My father and I have a beautiful relationship now that we’ve worked at it for quite some time. It’s easy to freely love as a child, but as an adult, who had a valid perspective and reasons to be frustrated with him, there was work that needed to be done to rebuild our bond. And learn to mutually love and respect each other as adults first, and father and daughter second. Years ago, we hit a rough patch after my grandmother passed away, and we went without speaking for almost two years. Truthfully, it was a difficult time for all of us. She was diagnosed with a rare cancer, and within a year, my grandmother deteriorated, and so did he. Initially, I decided I wouldn’t press the issues because I knew firsthand as one of her caretakers the emotional effects my father had to deal with following her passing.
Additionally, I’ve learned that grief can change people, and he became short-tempered about everything. But I knew even though he deserved space to process, that I didn’t deserve the treatment I was receiving. For months I tried to let things go until we had a huge argument, and I decided I was taking a break from my father. It wasn’t about not loving him, or honoring him, but a break in speaking to him — and that was my right.
Unfortunately, my entire family told me I was wrong in my decision, and that the Bible said I should honor my father. While I agreed, I felt the best way to honor him was to remain silent until he was in a better place to communicate. I’d never felt more confused because while I wanted to call him and make things right, I knew I deserved for my father to be in a place to hear my heart, and at that time, he just wasn’t. Years later, we’re in a much better space. We’ve discussed everything that ever stood in the way of repairing our relationship from childhood trauma to his behavior after losing his mother. If you’re reading this right now and you’re not in communication with your father, consider these steps to repairing your relationship in due time.
Boundaries are essential, even with your parents.
Culturally, we emphasize boundaries in every relationship, aside from the one between a child and parent. We hear it all the time, children need rules, children need boundaries, children need correction, but what happens when they become adults who need to establish boundaries with their parents? Explaining your point of view to your parents is necessary to create a relationship with them as an adult where you have space for respect, and love for each other.
Your family members don’t always know what’s best.
When my father and I didn’t speak, family members regularly approached me with unsolicited advice. While I understood their point of view, I was lowkey over everyone instantly becoming unlicensed family therapists to dissect an issue they didn’t fully understand. Some suggested I should reach out first, and others expressed I should move on with my life altogether, thankfully, I did neither. I waited until my father was in a better place mentally and emotionally to call me. I visited him, and we then sorted all of our issues. When we finally did speak, he apologized as if he knew every pain I held in my heart during the months we lost communication. This proved to me that in our time apart, we both evaluated how to strengthen our relationship once we had the chance to reconnect.
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If you decide to work things out, do not brush the situation under the rug.
Almost a year into my dad and I not speaking, he called and invited me to dinner. We didn’t discuss anything that happened, and for months we tried to brush past it. But there was always an awkwardness in the air neither one of us wanted to address. After some time, another disagreement occurred, which was far worse because our family was present. Months passed before I spoke to anyone who was there when the situation occurred. However, it wasn’t until we all had a vulnerable conversation about everything that happened (and he apologized) we were able to move forward and repair the remnants of our relationship.
Know that reconnection is a process.
When we initially reconnected, we sent each other text messages to check-in and then gradually worked our way to personal phone calls. The road to repairing a broken relationship with a parent isn’t one size fits all. So please be kind to yourself and don’t compare your journey with others, either.
Check your expectations.
I’m an avid watcher of the web television talk show Red Table Talk, but my favorite episode is with Jada Pinkett-Smith and her brother Caleeb Pinkett where they candidly discussed forgiving their father. If I’m honest, before tuning in, I thought all was forgiven between my father and me, but there was a moment when Jada shared an epiphany that personally changed everything.
The actress expressed she’d gotten to a point and realized her father’s life wasn’t about her. He wasn’t born to be her dad. Instead, he was on his journey outside of her, and out of that, he produced her and Caleeb. By taking your expectations off of the table and realizing that your parents are human beings allows you to see them from a different lens.
Father’s Day isn’t a celebratory occasion for everyone for a myriad of reasons. So I won’t encourage a one-size-fits-all conversation of “If you can work it out with your parents, give them a call today.” I will say this if you are in a space to reconcile, open your heart to do so, and if you aren’t at that point yet, know that is okay too.