AUDIO VERSION: (For those who prefer to listen. Transcript below but, may differ ever so slightly from Audio version)
First of all, let it be said that under NO circumstances am I saying that Adoption issues are the same as Child Estrangement issues. They are 2 different animals. One child has no choice while the other one does. Adoption carries no ability to make that decision, the parent does. Estrangement is purely the adult child’s choice. Both carry very different sets of issues to be dealt with but, this comparison is purely being used as an analogy. Sadly, even an adoptive parent might find themselves victim to an adoptive child’s whim of estrangement as well. It’s sad for all concerned.
For parents, Adult Child Estrangement can be much like the idea of an adopted child, wondering why they were put up for adoption. They live with the questions of “why” it happened and what would it be like were they to have had their birth parents as part of their lives? In the same manner, many or most parents of estranged adult child or in some cases, children, live with those same questions of “why” and go without answer. The difference is that there’s no other child to take that child’s place while an adopted child often has an adoptive set of parents or parent to take their birth parents’ place.
Not that it makes being adopted better than being a parent with an estranged child but, it does fill a void for a lot of adopted children. That’s not to say that every adopted child gets a wonderful home but, it’s to say that for the most part, there is a semblance of a family for that adopted child while the estranged parents especially if the estrangement is with an only child, has nothing left to fill that void. These parent may also be denied access to grandchildren as well which is much like a kick to the gut, twice.
If one is to take this analogy, point by point, one can see that an adopted child or children will often utter that their adoptive parents are their “real parents”. They are the ones who raised these children, mopped their foreheads while sick, sat through some fairly intolerable school concerts without thinking of them that way because their child was part of it, sat up nights, worried about that child, helped with homework, gave them love, a home, clothing, attention, food, support, helped with homework and so many other things that it would take a year to write it all out. What doesn’t happen in the case of an estranged adult child are those same types of memories. These children don’t give credence to those things from their parents and will walk away with pure disdain for their parents in general, leaving the question of “why” behind for the parent(s) to lament over with self-blame, guilty feelings and tearing themselves to shreds as both people and parents. They are also left empty, holding that bag of grief as they ache while watching other parents with their adult children and perhaps even grandchildren.
Let it be known that this isn’t to say that every adoptive child has had a perfect life with their adoptive parents. Nor, is it to say that every estranged adult child has had a supreme upbringing either. There are lots of cases where even an adopted child will go searching for birth parents in the hopes of finding what they feel that they were missing all along with their less than stellar adoptive parents. In the same way, a lot of estranged adult children will pull the plug on their biological parents because of abuse or neglect. It’s note worthy however, that these types of cases are more rare than common in spite of what oftentimes, spoiled children want you to know. A lot of these children have no true excuses for what they are doing or why. They’ve simply convinced themselves of it being the case in order to justify their actions or, shall we say, lack of them.
As I was cleaning out my estranged adult child’s closet the other day, I ran into her childhood things that she’d packed way back at the back of her closet. Of course, I cried. How could I not? Belongings represent memories of times gone by. They were happier times when I’d fill the living room with gifts on Christmas Morning and birthdays, full of toys and everything or anything she wanted that I could possibly afford to give her, including going into debt which often took me half of the new year to pay off while foregoing my own needs for new boots or coats, driving a car that was on its last legs and ready for the scrap yard, making stews, sauces and soups as many ways as I could to stretch a buck in order to pay the debt off each year. I had memories attached to each and every item that I pulled out. It was at that point that I suddenly realized that my tears were not hers. She had made the choice to walk away and not look back at either me nor any of these belongings that she’d left behind. In other words, she’d willfully made a choice to not have her father nor I as part of her life. It wasn’t the other way around. I hadn’t given her up for some reason or another as some biological parents are either forced to do or, decide to do. It was her who had made the choice, not me. As a matter of fact, she’d left her entire past behind her, including what is left of both sides of her families, her old friends and her belongings. It seemed as though she’d taken a giant eraser to her past and wiped it all out.
