There’s a lot of articles out in Cyberland, written by so-called “experts” about estranged adult children and how to deal with them. Most of them are centred around the idea of the parent taking blame for the estrangement even if those parents have no clue as to what they did that could have caused it and were exemplary parents or, the best that they could possibly be and gave their child/children everything that they could give them. The message seems to be, “you’re wrong and your child is right” but, I beg to differ after years of having dealt with this situation, the pain, hurt, anger and most of all, the self-blame.
I’ve written, called, emailed, texted, tried to talk things through with my estranged child, placing the blame as all of these experts advise, upon myself. After all, a child simply doesn’t up and walk away from their parent(s) without there being a reason, right? It had to be me in my mind. None of the communications, apologies, attempts at talking things through ever worked. As a matter of fact, they seemed to making things worse!
Was I that bad a mother and person?
What was I doing wrong?
More importantly, what had I done wrong?
I wracked my brain, turned myself inside out as both a person and a mother, tearing myself to shreds. I literally got to the point where I was blaming myself for having stopped my child from touching a lit burner because she threw a temper tantrum. To make a long story shorter, I realized that everything I was blaming myself for, was insane. None of it was even rational to have pulled out of moth balls or having considered as “bad parenting”. I wasn’t an addict, I never once abused her mentally, physically or emotionally, I rarely went out without taking everything she wanted to do into consideration first. Cutting to the chase, she ruled the roost, for lack of a better way to phrase this.
Not understanding, I went to the horse’s mouth and asked her in writing (as she was no longer accepting calls from me) to please explain what it was that I did that was so wrong or bad as I couldn’t see it and couldn’t find it. I told her that I wasn’t being sarcastic in any way and, needed it spelled out for me as I must have been dense or thick skulled, but I couldn’t figure it out. I asked her 3 times to do so. Each time, I got back some sort of rant or convoluted explanation that really and truly didn’t peg anything. That’s when I came to a realization.
*Even my child didn’t know what I had done to deserve her treating me like she was, let alone her distance from me and, that’s why I never got any answers from her.*
I had been going for counselling about this issue with her for 2 reasons:
- Was to know what to do with the situation and figure out what I’d done to deserve this so that I could make it up to her.
- Was to be able to deal or cope with her absence in my life while others had their children around them in spite of having been far harder, neglectful and even abusive to their child/children. Things I had never done to my own child.
The result was that 3 therapists later (yes, one passed me to another and that one to another and the final one I consulted told me simply “give up”.)
It wasn’t until I was with my husband, our child’s father, coming home from a former friend of our daughter’s wedding (yes, she had dropped all of her friends and our entire family on both sides as well) that I found myself crying and saying out loud, after a long silence as we drove home,
“Our daughter is stupid!”
Yes, that came out of my mouth amongst the tears of both joy for her former friend who had finally grown into a fine young man, tied the knot and was moving forward with his life as we parents hope our children will do but, also out of a pure lightbulb moment for myself.
If your jaw is hanging down to your knees right now, please pick it up and read on because I’m going to explain what this really meant to me and why I said it out of pure frustration but with meaning to me.
Let’s look back at our children’s childhoods first so that I can explain this statement that I blurted out about our daughter being stupid, in a bit.
When kids are younger, we tend to want to protect them and we do. Take the child that stands beside you in the kitchen and goes to put their hand on the red-hot burner that you’ve just taken the pot off of on the stove. You grab their hand and tell them “no…it’s HOT!” You try to save them from getting burned and being in pain or even having to have surgery with skin grafts, right? It’s normal. As parents, it’s our jobs to protect that child and more to the point, we want to protect them from pain and harm, right?
Later in their lives, we realize that our influences over them, now have less meaning or power. They have grown enough to think for themselves and yet, we still hold our breath, trying to help them not to be hurt or in pain but, we recognize that a lot of what they do now, is out of not only our sight but also, our control. Plus, they have to learn how to live Life on their own, thinking for themselves. We let go somewhat but, that basic protective instinct is still there. We simply don’t have the power to use it as we did when they were almost totally reliant upon us and we did have control.
Fast forward to adulthood. By then, our jobs should be finished. We think that parenting is still loving our “child” now fully adult and we do. We still love them and since we raised them with the best of intentions, even if we were wrong somewhere, somehow, we did it with love and not knowing any better than what we did for them and with them. Looking back and hindsight being 20/20 at this point, we may or may not find things that we did wrong or could have done differently. Again though, we are powerless for all intents and purposes. They are adults now and can think for themselves. They can make their own choices and handle the consequences of their decisions. If they choose to put their hand on that red-hot burner at this point, not only will we likely not see it happen to stop it but, we have let go somewhat and therefore, recognize that they’re old enough to think for themselves. They won’t listen to us even were we to yell, STOP…you’re going to burn yourself. The same holds true for seeing them heading for a train wreck. We may see them stop in the middle of a railway track but, our shouts of “get out of there,” will likely fall on deaf ears. So, we sit back and while grimacing, yelling or trying to get them to see what they’re going to face, we also come to the conclusion that they are going to do what they are going to do as adults no matter what we think, say or do.
