Weary of being the father figure in little brother's life

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: About 10 years ago, when I was 16, my father left my mother for a much younger woman. This was a shock to the whole family.

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. When he was older, he chose not to go.

Recently, Dad broke up with his girlfriend and moved back to our area. He is contrite and wants to establish stronger ties with us. 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.

I'd be glad to give up that role and just be Ben's brother. I've tried to enlist my mom in this, but she says it's up to Ben.

I feel he's making a huge mistake. Ben is stubborn, and Dad is really hurt by his rejection. How can I bring these two together?

Answer: I'm sorry you were thrown into this position at such a young age.

Your role doesn't extend to reuniting your brother and father, though. They have to work this out (or not) for themselves. Ben's answer now is clearly "not," so accept it.

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.

This situation screams for family therapy. Do look into it - for you alone to start.

You can just be Ben's brother because that's what you are. When he says you're the only "father" he needs, tell him you appreciate that and also say you're his brother and always will be. Happily. Proudly.

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