Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Not an Unfamiliar Father- Son Relationship

A columnist of the Catholic Times recounts the not unfamiliar tale of a difficult and, in this case, perplexing father-son relationship. After having "tried everything,"  the parents of a middle-school-aged boy sought advice from a priest. The exasperated father told the priest that nothing worked in getting through to his son; he would just spend his time at home looking out into space. The mother explained that the father tries to be good to the boy, but she believes that his authoritative manner is difficult for the son to accept.

The mother went on to say that during grammar school, the son was obedient, well-behaved, and  a good student. But all this changed in 2nd year-middle school  and it has now come to a point where father and son are not talking to each other.

After hearing what they had to say, the priest  recommended that the father and son go on a four-day  trip.  It was not an easy thing to do but the father was ready to try anything that would better the situation. It was more difficult for the son, but with continual cajoling, he finally agreed. Since the  priest suggested the trip, he recommended they follow certain rules: they were to go to any place the son wanted, respect the son's plans,  and before going to bed exchange feelings on what happened during the day.

Ten days after the trip the priest met with the father and son and saw in their faces that they had a good trip. "Yes, it was a good trip," they said, thanking him.  But the priest was surprised to hear that it  worked out so easily; the father then told him what had happened.

"I was prepared to do everything he wanted but when we arrived at the destination he had nothing planned," said the father. "I was ready to explode. The only time we saw each other was during meals, and whenever we were together he would just stare at the clock. At these times, I felt the urge to give him a beating." 

"There were no plans?" the priest asked. "We went mountain climbing and swimming,"said the father, "but just for a short time; the rest of the time he was in his own world. On the way home, on the train, grace came into our lives. I dosed off and when I awoke, I saw my son looking out the window, crying. I asked what was bothering him, and he told me one of his friends he had helped in school turned against him and began bullying him. He wanted to bring this up but was afraid of how I would react. It was the bullying that had changed everything.  He didn't want to go to school and couldn't concentrate on his studies. I wiped his tears and stroked his back, and he laid his head on my shoulder and continued sobbing."

The son had wanted to draw up the plans for the trip but was afraid of  what the father would say. It was then, said the father, that he realized everything he said or did was noticed  by the son. And that if he had been a less demanding father, his son probably would have told him of the bullying at school much earlier. During the trip, he didn't get angry or do any commanding, which drew the son closer to the father. But the son, not knowing how to behave, did not have the  confidence to speak. The column ends with the priest giving advice that, though obvious, is all too often forgotten: fathers have a difficult task but when they listen to their sons and refrain from getting angry and show patience and understanding, the relationship often becomes one of trust and confidence.


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