“I am Bitterly, Bitterly Disappointed”

Here, with a typically British bluntness, is one father’s reproach to his children. Last year, after what must have been a doozy of a family weekend, a retired Royal Navy officer sent the following email to his children. From The Telegraph:

Dear All Three

With last evening’s crop of whinges…

  1. Stu In Tokyo

    I was struck by this line, 

    She had set up a business and had started translating a French self-help book into English.

    I mean really, that would be like translating a British Cookbook into French.

    Maybe she is not making the best business decisions, but at least she is trying.

  2. Crow
    Dex Quire: Would an American naval officer be able to write that well? · 4 hours ago

    I should like to think so.

    Though I will say, the British do have a particularly felicitous turn of the phrase: here delightful in its precision, there acute with understated condescension.

  3. katievs

    It’s a horrible letter.  No wonder his children grew up to be underachievers.

    Still.  If it doesn’t destroy them, maybe it will help.

  4. Trace

    I agree with katievs and Chris O. — I find little to applaud in the letter. As a naval officer he should know that responsibility begins at the top and if his children do nothing but whine to their parents it is from years and years of learning this communication style. As their father he is far from blameless in whatever their shortcomings might be, and if he can’t deliver this message in person and be prepared to receive the blowback, then he ought never to have delivered the message in the first place. It is the current rage on FB to applaud harsh generational criticism such as this, but I find it goes too far. Much too far.

  5. Boymoose

    This is what a father does.  My youngest daughter has not spoken to me in two years.  I wrote a more preemptive series of e-mails than this officer.  Sadly her life is far worse than I feared.  She had no frame of reference for my warning but she is gaining one.

     The only question is will destruction out run knowledge.  Sound familiar?

  6. Pseudodionysius

    As someone who has read Theodore Dalrymple’s musings on the rise of the British Underclass for over a decade and as someone with a close relative who exhibited far worse behavior and pathologies than these folks, I admire the verve without necessarily condoning the intent.

  7. Carver

    Dear American Electorate,

    I am bitterly disappointed in you. I am disappointed on so many points it is difficult to know where to begin but several stand-outs come to mind.

    First, is it possible that you really do not know enough about economics (that would be the function of money in your life and the lives of people you claim to care about) to understand what represents basic good will towards men? If so, this is much like fish not knowing about water. But the evidence appears to indicate that you are fish that don’t know water.

    Second…

  8. Pseudodionysius
    Dex Quire: Would an American naval officer be able to write that well? · 8 hours ago

     A rejoinder I over heard yesterday: “All’s well that Broadwell.”

  9. Percival

    I just finished reading the Paul Vitz section of Life, God, and Other Small Topics: Conversations from Socrates in the City.  The talk was entitled “The Importance of Fatherhood” and in it he analyzes the relationship between fathers and children.  A father needs to be loving, supportive, and prepared to lay down the law when the time comes.

    This is only a slice of the relationship between Captain Crews and his children, and it is hard to judge based on just this sample.  My father had a similar talk with me when I first got out of school.  Dad didn’t say anything that I didn’t already know, and I knew that it came from love, and I took it for what it clearly was: a kick up the backside.  My first real job came about a month later.

    He was, and remains, the best man I’ve ever known.

  10. Stephen Hall

    This is a gallant and exasperated husband attempting to shield his wife from misery directed at her by a possibly-spoiled brood of adult children. I see nothing particularly wrong with email as the means of communication if such is customary within the family and assuming the brood is geographically scattered. Further assuming that its contents are factually accurate, I see nothing unconscionably harsh in the missive’s tone or message.

    The fact that one of the addressees was the agent of the letter’s publication, and that she appears contrite, indicates that Cpt Crews knew what was the right sort of message for his offspring, both as admonishment and exhortation. It also indicates that she thought there were many other ‘children’ in the UK who could do with receiving such a letter from their own parents.

    Hurrah, Cpt Nick Crews RN (ret)!

  11. Misthiocracy
    Rob Long:

    We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. 

    I suspect his friends and relatives are all massive liars.

  12. Spin

    I’m not going to second guess the guy.  I’ve said some fairly similar things to my oldest.  

  13. Edward Smith

    It’s okay.  I just here that “Americans are stupid” meme too much.

    On some matters I find that a single cat’s whisker is the best brush to use.