This brings me back to my statement about my daughter that night. She’s stupid. Plain and simple. However, that’s not fully what I meant by that statement. It was an emotional reaction to a long evening where I was exhausted as well as grieving the fact that not only had she missed this wedding but, she’d missed several other of her former friend’s weddings that I and her father had attended and watched these children, turned adult, moving forward in their lives. Meanwhile, our daughter was stuck. She wasn’t moving forward with her life. She was living and isolating herself with a freakish, screwed up drug addict, in debt, nowhere near what her true potential could be at the age she is at now nor, what her friends were all doing. She was actually, stunted in her personal growth by a messed up creep and missing out on a lot in Life even if it wasn’t what we thought she could be doing. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she hadn’t progressed as her former friends and others her age were doing. Sadly, she doesn’t see it. Pathetically, it’s like she’s that child, going to reach for that scorching hot burner where she will get burned eventually and no one can stop her. Worse…she can’t stop herself because she can’t see it happening to her or what she’s missing out on in Life.
“She still hasn’t got her shit together yet,” I added into that statement of being stupid as one friend would say so wisely.
This all comes full circle though with the “experts” and their vision of what should and shouldn’t be done for these estranged adult children.
- Tell them you love them.
- Tell them you are sorry for what you’ve done wrong.
- Listen to them and do what they say they need.
- Never give up on doing the first 3 things.
Yes, you heard me right. I say that because I’ve done it all as I’m sure many, many parents of estranged children have already done that child or children’s entire life/lives (unless you really did do something wrong like addictions, true child abuse, negligence, never being their for your child even if you had to work, in which case, you have some thinking to do and some atonement to make to your children. This usually isn’t the real case though for a good percentage of parents. Most of us have no clue what we’ve done that was so horrible and still don’t know what it was.)
- These adult children know that they are loved. They don’t need to continue hearing it over and over again. It only re-inforces bad treatment of us and their poor behaviour. It’s like a reward. The more poorly they treat us, the more we give them the gold star “I love you”. It’s like giving a chocolate bar to a child who has thrown their baby sister or brother down the stairs out of anger.
- If we’ve really done something wrong, admit it, apologize for it sincerely and try to refresh your relationship with your child but, apologizing for something we haven’t done or don’t know what they’re griping about is like handing the power cord over to that adult child and say, “electrocute me…I’m bad!”
- Listen to them. I’ve done that. I’ve listened until my ears have fallen off. What I’ve heard makes no sense to me and frankly, it’s made no sense to my daughter either. When asked, she can’t even explain it to herself, let alone me. The reason being, there’s nothing really there in me, her father, her former friends, her family or her past life that can justify this stance that she’s taken towards us all. It’s like her getting mad at us for having stopped her from entering a club at age 13 that was meant for adults. Should I be sorry for that? Hell no!
What these tips are really meant for are the parents who have wronged their child/children greatly. It’s not meant for the average parent who has been estranged by their adult child but, that’s what these “experts” don’t differentiate between. They simply spew out these pointers like it’s the Holy Grail of parenting properly and making us feel even worse about our parenting while the adult child laps it all up and controls the entire roost as well as us and our emotions, love, life and everything else. It’s handing that adult child not only power but, rewarding them for poor behaviour while we’re at it.
Sadly, we entered a rather poorly thought out era with children from the 80’s onwards where everything was “rewarded” as I’ve written before. It gave these kids not only a sense of entitlement where they didn’t have to earn anything but, just be there or show up to get rewarded but, we learned to reward them, love them, tell them they were loved and hand them more material things, money and whatever else they wanted while we all took second and sometimes more jobs to pay for it all. It gave them power. Power over us, their world, their friends, their environments and even worse, they fed off of one another’s senses of entitlement and power over us, as their parents. They don’t deserve that because:
- It makes them believe that they can do no wrong to anyone, including us and themselves.
- It gives them the belief that everything that they do is right…for THEM and that’s all that counts, isn’t it? After all, they got through Life thus far by just putting in minimal efforts and still got through everything or got what they wanted without earning it.
- They come to think that they are never accountable for anything. Everyone else is to blame for what they don’t like about their lives.
Are we really doing them any favours by letting them believe this?
Are we truly being good parents by being doormats for them?
Is it ok for them to ruin their lives, treat us like we’re yesterday’s garbage then, expect us to be there for them to pick up the pieces when they fall apart with love and smiles on our faces, endless bank accounts and rooms for them to live in where they have no responsibility? That’s what we’re teaching them beyond one or 2 tries at reconciling our relationships with them. Doing it 17 or 20 times is only handing them more and more power over us, our lives, our futures and doing them no good as adults in their own lives. That is bad parenting.
Let me know what you think about all of this as I have to cut this off otherwise I’ve written a novel.
Be well. Love and Light.
Have a great day or evening.