepted by her family, but I’ll be honest, it hurts that he’s committed to being their dad and kind of stopped being mine. Any advice?

Left-Behind Daughter

I’m sorry about your mom, and about your difficult year. I hope you give yourself time to recover – even if that includes setting aside these dad worries until you feel ready to take them on.

The problem might not be as drastic as it seems, though. My hunch is that it’s in your father’s emotional makeup to live in the present as a passive participant – meaning, whatever his current circumstances offer him, that’s where his attention rests. You probably know people like this, if you think about it, like the friends who are always warm and welcoming when you see them but terrible about staying in touch. This trait can be hard to spot in people who serve as your emotional pillars, though; often we see them more for their role in our lives than for who they really are.

And for our expectation that they want to stay close to us. Of course it hurts when they drift.

If he is this way, then maybe he didn’t leave you behind so much as you left him behind to attend to your mother.

That would also mean it’s a simple problem to correct, though: You just need to be steadily present again, the way you were before you mom needed your full attention.

It will also take patience, of course. He will be focused on his new wife, and that will include whatever focus on her own family that she brings with her – especially if he is indeed a go-with-the-moment guy.

You will have to be flexible, too, because any new bond to him will be different from the old.

But by being with him as you’re able, and by embracing these new family members, you can renew your relevance to him and bring him back to you. I flinched on your behalf as I typed this – a child has to establish relevance? – but this isn’t about being close because you’re supposed to be, it’s about wanting Dad back in your life.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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