20 June 2009

Dear E4E. A Letter to Myself

Dear E4E,

My 20 year old son who lives across the country with his mother, seems to want to have nothing to do with me. I have called him, texted him, and left messages on his facebook page. I get no response from him.

Recently, he left his job (released for being late). Now he contacts me and wants to visit. Yay.

Except, when I try to contact him to set dates, he doesn't respond. It's really odd. For the life of me, I can't think of anything I've done to anger him or drive him away. I feel hurt and sad about this.

What the heck is going on?

Signed, Baffled Engineer

Dear Baffled,

Regardless of whether you slighted him, the answer is the same--continue to reach out. Hold out a hand of unconditional, non-judging love.

Yes, you feel hurt and maybe want to punish. Perhaps you think it's terribly undignified or weak to reach out unrequitedly. Forget that.

But he gave you the cold shoulder and maybe you didn't deserve it. It doesn't matter. But you're a dude. You learned a long time ago not to take crap from anyone. To return disrespect with greater disrespect.

That's OK in battle, but this is not battle. It's not a power or blame game. This is family. Families are not a democracy, they're more like a benevolent dictatorship, or even communism (from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs).

You are the parent; you are the adult. That is your role in this scenario. Unless a family member is actively hurting the family, your job is to strive to maintain cohesiveness.

Now try to look at it from your son's perspective. He's 20 years old, he was out earning lots of money and feeling pretty independent. He probably lost sight of the importance of family; maybe he didn't really understand the importance of maintaining contact. Perhaps you could have done a better job over the years of keeping touch with him. (Remember Cat's in the Cradle by Harry Chapin?)

Perhaps, he didn't think that he was meeting your expectations (good grades, go to college, etc.) and was feeling ashamed about that. Perhaps he had a secret that he thought would disappoint you in some way. Again, it really doesn't matter.

Remember, it's not your job to judge him or try to change him. Regardless of his emotional age or maturity, he is an adult now. Accept him as he is and do what you can to help him succeed in his life. Be proactive in keeping communications open. Hope that he will come around.

Good luck.


  1. Give him space.

    Don't beat yourself up.

    When he is ready, he'll come to you (but be sure to leave the door open).

    Been there. Done that. Best wishes.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi Stargazey,

    Thanks for the words of encouragement. He is coming out to visit next week, so we'll see how things go from there.

    philipbeber. I received the comment that you left by email (I guess before you deleted it). Thanks for the suggestion.

    You can communicate privately at my gmail address. It's emotionsforengineers if you want to chat offline.