Life + Outdoors » Hey McGuinty!

Trouble on the Line

Droning dads and tiring texts



Hey McGuinty!

My father and I used to be pretty close. We would talk on the phone every week about family, life, career and stuff going on in the world and in each other's lives.

This has changed in the last couple of years, and he's kind of a douche lately. All he does is talk about himself — specifically this house he is building. It's exciting and I am happy for him, but it's not interesting enough to talk about exclusively. If I awkwardly try to change the subject, he entertains it for about 30 seconds and then switches back to his project. Also, he never expresses any interest in my life. It is getting to the point where I avoid visits to his house, and we certainly aren't that close anymore. How do you politely tell someone that they shouldn't talk about themselves all the time? My dad isn't so great with subtle hints.

— Missing Dad

Missing Dad!

This is trickier than some other family drama, as it doesn't sound like your dad's infractions are enough for you to write him off for good. You just want more equal give and take in the relationship, which is reasonable.

Sometimes parents who've finished raising their kids don't even realize that moving on from afterschool soccer drop-offs and Saturday morning sleepover pick-ups has resulted in a broader pulling away from their kids' interests. Your dad may be reclaiming his own space, but you're feeling like it's gone too far. Clearly it has, if it's making you not want to visit or even talk to him much. You don't want to lose your relationship with your dad over this, and it sounds like he's too wrapped up in his own stuff to even realize it's happening.

You said your dad doesn't get subtle hints, so you'll have to go with the non-subtle option. Being upfront doesn't mean being rude, it just means making yourself heard. I'm all for that approach.

How about this? "Dad, I'm really glad that your house has been so gratifying for you, and after raising us you certainly deserve it. It feels like that's all we ever talk about though, and I need you to know that I feel like you're less interested in my life. I know that if I felt like someone else was disrespecting me, you would want me to speak up. So I'm speaking up here. I love you and don't want this to hurt our relationship, but I need you to know how I feel. Can we find some middle ground where we're both interested in each other's lives again?"

Give that a shot and hope that he's mature enough to hear you. If he continues the pattern, you may decide to pull back further, but my guess is that would be temporary. I trust he truly is more interested in you than his house and just needs some help to shift the balance of his attention.

Hey McGuinty!

I use my phone for just about everything other than making my morning coffee. (Is there an app for that?) I use it as my alarm feature, so it's always by my bed when I sleep. Recently, more and more friends are texting very late or very early. These aren't texts with life-altering information or anything that can't wait until a more civil hour. This wakes me up and pisses me off. It's not just one offender, but several. How would you suggest fixing this?

— Tired From Texts


I'm with you. I do wish we could all agree on some etiquette for which forms of communication are appropriate at different times of day, but given how everybody has different alerts for everything, it's unlikely. Some people get an alert on their phone every time CNN posts something; others have one for every email that comes in. Personally, I'd prefer that email be used after hours and that texting be regarded more like a phone call. If you wouldn't call someone at that time, consider waiting on texting. It's doubtful that's realistic though, and again, if someone's phone buzzes with each email, it's a flawed system anyway.

Lots of phones have a "do not disturb" feature that prevents calls or texts but allows the alarm to work. Hopefully yours does. If it's a big enough issue for you, maybe upgrading your phone to get the feature is your best bet. You could also opt for a separate alarm clock and charge your phone in another room.

I get that you probably don't think you should have to jump through hoops to avoid being disturbed in the middle of the night, but it's really up to us to make our phones work how we want them to, rather than expecting others to adjust their behavior to suit all of their friends' needs. We've created a world where everyone is (seemingly) available at a moment's notice and now we have to suffer and adjust to the consequences.

Jessica McGuinty, founder of Jessicurl and master of the joyful laugh, doesn't really think she has all the answers — but she'll give it a try. Write her at

Add a comment