Setting healthy boundaries with parents can be really difficult in adulthood.
On one hand, there's the cultural ideal that parent and child relationships should continue your entire life time. It's an old-rooted ideal of blood loyalty that has both its strengths and weaknesses.
One the other hand, there is the therapized ideal of setting boundaries based on your emotional needs. This can lead to healthy outcomes, but a sense of loss can come with it, and not all parents will understand it.
It can be hard to temper when forgive and forget applies, and when to hold a firm line. Luckily, the internet is always here to give an outside perspective.
AITA for telling my dad I owe him nothing and throwing his words back at him during an argument?
The gist is this. I lost my mom to a long-term health issue when I was 10. The cost of treatment drained my parent's finances and it was just dad and me after mom died. No extended family. Dad started dating when I was 12 and he met Jane.
After a few months, he told me her son had a form of brain cancer and was very sick and that they were getting married and he would be helping to take care of her son.
We went from two in a tiny two-bedroom house to four in a tiny two-bedroom house and me sharing with a terminally ill toddler I didn't know. We had to make so many changes. No more takeout (which was a once-a-month treat before that).
I had to stop my only extracurricular activity. No friends over because the noise bothered him. No space that was just mine. No extra money for celebrating birthdays and Christmas.
When I was 15 dad and I got into a huge argument because I was never home, and was always saying no to helping Jane take care of her son. When I told him how much I hated the situation he looked me in the eye and told me to grow up.
He also told me that I was old enough to understand that life wasn't always easy or fun and that a rougher life can build character.
He told me we grew our family, which was a good thing, and one of the consequences of that sometimes is having less, but that it was worth it for the extra love. I told him that was bullsh*t.
He told me I was not his whole life and he was not going to stop doing what he wanted because of me.
Then he told me to never, ever say anything negative around his stepson because he was a kid and didn't need to know I resented him for being sick.
After that talk, I was even more distant and left when I was 17, right after graduation, and couch surfed until I went to college (I graduated high school at 17 and turned 18 that October). I didn't stay in touch.
When I was 19 I heard that dad's stepson had died. In college, I met my wife and we got married this past June. Then in November my dad showed up and told me he wanted to talk. I shut the door in his face. He kept showing up where I was to talk.
After getting annoyed with him I agreed to meet him for a coffee. He told me how he'd ended up divorced from Jane and how his stepson had died and he looked disappointed when he learned I knew.
He told me how he'd been struggling a lot and how he was hoping I could help him out. I laughed in his face and told him he had some nerve.
He mentioned how he'd spent a lot of money on finding me and he wanted us to repair things but he also needed my help. I told him no way. He became angry and told me he was my dad and was always there for me and I owed him.
I told him I owed him nothing and I threw most of his words back in his face, including that he needed to grow up and that he was not my whole life and would not stop me from doing what I want.
It became a bit of a scene. He told me at my age I should have grown more compassion. AITA?
The internet dropped their verdicts in the comments.
NTA. Your dad sacrificed you so that he could f*ck. And as things turned out, the 'family' he created wasn't all that real after all. He was just a patsy to help take care of a sick kid. You owe him nothing.
NTA. Your dad quite literally showed up after he had nothing left but you. That’s a huge red flag, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
NTA. Ah, that old 'building character' schtick. What he put you through as a child was really difficult and he essentially told you that you didn't matter anymore to him. He's got no grounds to be surprised now.
Where was his compassion for what he did to your childhood when he was doing it?
NTA. He was already struggling financially due to your mother's health issue. He decided to date a woman and help take care of her son despite knowing perfectly well that he didn't have the money to do that and take care of you at the same time.
He basically didn't give a damn about you for years and now that the child is dead and the mother finished sucking him dry, he suddenly remembered he has a son and came begging for money.
If I were you, I would have closed the door on his face repeatedly until he understood the message.
It sounds like OP's dad was long overdue for a taste of his own medicine.