Parents tell their children a lot. But we all have things left unsaid. Answers we don’t want to reveal, topics we don’t know how to approach. Fathers and children often feel these voids. While sons and daughters should be able to tell their parents everything, fathers, for reasons of fear, doubt, awkwardness, or simply lack of awareness, don’t broach certain subjects. It happens. But things left unsaid can create voids later in life. To that extent, we surveyed a number of adults who told us the conversations they wished they had with their adult fathers. Some admitted that they believe those conversations will come in due time. When you read the topics of these phantom dialogues, you might be surprised. You might also feel comforted, because we’re guessing you can relate to the reasons and feelings behind them. And, maybe, you’ll feel just inspired enough to open your mouth and ask Dad to chat. Here’s what sons and daughters wished their dad talked to them about.
His Political Affiliations
“My father and I are complete political opposites. You can infer what you want, but it’s basically a case of super liberal (me) versus super conservative (him). We’ve definitely had conversations about politics before, but they were more shouting matches and less actual discussions. I figure that, if I’m ever going to empathize with another person’s viewpoint – considering it’s so far removed from my own — it’s going to be my father. Right? But, it’s just one of those things that, sadly, isn’t worth the trouble. We’re never going to understand each other.” – Anne, 33, California
“He divorced my mother. I divorced my wife. He and my mother are still on speaking terms. My wife and I really aren’t. My parents got divorced when my sister and I were teenagers. My ex and I don’t have any kids. While my divorce was happening, he talked me through it. But, it was more of a ‘Buck up, son. You’ll be okay.’ Which, don’t get me wrong, I definitely needed. But, considering he’d been in my place before, I wish I’d been more aggressive about asking questions. Even though it wouldn’t have changed the outcome, I feel like it was a learning experience I missed out on.” – Jim, 35, West Virginia
“My dad is pretty wealthy. He’s so humble, though, it’s almost like he’s secretive about it. He doesn’t like to discuss money with anyone. Not even my mother. And, that’s caused a lot of conflict between them. He always just says, ‘We don’t have to worry about money.’ But, I feel like we deserve to know exactly what that means. If only from a strategic standpoint, I want to learn what investments my dad made to take such good care of his money. But, every time we bring it up, it causes anxiety and disagreements.” – Michael, 36, Texas
“My childhood was great. It was wonderful. But I know his wasn’t. Or, rather, I guess I assume it wasn’t. Because he doesn’t talk about it with my sisters and I. My grandparents – his parents – are very traditional, and my dad isn’t. So, I imagine there was a lot of tough love and intolerance in their house. I’d want to know how he dealt with it, and became who he is. Even though he’s pretty progressive, it’s just not something he likes to talk about. Which, I understand. But I’d love to know more about how became the man he is, despite those circumstances.” – Erin, 32, Ohio
“My dad has been a smoker for most of his life. Miraculously, he hasn’t dealt with any major health issues. But, he’s starting to. And he gets incredibly defensive and stubborn whenever we bring it up, or suggest him getting something checked out. I want to know why he won’t acknowledge the fact that my siblings and I are so worried about him. We just want him to be safe, and comfortable, and part of our lives. We’ve had plenty of conversations about it, but I’d like to have one where he actually listens instead of tuning us out and walking away. It’s really upsetting.” – Anne, 35, Maryland
“My father passed away recently, before I got my most recent job. I started at the company he worked at for more than 30 years. Almost in the same department, too. There was an event I worked on recently, and I would’ve loved to have picked his brain about what went right and what went wrong, and just shared in the experience. That job was his life for so long, and it was a big point of pride for him. I like to think he’d be proud of my progress there, too, knowing that there was a second generation working at the place he loved.” – Jared, 45, New York
His “Secret Recipe”
“This might be dumb, but I’m being serious when I say the conversation I’d have with my dad would be about his secret recipe for chili. It’s his Holy Grail. It’s all in his head — he says it’s not written down anywhere. And it’s delicious. Part of the reason is just because it’s so good and I don’t want to have to wait for him to make it. But another part of the reason is because I don’t want there to come a day when he’s willing to spill it, but can’t remember it. I think that would break my heart.” – Aaron, 36, Illinois
“I have depression, too. And we’ve never talked about it. Not once. We’re even on some of the same antidepressants. My dad is old school, so talking about his feelings isn’t his favorite thing. I’m actually amazed — and grateful — that he’s been to therapy as much as he has. But, for me, I know that talking, especially to people who care about me, has gotten me through a lot of tough times and, more importantly, helped me learn new ways to deal with my illness. It really does help. I’d want that for him, especially when I see him struggle. Which is a lot.” – Matt, 37, Ohio
“My dad is in pretty good health so, barring anything catastrophic, he’s going to be around for a while. His father passed away about six years ago, and he took it really, really hard. I’d like to talk to him about that. They were very close, just like he and I are. So I know, when that day comes, I’m going to experience a lot of the same emotions he went through. I’d want his advice. I’d want to know how he dealt with it. What got him through. What he remembered. But I don’t want to make him sad by bringing it up. And I don’t want to bum myself out, either. Maybe one day it’ll just happen organically.” – Jeffrey, 37, Arizona
My Mom’s Affair
“My parents split up because my mother had an affair with a coworker. I, personally, haven’t forgiven her for what it did to our family. But, somehow, my father has. They’re not in contact or anything, but he’s genuinely at peace with it. I feel like the contrast in how we’ve dealt with it is why I’d want to have a conversation. How was he able to forgive something like that? With such grace? I feel like he’s hiding some secret to enlightenment I need to learn, but am too afraid to ask.” – Meghan, 36, New Jersey
What Made Him Proud of Me
“I don’t think I could ask my dad this without feeling like I was fishing for a compliment, but I’d like to know what I’ve done in my life — or, haven’t done, I guess — that’s made him the most proud of me. He tells me he’s proud of me all the time, for my career, my kids, my marriage. But I’d want to know if there’s a single thing he’s most proud of. I’m not really sure why, to be honest. Maybe so I could keep doing it? Or protect it? It’s just something I’d really like to know.” – Adam, 34, California
“I always call bullshit when people say they have no regrets. I don’t believe it. I’m a bit more lighthearted, and have a good sense of humor when it comes to the subject, but I know it can be very emotional for a lot of people. My dad had to sacrifice a lot when I was born. And I don’t think he regrets any of it in the grand scheme. But, there have to be little things here and there that he missed out on. Maybe he does regret having kids – I know he had to sell his Harley, haha. It’s a risk I’d be willing to take to find out the answer.” – William, 36, Georgia
The Meaning Behind His Tattoo
“My dad was in the Navy, and he has this tattoo on his arm that he got somewhere in Asia when he was deployed. I don’t think anyone knows what it means. My mom might, but she swears she doesn’t. I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s on the inside of his left arm, and it looks like a symbol made out of twisted vines or ropes or something. All he says is that it had to do with his time in the military, and that it’s not a fond memory. I’m sure he’ll tell us one day. I’ve been wondering since I was a kid.” – Collin, 31, Tennessee
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