Q: About 10 years ago, when I was 16, my father left my mother for a much younger woman and moved away with her.
My sister, "Beth," was 12 and my brother, "Ben," was barely 4. The girlfriend didn't want to deal with a little kid, so Ben didn't go with us on visits to Dad. They never really got to know one another.
Recently, Dad broke up with his girlfriend and moved back to our area. He is very contrite and wants to establish stronger ties with us kids. Beth and I are giving him a chance but Ben wants no part of him, even though Dad is still paying child support for him.
I'm trying to talk Ben into seeing our dad but he says I'm the only "father" he has ever needed.
The thing is, I'd be very glad to give up that role and just be Ben's brother.
I feel like he's making a huge mistake. Ben is stubborn and Dad is really hurt by his rejection. How can I bring these two together?
Just Want to Be Big Brother
A: First, let me say what I hope your parents have said themselves: I'm sorry you were thrown into this position at such a young age; I'm impressed by how you've dealt with it.
Your role doesn't extend to reuniting your brother and father, though. They have to work this out (or not) for themselves.
Certainly you can suggest he keep an open mind, but also recognize Ben's stubbornness as a sign you need to do less pushing, more listening; people dig in hardest when they feel they aren't being heard.
Bringing Ben wouldn't mean it is/was/ever will be your job to be Ben's "father." His relationship with his dad is independent of his with you; even if they reconcile, you don't get reassigned. You and Ben define and maintain your own relationship as it suits you best.
So you can just be Ben's brother because that's what you are. When Ben says you're the only "father" he needs, in fact, tell him how much you appreciate his saying thatand also say plainly that you're his brother and always will be. Happily. Proudly.