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Mom Furious After Her Daughter Guilts Her Dad Into Apologizing For Having Cancer When She Was Younger

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A loved one being diagnosed with cancer impacts the whole family, and each member of that family is going to process the experience differently.

But where do we draw the line on acceptable and inappropriate behavior for our kids?

One mother is currently debating this after her nineteen-year-old daughter made hurtful comments to her husband about his cancer treatments.

Redditor “daughterandhusband” shared the situation on the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit, asking if she overreacted to her daughter’s words.

The Original Poster (OP) asked the subReddit: 

“AITA (Am I the A**hole) for refusing to allow my husband to apologize to our daughter for ‘ruining her life’?” 

During the pandemic, the OP and her husband’s daughter has been back home. 

“My daughter, 19, is going through a tough time. On top of the obvious difficulties of the pandemic, she has been struggling with depression. Her classes are all online so she lives with us.”

“My husband and I are both working from home so we are very involved with her day to day. We do our best to engage her; family walks, game night, cooking together, but she is still feeling pretty down. She sees a therapist online but I am not privy to how that is going.”

Recently, the OP’s daughter has brought up a lot of issues she claimed to have as a child. 

“In the last couple days she has been displaying a lot of resentment over her childhood. I’m specifically talking about ages 12 to 14. During those years, her father, my husband, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and was going through aggressive chemo.”

“He has recovered enough to live a normal life. I won’t lie, those were very tough years for our family. My daughter is an only child and was used to our full attention and engagement. It was a hard transition for her to have her father not be able to care for her like he used to and myself having to split my time between her and my husband.”

“We had a lot of support from our family and we were able to maintain her lifestyle with their help. She didn’t have to quit any teams, she never missed school. I do acknowledge that emotionally there was damage so we did family therapy for a [few] years.”

All the issues came to a head at the family’s most recent dinner. 

“Yesterday she was in a bad mood. During dinner I asked her what was going on and she went into this explosive rant about how many issues she developed due to us. Apparently we are responsible for her grades slipping, her relationships failing, her weight gain, etc.”

“She tied it all back to her missing crucial development during the years where her father had cancer.”

“At one point she says something like ‘Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you should apologize? You basically deprived me of a childhood.'”

“My husband says ‘I’m sorry honey, I could have done better, and I could have done more for you.'”

The OP was not about to stand for supporting this conversation.

“I shut that down and told her ‘No, you are not going to guilt your father into apologizing for having cancer. This is unacceptable. You need to accept that life is not fair and there is very little we can do about it. Go to your room and calm yourself down.'”

“She told me to go f**k myself and went to her room.”

Since the dinner, the OP and her husband have been debating how to handle the situation. 

“My husband and I have been arguing about how this was handled. He thinks that an apology is [no] big deal, and he was hurt by what she said but that ‘he could take it’.”

“I think that she is looking for someone to blame for her current unhappiness and that we, as her parents, are easy targets. I also know that my husband already feels a great deal of guilt for putting our family through so much turmoil.”

“I love my daughter and want her to be happy. At the same time, I do believe she is at an age where she needs to take on personal accountability.”

“Am I the a**hole here?”

The OP later updated the post to clarify her feelings about what her daughter said. 

“I do want to say that, while the concern for my daughters mental health is encouraging, there is a rather harsh dismissal of my husbands mental health here. As a society I think men are expected too much to just suck it up and take it on the chin.”

“My husband struggles still with his heath, the possibility of cancer returning, and his own depression. I value my daughters mental health, dont get me wrong, but I dont value it above my husbands. I thought what she said was extremely damaging to him and I reacted to that.”

“I do regret the harshness but not the message.”

Fellow Redditors wrote in, rating the OP’s reaction and the daughter’s words on the following scale:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Most could not believe that someone would ever blame anyone for having cancer, let alone their own father. 

“As someone who did lose her dad to cancer when I was her age, she can absolutely go f**k herself. OP NTA doesn’t even cut it. You can ask her how she’d have felt of she did lose her dad or try and make her see how horrible it is to go through chemo since apparently she was very lucky to be protected from that and see if that changes her opinion of what happened.”

