The Humanist Dilemma: Accept a Loan or Be Alone?

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Insulted by Son’s Promissory Note: I recently asked my adult son, who’s doing okay financially, for a modest (under $2,000) loan to help me with some things I needed to clear up. When he hemmed and hawed, I called him out for not stepping up to help his own father. He finally reluctantly agreed, and arranged for me to pick up the check at a lawyer’s office. When I got there, the check was ready—along with a promissory note for me to sign. I told the lawyer to tell my son where to shove it and stormed out. I refused to pick up the phone when my son called soon thereafter, but I accepted a call a few minutes later from my daughter. She told me that the loan was coming through my kids’ shared company, and that a promissory note was standard procedure. I told her I wished someone had alerted me before I got slapped in the face with it, and I’m still not speaking to my son.

Some people actually tell me I’m the one who’s out of line. I disagree. What say you?


Dear Wounded,

Sorry, but I say parents as well as adult children should behave like grown-ups, and you failed to do so in response to your childrens’ formality. I don’t know what your financial situation or history is, or whether your son has reason not to feel confident that you will reimburse him, but I’d say a kid who attaches a written agreement to any loan he gives or takes is acting like an adult, and anyone who takes offense at that—even his own father—is being immature (or worse, if you assume loans between relatives don’t have to be repaid in a timely fashion, or ever).

Refusing to talk is even more childish. Are you really so insulted you want to cut off relations with your son, along with depriving yourself of the loan you insisted you needed and pressured him to provide? It just doesn’t add up to you being a good person to lend money to, let alone a good role model for your kids. And if you’re looking for an apology (not that he owes you one), how can you get it if you won’t even answer his call?

On the contrary, you need to cool off and then contact your son and extend your apologies. Perhaps you can mention that you were embarrassed to ask him for a loan, hurt and disappointed when he wasn’t instantly eager to grant it, and, in a knee-jerk response, you were (inappropriately) offended that he attached the note. But you should also let him know that you appreciate that he did ultimately rise to the occasion, and that he was business-like in spelling out the terms of the loan, even if he should have given you a heads-up on that. Make peace with him, and make a promise that in the future, both of you (but especially you) will try to communicate better.