Why Fathers And Children Don’t Get Along

My next book is a departure and a risk. If you want to understand why, read the goal of my life explained.

I’ve been asking questions about fathers and sons my entire life, which makes it no surprise I’ve had a difficult relationship with my father. He is not an easy man to know, but as a child I didn’t know this. And as it is with all families, you can only see your family for what it is once you leave it and look back. It wasn’t until my twenties, when I moved away and started my own life, that I began to understand both myself and my father  and began the work of unpacking our relationship, as broken as it was. So many of the feelings I had about myself weren’t really mine, but feelings I learned to have to try and fit into his world.

My next book, titled The Ghost of My Father, is about this relationship. Particularly the events of the last two years where he, at the age of 70, has chosen to abandon his family. It seems he was never quite happy with his life, or with us, observations he never shared until this last chapter where he tried to move away and start a new life. He had an affair once before while I was a child, with disastrous consequences for the family. And now I find waves of memories, feelings and thoughts from that time have been brought back to the present, memories and feelings that demand being reckoned with.

We think memory is stable, but all my memories of my childhood have shifted dramatically. Different stories from my past now seem far more important, and ones I thought were important now don’t seem to matter at all. I’ve returned to my journals, sifting through to look for more insight into why these memories are with me now, and others are not.

“Memory seems to be an independent creature inspired by event, not faithful to it. Maybe memory is what the mind does with it’s free time, decorating itself. Maybe it’s like cave paintings. The thing is, I’m old enough now to know that the past is every bit as unpredictable as the future, and that memory, mine anyway, is not a faithful recording of anything, and truth is not an absolute.”  – Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir

Last night I watched the film The Return, about a father who returns to his two young boys from a mysterious ten year disappearance. There was something epic about the tones of the film and how fathers factor in many children’s minds as a powerful, ambiguous, possibly unknowable creatures. Certainly not all fathers are like this, but many are. And few of us have the courage to dig into the hard ground of our childhoods, despite our disappointments with our parents, to sort out who we are and who we want to be now that we’re not children anymore.

This 6th book will be my most personal one so far.

  1. If you want to be notified when the book is out, signup here.
  2. You can read more posts about the book.
  3. If you’re interested in this book, leave a brief comment (“I’m interested – go Scott!” works fine). I’ll be in touch as the book develops and is published. This blog won’t be shifting to be primarily about this project, so leaving a comment makes it easy to stay in touch with you.
  4. And of course films, books, and other stories you recommend I read are welcome too.
  5. If you have a related story to share about your relationship with your father, good or bad, I’d be grateful if you left a comment or sent me an email.

141 Responses to “Why Fathers And Children Don’t Get Along”

  1. Larry

    I had a similar experience with my father. He had multiple affairs and he was abusive. Rather than he leaving us, I removed myself from him. I often wonder if I’ve made a mistake. Interested to read your take on this subject.

  2. Simon Moore


    Good luck with the book. It sounds like once again you’ve found a new/interesting pivot to build out your shelf of books.

    You may find Martin Amis’ book Experience useful. He writes in autobiographical detail about his relationship with his father (Kingsley Amis). Different scenario to yours to some extent, but may help further your thinking. I also think it’s one of his better books regardless of topic. Amazon link below for reference:


  3. Dan Tuuri

    Scott, I look forward to seeing your work as it is developed further. I know when I look at my kids and my family life I try to imagine it as a project. (Unique, Temporary, Defined Start and Stop)

    Who are the stakeholders?
    What are the inputs and outputs?
    What are the goals, how will we measure success?
    Do the goals align with our other stakeholders?
    What will we do when it’s time to chalk up our lessons learned?
    What risks could challenge the success of the initiative, how will we handle them when they come up?

    It is no secret that communication is one of the most challenging facets of relationships (and project teams). At some point many people shift their focus or realign their priorities. If we don’t take the time to stop and communicate our needs, feelings, or the new direction we’re called to it can have devistating consequences.

    As I shared with a student a week ago, sometimes the most challenging work is the most important work. I have no doubt that this will be a powerful and eye opening piece.

  4. Bruce Fenske

    I’m interested – go Scott!

    I have two adult daughters and would love to hear any insights on being the best Dad I can be.

