When your child has chosen to estrange themselves from your life completely, missing Mother’s Days, all holidays and your birthdays go by one by one, signifying that you’re aging more by the day or especially, in times of crises within yourself or your world, there’s a lot of heartache and sorrow to deal with. Sadly, there are no answers as to why this has happened for most of us. We can only guess what went wrong, where, how and who is to blame. Equally sad is that there are few, if any “groups” to belong to that can help us as estranged parents. Worse than that, are the “sharks” as I call them who have found a niche of desperate people in need of help and offer them solutions…as long as you buy their books on the Estranged Child.
More often than not, those books offer little in the way of comfort or helpful plans on coping with such a loss. They sound pretty and nice but, there really aren’t many viable sources of true help out there to help parents through their grief.
Make no mistake about it. Having an estranged child is a form of a loss or “death”. You don’t have your child with you and you envy those who do for the most part. Unfortunately, our losses are not treated as such. We are not welcomed into bereavement groups for parents who have lost their child to death because we’re not considered to have lost our children. They are still on the planet somewhere even if we don’t know where they are and haven’t had contact with them. Sadly, we aren’t accepted as being in the same rank and file because we still have “hope” of them returning or, at least, that’s the reason that I’ve been given.
Well meaning friends and family members will often offer up the only form of sympathy that they can by saying, “don’t worry…she/he will be back,” or my personal favourite, “she/he will pay for this one day.” Both of those always leave me feeling worse than them simply having said, “this has to be so hard.” While in one way, these loving people only want to say something that gives us hope, a parent’s mind will leap to the question of “when? When I’m 6′ under? What good is that going to do?” Of course, we know that they mean well but, it’s truly of little comfort to hear those words when our children have made themselves estranged for more than a week or two.
In most cases, these estrangements last more than a week or a few. They go into years and perhaps, even decades. Since none of us know how long we are going to be on this planet, that’s what we can consider “wasted time” that could have been spent with one another.
Next to estrangement is the Neglectful Child. Those are the ones who have chosen to distance themselves from their parents and take up being around others instead. They will miss important holidays, leaving the parent(s) alone with a quick note or a short phone call, if they can bother themselves with doing that much while making holidays about someone else and their families instead. Excuses such as “I don’t have time,” or “I need to be at so-and-so’s place but, you understand,” are given out as though it excuses their absence and diminishes their parents’ hurt, pain and loneliness.
There are times when I wonder whether parents who have either an estranged child or a neglectful child, should have done the same sorts of things to those children by either not showing up when they cried, were hurting or needing something or by telling the child, “be hungry…I’m too busy to get you something to eat right now.” Of course, I know that’s not how most parents operate but, it’s tempting to tell all parents to not run to their child’s every need and whim or they could be sorry down the road. We don’t but, it’s tempting to say, isn’t it?
There’s also the User and Abuser Child or Children. These are the adult children who will feel that Grandma and Grandpa shouldn’t need anything and aren’t available for much in their parents’ lives but, who feel that it should be some sort of honour and duty for those parents to babysit their children while they do what they want or need to do. The grandparents, though loving having their grandchildren around, will oftentimes, give up almost if not as much of their lives as they did for their parents to be there for their grandchild’s best interests while their parents don’t acknowledge what has been done or given up for the sake of their needs. Yet, these adult children with children, will often take off or not be around when there’s no need for babysitting, chauffeuring or other things that their parents have done for them and their children. It’s expected and not truly appreciated by the child or children. They feel entitled as they did growing up and there’s little, if any, reciprocation given in return for the time, energy and given up time to help them out. It’s entitled feeling and the parent(s) can become resentful but, will keep on doing it as long as they can do it anyway or until the grandchildren are of an age where they don’t need to be helped. In that case, the User Child will usually have little, if any use for their parent beyond that and will become the Neglectful Child or even the Estranged Child at that point.
No matter which way we look at this topic, a lot of today’s aging parents with adult children will sadly figure out that they fit into one category or another, to some extent or another. There are few of us who have children who are truly grateful and show it to us.
Perhaps, it’s a time thing? As I’ve written in other pieces, children who were born in the 1980’s onwards learned at a young age that somehow, Life and parents owed them something but, they don’t owe anything in return.
Can we blame ourselves, society, them or who do we blame? Is there anyone to blame? Is it simply the way that it is?
If you are a parent in today’s age, please develop a sense of respect for yourself and what you do for your child and children. Instil that sense of respect into your child as well. Build a bit of fear into them so that they will respect you. Becoming your child’s “friend” without the parent role, does them no good and you’ll soon find yourself feeling it with your adult child’s treatment of you in the future. You’ll become either disposable or their doormats. There’s a balance that has to be reached for a relationship with your child to be healthy. Demanding respect from your child when you’re doing everything that you can to be there for them, is not a bad or wrong thing to do. You aren’t a martyr. You’re a human being with needs, wants and a life as well. Don’t give up everything for your child or lose your sense of self. Be there for them but, don’t cater to their every whim, whine or temper tantrum because you’ll be building a relationship with your child, built upon the idea that you’re nothing but their maid and doormat. At the same time, don’t neglect your child either. That’s simply teaching them that it’s ok to do the same in return to you down the road as well and, “you weren’t there for me so why should I be there for you,” type of attitude.
In other words, as parents, we get back what we teach them to give us. Sometimes, it’s not in our hands at all and nothing we’ve done wrong to our children. Sometimes, it’s the influence of others in their lives that cause the issues. That, we have little control over once they are of a certain age but, if we’ve built in a sense of respect from our children from a young age, we can only hope that they will see eventually, for themselves, that we are not to be treated with disregard.
It’s ok to be a little demanding or to say “no” to our children. Even as adults, it’s ok for us to not want to babysit or take their flack. It’s ok to not lose our own lives and identities as they find theirs. It’s not ok to let them walk on us as doormats. Most of all, it’s ok to be a bit of a squeaky wheel and demand (in a sense) that they show their rear ends as it’s expected by us as their parents and family. Remember, it’s the squeaky wheels that get the oil.
From my little corner of life, I’m in a corner right now where there’s little if anything that I can do to change what my estranged child has chosen to do but, I can talk about it with others.
Please leave a comment below. The one thing that we all need to know is that no matter what we are facing with our children, we are not alone. Talk, please.
Be well, Blessings, Love and Light.
Have a great day or evening.