This article will appeal to older parents interacting with their mature children, and especially those older parents that have suffered rejection because they committed unforgivable family crimes. I have been on that battlefield, and although I have scars to prove the injuries, I lived to write about when your children divorce you.
The grown child’s feeling for his older parent, whom he once loved and perhaps even worshiped while growing up, can change to hate, dislike, and love again. At lease, we all hope the emotions come full circle.
You raised your children and now they are grown. You believe that dealing with them as adults will be easier. However, as you and I know, it is not. The issues never go away; regardless of how good a parent you believe you were, the children will find glaring faults with you.
We can’t treat our children the way we treat another person, such as a close friend, client, or a business associate. We treat our children differently because, help it or not, we still care if our children make self-defeating or irrevocable mistakes, and we react to their actions in our attempts to protect them.
Many of the problems come from your child’s marriage. Whom they marry changes your little darling into someone you don’t recognize. Their family values, which having been in place since they were born, begin to shift, and over time, they morph into the new spouse’s realities.
In order to get along, only two courses, one of action, and one of non-action, present themselves to you. Conformity is the best course. Like any good team member, take an overview of how your child’s new family operates, and conform. Non-agreement brings disaster.
It’s a very rare child who calmly explains to his parents that he needs more space to mature. Usually the break up comes through an argument that is defined later as “irrevocable.” Of course, this is understandable for the teenager or older young person. Teenagers often paint the parent as the bad guy rather than simply agreeing to disagree and move out.
Surprisingly, being over thirty years old doesn’t eliminate family breaks in much the same way. Your child will tell you, in vivid detail, what atrocities have been thrust upon them, and they expect you to agree with them and change your ways. If you don’t agree, or if you defend yourself, then what you say “cannot ever be forgotten.” What they said to you, however, is immediately erased and overshadowed by your insensitive, cruel, and preposterous words. In my experience, “cannot ever be forgotten” cycles take ten years to mend.
Several examples come to mind, and if you have read this far in this article, I am sure you have your own stories to tell. Here are a few I came across:
Your child is a drug addict and you give him money to help him get better. You keep track of how much you have spent. Later, under the right circumstances, you say something like this, “Do you have any idea how much money I have sent you over the years?” Ah, this is the kiss of death to the relationship. The child identifies you, not as a helper, but as a money grubbing bully. How dare you remind them of your contributions?
In another case, over time, the mother realizes that funds she believed were given to her out of love and affection, actually represented a well thought out, calculated real estate investment. Without knowledge of her children’s intent, she accepted money to purchase her home. Because of their generosity, the helping loving-children are thought of in awe and treated with respect. The children stand to inherit the house and receive the appreciation when she dies. When confronted with this realization, the child says, “You got help didn’t you? What’s the difference why?” The mother spends the next few years feeling like an incredibly naive fool. However, the children are offended because, of course, their motives were pure, and the family splits up.
The above examples have to do with money, but money isn’t the only reason for trouble. Parenting styles cause as many problems. The grandparent must behave in exactly the way the grown child defines the proper grandparent behavior. Pity the poor grandparent who doesn’t like spoiled children, who left his kid bubble-wrap in the car, or simply isn’t interested in continuing to raise children any longer. These grandparents are outcasts, and biological mistakes of nature. There is no dispute here. Once again, the original parent is kicked out of the family nest, with all the righteousness allowed to an injured party – the grown children.
For older parents that suffer verbal attacks or receive years of not even a Christmas card, please take heart. The family may reunite after all. Children usually do come around to loving and respecting their parents. It may take until their children grow up and begin treating them badly. As senior parents, or grandparents, we hope emotional revelations happen before we are unable to share a walk around the lake together. And, if your child’s complaint is that you didn’t pay enough attention to them when they were growing up, now we are even.
The solution? Release yourself from the pressure of knowing you don’t measure up in your children’s eyes. Weigh the joy you feel while in the company of your children against the negative energy expended in recalling their last insult; or waiting for them to call, and realizing that they won’t; and knowing in your heart that, if given a choice, they wouldn’t choose you as their friend. I say let the bird out of the cage and waive goodbye. You will feel better for it and so will they. Start anew with friends you choose and with the family members that truly love you.
by Judy Evicci
(c) Judith Evicci. All rights Reserved. 2010