“I’m so mad at this entitled little brat right now. I would never even think of having my dad apologize to me and he absolutely had other things to apologize for. I would just be so grateful to have my dad at all.”stephtea923

“Honestly! I’ve spent the past year and change going through cancer treatment then recovering from it and if someone told me I needed to apologize (????) for that, I don’t know what I’d say to them. Sorry I had 4 surgeries and did chemo so I wouldn’t die? I should have been a better parent? Wtf?”Delouest

“I lost my mother to cancer when I was around her age. My life got derailed, and I also fell into a deep depression.”

“But you know what? I know it was NOT MY MOTHER’S FAULT. Do we really need to tell a 19-year-old that people don’t ask to get cancer?”acquireCats

“NTA. Your daughter is an adult, and as you said, needs to learn that life is not fair. Your husband did not choose to get cancer, or the timing of it.”

“Depression is awful, and I am glad your daughter is seeing a counselor, but it may be worth her visiting her doctor, and seeing if there is more that can be done. Hang in there, Mama, but do not feel guilty or let your husband feel guilty, either.”HomeremodelerDC

Others agreed and also pointed out that the teen’s childhood could have been much worse.  

“I had a rough childhood. and eventually lost my dad at the friggin’ tender age of 34! My family and my own life haven’t been the same since… She needs a severe reality check or she’ll continue playing the victim card her entire life…”Lucky_Forever

“Or her activities. And they had family support? Wow! Yes this girl needs a reality check because those years could have went a totally different way.”

“She could have lost her father, their home, sometimes divorce happens, sometimes cancer comes back. There is so much she should be grateful in this situation but she isn’t.”pgbaby08

“I was flabbergasted as ‘you deprived me of a childhood.’ Twoish rough years as a teen? GTFO with that nonsense, child. Certainly it was a formative and traumatic event that’s impacted her mental health, but where the h**l does she come off thinking her childhood was ruined???”scatteringashes

“She got to keep doing sports and other activities, there was still parental effort even though their focus was (rightfully) elsewhere.”

“When my mom had cancer my brother and I got pulled from school and bounced between different family members. It sucked to lose that sense of self, but I get it and would never blame my mother for that.”OhioIsForCats

A few, to the contrary, said the daughter was a teen and deserved a little grace, too. 

“Nothing good has ever come from parents kicking their kids out of the house before they have a relatively good grip on adult life. There are a lot of other ways to deal with the daughter’s disrespect.”

“The daughter is way out of line, I agree, and is being TA in this situation. Maybe family therapy might help in this situation, as she clearly has unresolved feelings about her father’s illness. People don’t always know how to communicate what they are feeling and it can come out all wrong when their issue is actually different to what they are expressing.”

“OP’s daughter might, for instance, have been terrified back then that her father could die, and is now terrified again with everything happening in the world. Maybe that is why she is acting up. It doesn’t make her vicious, just immature, which is hardly shocking at 19.”Electrical_Turn7

“Yes, what she said was rude, disrespectful, and immature. Yes, she cannot really blame her father for her issues when he had cancer at the time. But I am honestly shocked that people are saying she deserves to be kicked out for it (she doesn’t, that’s heartless) and that it makes her an entitled brat or a self-centered narcissist.”

“Like, can people chill? She’s 19, but sure, because she’s technically ‘a grown-a** adult who needs to experience some real hardship’ she apparently gets zero leeway or understanding.”

“I agree that she probably has some sort of unresolved issue or feelings from that time that she hasn’t dealt with. Maybe she was affected in some as-yet-unknown way by her dad having cancer and hasn’t processed/dealt with it yet. We don’t know. But I think what she needs is help, not to be kicked out and lose her support from her parents.”DarkBlueDovah

Whether or not the daughter meant what she said in a malicious way, or if it was some form of a cry for help, is unclear. But obviously, the family needs to continue talking about this to move past this and to sort out any deeper feelings that haven’t been dealt with yet.

McKenzie Lynn Tozan

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.