    Cat’s Whisker Paint Brushes are commercially available, actually.

    Dex Quire: Ahoy Edward Smith!

    I was just asking…not painting…a bit-tongue-in-cheek at that…forgive a bumbling newcomer’s faux pas…of course I agree with you that this is the place for cogency and clarity… · 9 hours ago

  14. Spin

    In fact the more I think about it, I applaud him.  Not many men these days have the guts to lay it down like it should be laid down for their kids.  My own father, for all his faults, minced no words about what was expected of us.  And I’m a better man for it.  

  15. Leigh
    Trace:  As a naval officer he should know that responsibility begins at the top and if his children do nothing but whine to their parents it is from years and years of learning this communication style. As their father he is far from blameless in whatever their shortcomings might be… · 1 hour ago

    If it were to one child, that would be one thing.  But if you’re seeing the same serious character defects in all three, you need to look in the mirror a little.  But their flaws seem to be the exact opposite of his, and so he hasn’t considered that they might be related to his parenting style.

  16. Leigh
    Stephen Hall: This is a gallant and exasperated husband attempting to shield his wife from misery directed at her by a possibly-spoiled brood of adult children. I see nothing particularly wrong with email as the means of communication if such is customary within the family and assuming the brood is geographically scattered. Further assuming that its contents are factually accurate, I see nothing unconscionably harsh in the missive’s tone or message.

    The fact that one of the addressees was the agent of the letter’s publication, and that she appears contrite, indicates that Cpt Crews knew what was the right sort of message for his offspring, both as admonishment and exhortation.

    Protecting his wife does seem to be a major concern and I think probably justifies the tone.  Certainly, that the daughter responded positively supports him too.

    Still, at least one of the other two is clearly not happy about it being made public.  We don’t know anything about their lives or what they deserved, but should it really have been published without their permission?

  17. Barkha Herman

    I think perhaps the father waited a bit too long to come out and say all that.  I have two teenage kids – one in College and another finishing High School.  They understand that if they do not end up self sufficient  I will kill them both.  And they’ve know it all their lives.

    I wonder if this Naval Officer voted for Margaret Thatcher or looked down upon her as a mere “Merchant’s daughter”?  I wonder how he felt when Britain was becoming a nanny state each and every day? 

    I don’t pretend to know how this gentleman raised his kids, but if the lesson in the letter is news to his daughter, then I think he might have missed a few pointers along the way.

  18. The Mugwump

    I might write a similar missive to the Republican party, but only as a form of personal therapy.  At least children don’t flip you the finger and then demand a cash bailout for their amoral behavior.  Not so the Republican establishment.  I get at least one phone call or email a day asking for cash.  At least I no longer feel the need to be polite.  

  19. Fricosis Guy

    Re-read the opening of this letter.  Isn’t it all about the feelings of Mum and Dad?  Doesn’t it read like one more self-absorbed cry from that low, dishonest generation, the Boomers?  “I feel it is time to come off my perch” … well, a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Dad.  Did you grab your manhood off the mantle on the way down?

    This letter galls me so because I have an easy contrast in the example of my father.  When I went off the rails, he didn’t let me become the lump in the basement. He let me know that I was loved unconditionally, but I was not welcome at home as an unemployed college dropout.  That is love because that was what I needed [to hit bottom and be open to God's Grace], not what my mom and dad needed [to feel I was safe].

    Most importantly, he didn’t wait until I was 35 to do it.  He did it as soon as I turned 18.

  20. Joan of Ark La Tex
    Barkha Herman: I think perhaps the father waited a bit too long to come out and say all that.  I have two teenage kids – one in College and another finishing High School.  They understand that if they do not end up self sufficient  I will kill them both.  And they’ve know it all their lives.

    I wonder if this Naval Officer voted for Margaret Thatcher or looked down upon her as a mere “Merchant’s daughter”?  I wonder how he felt when Britain was becoming a nanny state each and every day? 

    I don’t pretend to know how this gentleman raised his kids, but if the lesson in the letter is news to his daughter, then I think he might have missed a few pointers along the way. · 2 minutes ago

    I agree, the father sounded like a liberal parent finally converting  to conservatism. All children rise up to expectations; maybe not happily, but they always do. Look at how the daughter is after receiving the letter. But I respect the father for finally drawing the line. 

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