  5. Anon

    I’m interested to see where you go with it. Think I’ve decided not to go into much detail myself, but yeah it’s a can of worms for sure.

  6. Gloria Buono-Daly

    Yay, “go Scott go…” Looking forward to your latest book and it is quite different than your other books. I imagine it to be a magnificent learning and loving experience for many. Wishing you continued successes and writings :) )))))

  7. Mary

    I am interested in this new book. Please keep me in the loop on updates. Thanks.

  8. Dominic Amann

    I love the Abigail Thomas quote. I would strongly recommend the Landmark Forum course before you conclude your book – I say that because it might have you write an entirely different book if you take the course before writing – but it will have you write a very interesting conclusion if you do it towards the end.

    My “difficult” relationship was with my mother, but I have a pretty amazing relationship with her now.

  9. terry morrell

    Interesting topic. I’ve recently published a book in this emotive area on Smashwords. I carn’t get the hang of charging etc, so if anyone wants a free copy – just shout and I look forward to reading the new book Scott :)

  10. Ted

    Good luck with such a challenging project Scott! I can’t relate personally, but can only imagine how hard that must be. I hope the project is cathartic.

    One thought I had was whether fathers who “leave” by dying young have similar or different impacts on their kids. My dad lost his father at about age 45 to a heart attack. (I never knew him.) His loss seems to have meant totally different things to the kids in the family (dad’s siblings). For some it may have contributed to a crisis of faith; for others it may have even strengthened their faith.

    I’ll be interested in your project! Bets of luck with it.


  11. Daniel Roth

    I’m interested…go Scott! I don’t have any interesting stories to tell about my relationship with my father. It’s been pretty good. But I’m sure my oldest son with have stories to tell about his relationship with me. Also, given a post or two I’ve seen you make that indicate you may be a Springsteen fan, you probably have heard Springsteen talk about his relationship with his father. It may make for some material in your book.

  12. Ron

    Scott – very interested in this new book/topic.

  13. Eduardo Jezierski

    You may want to read Lin Yutang’s The Importance Of Living as it may give you interesting frames and tools for the introspection. I also started reading “Far from the tree” but haven’t finished yet (it started great; but I have a lot of unfinished books at any point in time)

  14. Tommy Stedham

    Sounds interesting. Lots of folks have difficult relationships with their fathers (and the same thing is true of mothers, also).

  15. curt rice

    good post and an important topic. to take a twist (or two) on the topic of relationships to fathers, i have spent quite a bit of time reflecting as an adoptive father on what it means to have a relationship with my son’s biological father. i’ve written about it a little, but must do more, in a piece called “fathers and son” at http://curt-rice.com/fathers-son/

  16. Ces

    That is courageous Scott! Your post already touched deep. I think I understand what you said about changing memories. More in your inbox. Cheers and congrats… following since the truth about innovation. Well done.

  17. Nilka Aquino

    Scott, you got my interest!

    My relationship with my father was always of utmost importance to me, so I would be interested in knowing yours.

  18. Grace

    Go, Scott! I think you are so brave for exploring this difficult topic.

  19. julie

    I would enjoy reading about your experiences, and your journey in writing this book. I admire your courage!

  20. Robert

    I am definitely interested in this and have some stories to share. My dad died in December 2013 and was quadraplegic for the previous 2 years. This lead to a great deal of introspection on his part and some heartfelt apologies

  21. Sarah A Chauncey

    I am interested! My husband is working on his own memoir and occasionally asks, “Why am I doing this?” “Who cares.” — I am so enjoying his writing, I sent your email off to him today so that he can read the section you’ve shared. Go Scott!

  22. christian ward

    You show courage to write of something so tender and painful and poignant. You also have touched a sensitive place based on the many comments I see here.
    I have spent my time as a father doing my best to be as different from my dad as possible with my kids. When I was young i loved the man and wanted the world to be just me and him. Now, thirty years after my mom died and essentially broke the family, I see my dad not as a hero but as a flawed man who simply couldn’t live up to my expectations.
    Men put a lot on the shoulders of their fathers and it seems few fathers are up to the job. I know I have failed my daughters miserably, even though I have tried my best.
    Good luck on your journey with the book. I look forward to seeing it.

