DEAR KELLY: My dad lives in another state and I see him only two weeks out of every summer and sometimes over the holidays.
We really don't spend a lot of time together and I feel like more of a burden to him than anything. He doesn't really call much.
Instead, he will shoot me a text every week that just says, "How are you?" and "Is everything OK?"
How do I talk to my dad about being angry over how he treats me? Whenever I go see him over the summer, it always (no joke!) seems to fall during the "busiest two weeks at work ever" for him. It happens every time I go and it's almost a joke now that he still says it.
When I go, he claims he has meetings, late nights doing work and any other excuse he has for not hanging out with me.
Usually he takes one day and we do something fun, but the rest of the time he either lets me just hang out at home or has his girlfriend hang with me.
What is really making me mad is that if you look on his Facebook page, it seems like he never works and is always at some professional sporting event, drinking or having dinner with his friends or going on vacations all over.
He is living the life – except when I visit, and then he has to work the whole two weeks.
I told my mom I don't want to go see him next summer and she doesn't want to get in the middle of us. She said she can't keep me from seeing him because he does everything he is supposed to (she's talking financial) and she wants me to have a relationship with him because he's my father.
She says he's not as bad as a lot of dads and he just doesn't know what to do with me because he's not around me a lot, so he uses work as an excuse. I'm scheduled this year to go spend the week after Christmas with him.
I'm dreading it. I'm sure because it's right at the end of the year he'll be swamped at work and have no time to do anything, and I'll sit around being bored to death and wanting to come home.
What do I say to him, if anything, and should I tell him how much I hate going to see him?
What if he gets angry and doesn't want to talk about it with me? Should my mom make the call?
– Dreading Dad
DEAR DREADING: You are telling the wrong person you don't want to go visit.
Your mom can't do anything about it and wants you to work at having a relationship with your dad. You need to talk directly to your dad and leave your mom out.
Call your dad and ask if you can schedule a time on a Sunday to have a conversation. Let him know there is something you want to talk with him about. Try to organize your thoughts before you call by putting them on paper so you have an outline when you are talking with him.
Start by thanking him for being a part of your life and let him know you appreciate whatever he does to help you while you live apart.
Then tell him your concerns about coming to visit. Try to stick to the facts like, "It feels like when I come visit you have to work all the time and there isn't much for me to do. I would love to spend the time hanging with you, but spending the entire time alone or with your girlfriend doesn't seem too appealing."
See how he responds.
If he gets angry and defensive, let him know that you aren't trying to start a fight or make him feel bad; you just want to share how you feel about coming to visit him.
If your dad responds well, perhaps ask if the week after Christmas will be a busy one for him work-wise, or if he will have time to take off some days to spend with you. If he thinks he will be working the whole time, perhaps he can find a better week or long weekend when you can come spend time with him.
Your time together should be focused on quality, not quantity.
Do some research about where he lives. Let him know some things you would like to do there or places you want to see.
Instead of just texting each other, make an attempt to talk on the phone every week. Texting can seem so impersonal, and talking together will help build the communication between the two of you.
Give your dad a chance to change before you stop spending time with him. He deserves to know how you feel and what he can do to make things feel better.
Stop feeling like a burden. Take the more empowered role and see yourself as a gift to him. If he can't seem to make the time to spend with you, then it's his loss and you will find other ways to fill your life.