Ask Amy: Advice for the Real World for March 9

2014-03-09T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T11:28:24Z Ask Amy: Advice for the Real World for March 9By Amy Dickinson Tribune Content Agency Arizona Daily Star
March 09, 2014 12:00 am  • 

DEAR AMY: I'm 28 and I'm thinking about contacting my father.

It will be the first time! He has a family that probably doesn't know I exist. He was never a part of my life. He didn't even recognize me legally.

He's old now and I feel like I deserve an explanation for this. I need to hear something from him.

Even though I have nothing to lose (we have no relationship anyway), I still feel a little bit emotional about that.

I cannot find the strength to just call, so I'm thinking about writing. But what can I write?

Is it even safe to give my address for a reply? He is, after all, a stranger. — Fatherless in Europe

DEAR FATHERLESS: You claim you have nothing to lose by contacting your father, but you are so filled with anxiety about the prospect that you must acknowledge that in reality you have a great deal at stake.

For instance, you say you deserve an explanation (I completely agree that you deserve this). But you have to imagine that the person who has denied your existence for 28 years might continue to deny you —or might not have a satisfactory explanation for his actions and motivations.

On the other hand, there is some chance that you would gain a measure of satisfaction — and family relationships — as a result of this contact. Contacting your father could produce a myriad of results along a wide spectrum and you should do your best to prepare yourself.

Ideally you would do this with the help of a professional counselor. This is a perfect example of a big and important question to take into therapy. And is your mother aware that you have this desire? If so, she might be able to help and support you as you go.

It is fairly easy to contact someone from a neutral, unidentifiable address, either through a post office box or a dedicated email account. Once you have some emotional support for this effort, you need only to gather the courage to do it.

DEAR AMY: My beautiful, professional daughter is great in every respect, except she inserts the word "like" about every fifth word.

I thought she would outgrow this habit but she has not. I would like to bring it to her attention, but how? She lives in another state. I will see her in two months. Should I wait until then, or tell her on the phone, email? And what should I say? You always give good advice. — Mother

DEAR MOTHER: Don't overthink this, and don't make this correction by mail. You want to do this when you are conversing with your daughter because you are going to try to encourage her to hear herself as she is speaking to you.

Verbal tics are common and can be quite distracting and annoying. Pointing it out may not compel your daughter to change, but at least she will be aware of what she is doing.

You say to her, "Honey, I need to point out a habit you have that I think you need to be aware of. You insert the word 'like' into your sentences frequently and it's pretty distracting."

You can assume that she might find this embarrassing, and become defensive. That's OK. After you mention this once, you don't need to bring it up again.

DEAR AMY: I am responding to the letter from "Confused," whose parents were abusive. She must never let her children be alone with her parents.

I also grew up in an abusive household. I don't know why, but I always assumed my mother would not let my children be treated the same way — stupid, I now know. Fast forward to my son being 6 years old and my mom sticking up for my stepdad when he cursed out my son.

Neither of my children stayed alone with my parents after that day.

A therapist once gave me the best advice: "In this world there are going to be people that it's better you not be around. Unfortunately for you, they happen to be your family." — Learned My Lesson

DEAR LEARNED: This is powerful. Thank you.

Contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@tribune.com

Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.) 

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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