  23. Michael Matute

    You’re onto something. Looking forward to learning and reading more.

  24. Matt

    Certainly your most challenging project to date, Scott – and I wish you the best in your journey.

    One aspect worth looking at might be how GenX, with “baby-bust” parents typically in their late 70’s now, differ from GenY who had parents from a much different era. In my experience GenXr’s tend to be more independent, but also struggle to form close relationships. So, rather than bonding closely with our parents for support, we stayed more at arm’s length and just assumed they’d always be there for us – despite the fact we never nurtured those relationships from our end.

    Deep thoughts on a complicated topic! :)

  25. Mike Ahn

    Absolutely interested! Among the many reasons is to see if I can use it to become a better father myself. Really looking forward to it.

  26. Mickie

    Definitely looks like your best yet dude! Please let us know when this comes out, I want to buy/read it asap!

    :) Keep the faith!

  27. Steve Portigal

    I missed this original announcement. Congrats on the project and the journey (and the divergence from your previous work).

    I got the call sometime in the past 18 months (I couldn’t tell you more precisely than that, it might have been longer, I’m not even sure) – the one I had been waiting for since I was a teenager. My long-estranged father was dead. In fact, the call came to my sister, from some social services or government agency that had absolutely no information about the man and was looking through phone directories across Canada until they found another Portigal. It had been a while til they could even find her…

    1. lis

      do you think you have other brothers or sisters out there that you don’t know?

    1. diana

      You know what my dad was not there for me i love my dad my dad mother took care off me i did not like that my kids dont know him my kids tell me he was not there for us all he thank about is women he lay up with my best friend. Sew i had to take care of my kids for years me was not a farther or grandfarther some times i fell why did you have me my mother was not there for me il say farther all ways de there for your kids kids never for get my son say why my dad went to be in my life now im a man he say mom. he never there for me i well never if i have a kid i went do that that just like if that not your kid you still have to care that just if you care about the mother and love her you have to love then and they well love you as a dad then thay know you care and love them ass well and farther need to and mother spend time with your kid me and my kids have a bond we talk about every thing life they know they can talk my son say he not my farther he was not a farther to me i try to get to know him mon i dont my son is a man now very good looking he has his own place he work and have two jobs and i very happy that he came out good i had to care for my kids farther and mother love your it makeing them to a good men and women when they little just get along diana mccall

  28. CS

    Best of luck on this important project.

  29. Veronica

    Definitely interested! Looking forward to it, please notify when it will be out!

  30. Heather

    Great and important topic. I am watching my husband try to unpack his relationship with his father, who is still living. It is sad to me that my husband has nobody he feels he can talk to about the complex feelings involved. I have a lot of friends I can turn to to share stories or look for insights into my relationships with my parents, but he doesn’t have the same support structure, and needs it. I can’t wait for the book!

    1. Scott

      Thanks Heather – most men can use role models for talking about their feelings. I can’t say I have it all sorted out but I’ve learned how important it is to seek out friendships were I can be vulnerable.

  31. Emilio

    Reading your post immediately came to my mind the book, OBLIVION, A MEMOIR, written by Colombian Hector Abad which I strongly recommend. The theme of father-son-family relationships is universal and it is always very difficult to describe with its ups and downs. This book is superb and worth to read it. You can find the English Edition at Amazon here: http://j.mp/SqXovd
    About the cover, as I just said that every family relationships have ups and downs, I would suggest Concept E in black and white or gray scales but with a real photograph.
    Of course, please notify when the book is out.

  32. Damon

    Scott, I am definitely interested in reading your book. I think every son goes through stages on how they view their father, which in turn drives certain interactions they have with them. It’s interesting because I did a thought exercise/analysis one time to see if I can remember different stages of how I felt about my father. I could remember when he was my protector, friend, teacher, advisory, enemy, disciplinarian, my motivation, picture on my dart board, etc. The interesting part of this thought exercise was my memories of my own reactions and how they affected my thought and actions today. But the most impactful memory was at the point I realized he was human, he makes mistakes, he has baggage from his life. Which gave me a kind of freedom not to be mad with him and except him as he was.


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