Saturday, January 18, 2014

Who Speaks for Whom?

Last night, at the request of Younger Step-Daughter, we had dinner with her dad and his wife.  Younger has been living with them for the last 6 months, and she wants to move back in with us.  Dad and step-mom were not happy about this and had been raising concerns, dragging their feet, and generally making Younger uncomfortable.

My Beloved Wife asked me to come along because I'm more adept at managing these sorts of high-emotion conversations.  There were some tense moments.  I used all the tools in my bag.  We reached agreement on the logistics of Younger moving in with us and discussed some things that may happen over the next year.  All in all, I thought it went reasonably well.  As we left the restaurant Younger said "that went WAY better than I expected."

One of the stranger things that I noticed was that step-mom tended to speak for dad.  She said "your dad thinks...your dad feels."  At one point she said that dad felt like Younger had betrayed him.  I asked him if that was how he felt.  He said yes, he felt like he had been stabbed in the back.  That was a tough moment.  Younger just about broke down and started sobbing.  And then once that was said out loud and we got past the moment, things got a lot easier.  Dad engaged more directly in the conversation and we were able to work through his concerns.

When we got home, I told Younger (and Older Daughter, who was home from work and sitting at the table with us) that I had a piece of advice for them when dealing with their dad and step-mom.  Make sure you are having the conversation with your dad, not your step-mom.  Step-mom wants to speak for dad, and for whatever reason dad lets her do it.  You need to engage with him.  If she says he wants this or feels that, turn to your dad and ask him if that is how he feels.  If you do that you will get a better outcome than if you let her speak for him.

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