In November of this year, my son turned 18. I have not been in his life for the past 15 years because of the choices I have made. My most fervent prayer is that one day he will be allowed in his life.
Over the years, I have tried many times to initiate communication but have not heard any prying eyes. He lives with his mother, and I highly doubt she would encourage contact with me. She has emailed my son’s photo to my father.
Of course, there are lifelong problems behind all of this. I lived with my mom until I was 6 and then with my dad until I was 13. To this day, my relationship with my dad is very strained.
I wonder if I should have paid a private investigator to find him when he was 18? I know it’s my fault I didn’t get into his life. Can you give me any advice?
Dear estranged father,
It is admirable that you still want to be in your son’s life after all this time. Yes, I think you should do everything you can to reconnect with him. This will change your life, strengthen, and even heal both of you.
Once your son is an adult, you have the legal and moral right to establish communication. I’m sure a good private investigator can do the job, but I’m wondering if it’s possible to establish communication through the family? It might get more work done for you and your son this way. Let me explain.
Since you barely had contact with your son when he was less than 3 years old, you were building a relationship from almost zero. Now, that relationship may be as easy as building a sandcastle, but it may not be as easy as building a medieval fortress. So I think the preparation steps are important because you won’t be able to build a fort without some expertise.
The truth is, when kids don’t have their father present, they question how worthy they really are.
Pediatrician and author Meg Mick says that deep down in children, they need both parents to answer three basic questions about themselves:
- What do you believe in them? (Are they okay? Are they smart? Are they stupid?)
- What do you think of them? (Are they cute? Are you ashamed of them? Are you embarrassed for them?)
- What do you hope for them? (Do they have a future?)
Parents also use tone and body language to answer these questions.
In a TEDx talk, Meeker said those who don’t have a father to answer these questions live in chaos.
“Our prisons are full of people with mental breakdowns because their fathers never answered those questions.”
Even successful men struggle without a father. Meek said she also worked with professional athletes to teach them how to be fathers, and they were also battling chaos in their souls because — while they may have acquired the epitome of world fame and glory — they didn’t know These questions have answers to their innermost doubts. The same goes for elites in any field.
You mentioned that you have a strained relationship with your own father, so it might be helpful to think about how he answers these questions for you. Maybe he didn’t do his job well enough. If so, if he doesn’t believe in your potential, doesn’t believe in your intrinsic worth, and doesn’t tell you, then it could be setting you down the wrong path.
But, of course, you can’t blame him right now – he’s probably somehow beaten by life. The best thing to do now is to admit the wounds on your body that haven’t healed, admit that your father was at fault, and forgive him. I guess he did his best when he got his hands – most of us did.
Your desire to be a gift in your son’s life – all the time – does speak to your nobility and power. In my experience, it takes a lot of strength to raise children because we love and care for our children so much that they can bring deep fear. In those moments when I was really challenged by my son, I think back to how he felt when he was born – how I knew he had amazing potential and that I would give and sacrifice so much for him that gave me the challenge to overcome our relationship strength.
I mention this because when you meet your son, he may not be who you want him to be, or he may have a very twisted view of you (we don’t know what his mother has been telling him ) and you may have to prove to him that you are still worthy of being his father.
In other words, I think your search for your son is a truly heroic quest, so you’ll encounter frustration, maybe rejection, maybe disrespect, and there will be moments where you doubt yourself. But this is the nature of the pursuit of hardship.
As for how you can contact him, you can hire a private investigator, but what if you take the approach of de-escalating tensions with your own father first? What about your son’s mother? Can you get along well with her? The upside is that you’ll start to re-weave the family bonds around your son, which may come naturally to him, and more importantly, you’ll gain strength and wisdom through the process.
I think if you reflect on it, you’ll know how best to proceed.
My other suggestion is to consider reading to help you gain insight, courage, and wisdom; some works to consider might be heroic stories, such as biographies of great men like Hercules or George Washington.
Further reading and viewing suggestions are Dr. Meg Meeker’s book or video, Dr. Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” which contains general principles for mastering life; Mark Wolynn’s “It It didn’t start with you”, which is about how to heal generations of wounds; and Aubrey Andelin’s “Man of Steel and Velvet,”h is an old-fashioned guide for men.
You can also contact the Fatherless Generation Foundation, a Georgia-based nonprofit that helps families reunite, and will provide you with advice and resources.
Do you have family or relationship issues with our advice columnist Dear June? Send to DearJune@EpochTimes.com or Attn: Dear June, The Epoch Times, 5 Penn Plaza, 8th Fl. New York, NY, 10001
June Kellum is a married mother of three and a longtime Epoch Times reporter covering family, relationships and health topics.