My Son Called Me a ‘Toxic Parent,’ Wants to Cut Ties After His Marriage

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a public servant in my 50s. My son, who is in his late 20s, recently got married. Six months before that, he said that he wanted to cut ties with me after his marriage because I was a “toxic parent.”

I raised my son strictly from his childhood. I did so after the principal of his nursery school asked me to pay extra attention to him because he was not good at communicating his feelings to others.

During his elementary school years, he encountered many problems. To give him a fresh start, I sent him to a private school integrating junior and high school programs. He was then blessed with good friends and devoted himself to club activities.

From time to time, my son did bad things with his friends, but he was the only one who was suspended from classes.

When he introduced me to his future wife, I was so happy I cried. But now I feel like I’ve been sent to hell. My wife has told me that I just need to maintain a “basic” relationship with them.

How should I deal with my son and daughter-in-law? If my son declares that he’s severing our relationship, is accepting that gracefully the last act of parental affection I can show him?

— R, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Mr. R:

“Cutting ties,” “accepting that gracefully” and “last act of parental affection.” Your way of speaking seems rigid and stiff to me.

Did you raise your child strictly with such an old-fashioned attitude since your son was small? You were so focused on discipline that you neglected establishing an emotional connection with your son and expressing affection, didn’t you?

Your son telling you that he wants to break off ties with you because you were a “toxic parent” is a serious thing. You have no choice but to accept it.

However, as his mother seems to want to maintain a “basic” relationship, why don’t you stay informed about your son through her? Now is the time for you to be strong and silently watch over your son from afar. That kind of strength is what you’ve wanted your son to acquire.

You should understand that your son’s desire to become independent and build a new family is his way of showing filial piety.

From now on, cherish your own life and time with your wife. Wait for the day when time passes and the rift between you and your son disappears.

— Tomomi Fujiwara, writer