DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: All my life I have been artistically expressive. My mom jokes I was born with a paintbrush in one hand and a sketching pencil in the other, which she further jokes made for a rough delivery!
So my mom has always, always, always been completely supportive of my artistic explorations. When she saw I was serious about art she signed me up and drove me around to classes and seminars up until I was able to get myself to them.
I remember arguments she had with my father about how she knew art school was what made sense for me. She started saving half her salary to help pay for art school, instead of a traditional 4-year college.
But that wasn’t what my father wanted. So we compromised and I got a BFA, which he helped pay for, but not as much as promised.
By the time I graduated he and my mom had divorced and he was on his way to California with his new girlfriend, who he married.
After he went to the Coast, we hardly communicated, which was good by me, since he was never emotionally supportive of me or my mom, and financially he only ever did what he felt pressured to do for appearances.
I have worked hard on my art and have been lucky enough to make a few connections here in Minneapolis. In September I had my first show, and sold enough of my work to support myself for a year, maybe two if I live carefully, which I always do.
I didn’t invite him to my show’s opening, but toward the end of the night he showed up with my stepmother, who I hardly know. He acted as if I had him to thank for my success, and went so far as to tell his wife he always knew I had it in me to succeed. This from the man who tried to force me into a degree in a field I had no interest in, and who didn’t even fully come through on his promise to pay for the kind of degree he insisted I get.
I don’t know if he is going to try and now inch more space into my life. He told me he and his wife were looking for a small place in Minneapolis so he could be closer to his family from his first marriage. “No thank you,” is what I thought.
How do I handle it if he suddenly wants to act like a real father? --- DON’T NEED HIM NOW
DEAR DON’T NEED HIM NOW: It’s possible your father honestly believed he was acting in your best interests back when you were in school. It’s not uncommon for parents to encourage their kids to have what they consider “something to fall back on” when they’re choosing their higher education goals.
For that, it might be nice for you to cut him a little slack.
Beyond that, though, if you’re not comfortable having him in your life at this point, you could politely remind him that the demands of your work and other commitments keep you tied up most of the time.
It’s then up to you if you want to meet with your father on your terms or not at all. By establishing clear, consistent boundaries early on, hopefully you’ll gain control of the extent of how much or little you carve out for him moving forward, especially if he does relocate nearer you.