Out of sheer emotion, I stopped cleaning out that closet, shoving it all back in again, made myself a hot tea and sat down in my kitchen to think. I felt the anger rising in my stomach and chest at her. For perhaps the first time since she left some over 8 1/2 years ago now, I was feeling the rage, untempered with hurt, pain and grief. None of any of those emotions feels good to feel but, it’s part of the process of inner growth as an estranged parent and the hurt, wonderment as well as the grieving process that one goes through. After all, this is similar to a “death” of sorts and there are stages to grieving that we will all go through to one extent or another.
What I did discover though was that there were things that an estranged parent needs to take into account which may help them through this process.
Your child made this decision, not you.
As much as it may still hurt and you’re likely grieving that loss of your child or children, realize that it’s your child/children who made the choice to walk out on you. It wasn’t the other way around unless, of course, you can account for abuse or neglect that you’d heaped upon that child. For the most part though, many of us as parents of an estranged child or children are sitting back, wondering what we did to them to have them make such a decision.
STOP IT RIGHT THERE! Your child or children have chosen this for themselves. You didn’t kick them out or tell them not to ever grace your presence again.
You did raise that child/children. You ARE their parent whether they admit it to themselves, you or anyone else or not.
Adopted children might be or become curious as to who their biological parents may have been and to have the question of why they were given up for adoption answered but, they will more often than not, tell everyone that their “real parents” are the ones who raised them, gave them love and provided a good life for them. You have done that for and with your child. They were lucky to have had you and what you gave them, whether they agree with that thought or not. Again though, if you had been abusive, neglectful, an addict or something that your child has a right to squabble about, it’s time here to admit it and apologize, offering up family counselling as a handshake method of trying to put it back together again with your child/children.
Most of these estranged children have fabricated tales and lies about you within themselves to justify their choices in walking away from you.
Whether your adult child has found a controlling partner, has gone over to drugs or drinking or some form of addiction, the truth is that they’ve been mind controlled but, they’ve made a personal choice for themselves. They have likely either created a fairy tale about their “bad childhoods” on their own or with the help of a mind bending partner or friend in order to help alleviate their own guilt about walking out on you as they have done.
Their choices are about them and their own wants and needs versus anything that you’ve done or, not done for them.
As hard as it may be to fathom why they’ve done it, the reality is, most of these estranged adult children have little to gripe about by comparison to those who have truly been through the proverbial mill with parents but, are still there for them, with them and are trying to have a relationship with them. Even an adopted child may go searching for their biological parents out of pure curiosity but, their “real parents” are those who raised them, cared for them and fed, clothed and housed them.
In my daughter’s case, many of her friends came from broken homes, parents who weren’t around for them, made to be little slaves around their households, given great responsibilities, not given the amounts of everything that she was given or, they had addictions and abusive attitudes. Some were shove down the stairs, hair pulled and so much more that it’s impossible to list it all. Yet, every one of her former friends (she also dumped all of them as well) are still part of their parent’s lives in big ways and have relationships with them.
How is it that my daughter, who never had anything remotely close to that done to her, can do what she’s doing to us as her parents then?
No parent is perfect.
If your estranged adult child has given you the guilt trip about how imperfect you were as a parent, keep one thing in mind here. No one is “perfect” in anything that they do and that includes your child as a child. We are all human and none of us are omnipotent. All of us have made and will make mistakes. Stop letting your child implant that idea in your head, heart and mind and start realizing that for every flaw, fault and wart your estranged child has cited to you, there are parents out there who still have their children around them who have done far worse. This is purely your estranged child’s way of convincing themselves that they have reason to do what they are doing. They don’t have it. They only have what you allow them to have from you. Don’t give it to them. Remember, they weren’t perfect either and this action of estrangement certainly proves that much. Let them own their own choices, not you.
The surface has only been touched upon thus far with plenty more to go but, if you have comments of a respectful nature, please include them below. More will follow in future articles.
From my little corner of life to yours….
Be well. Love and Light. You’re not alone so….
Have a great day or evening to the best of your ability.