Posted by fxckfeelings on September 15, 2015Share This Post
Every parent knows that one day their kid will grow up and make a life of their own, but if your child grows up and seems to make a life that excludes you entirely, it can make you feel rejected, insulted, and helpless. No matter how independent your child becomes, however, you never stop being a parent. While that should never stop you from protecting yourself, it also obliges you to spell out a positive direction and push your child forward with whatever limited powers you possess. So don’t let hurt feelings cause you to forget your parenting values or powers; as long as you keep those feelings from controlling your actions, you can do a good job as a parent even if your kid does a bad job appreciating it.
I’m not sure what my expectations should be regarding my relationship with my twenty-something daughter. Since she left for a college out of state, I feel as though she simply puts up with me, and never seeks out my company or is concerned or curious about my life. She was always respectful to me when she was growing up, but last year she actually rolled her eyes at for the first time ever, in response to something I said. That has been her general response to me since she graduated from college, and it really hurts. I haven’t spoken to her in two months. She recently came to town to attend her grandmother’s (my ex’s mother’s) 85th birthday and never made an effort to see me. I have been living my life and missing her terribly, but I feel that maybe because she’s a perfectionist, and her career is experiencing fits and starts, she doesn’t want me to see her in this mode. My goal is to figure out how to keep from losing both of my kids entirely.
Reacting to your kids as if they’re your friends is dangerous because uncontrollable forces can interfere with friendship without ever changing the fact that you’re their mother. There’s a huge difference between losing touch with someone you used to run with versus someone you used to raise.
We all want to wind up as friends with our kids once they’re grown up, if possible, but if that doesn’t seem possible, chastising and nagging them in the manner of a parent isn’t going to help. So rather than dwelling on the normal but negative feelings of hurt and disappointment with kids who don’t try to get along with you, focus on the one thing you always control— trying to offer the best parenting possible.
Good parenting for a dismissive, self-centered daughter includes teaching her that you expect reasonably good behavior if she wants something in return, like periodic efforts to keep in touch. You’re not a Giving Tree; she shouldn’t treat her mother that way, and if she treated her friends that way, her only companion would be a tree stump.
Before anger gets you focused on what she’s doing wrong, ask yourself whether you did a good job—not perfect, but good enough—as a parent. Use the same rating system you would use to judge the parenting ability of a friend or hired nanny, ignoring irrational voices of doubt, second-guessing, and regret. If you fall seriously short, particularly in attending to her needs, prepare to apologize.
At that point, having done what you can to square your own conduct with your ideals, give thought to your daughter’s job description and her major shortcomings.
Without necessarily sharing it with her, write a brief, positive description of the change your daughter should make in order to do her job and keep up her side of the parent-child relationship. Make sure to praise her assets and describe change as an important improvement, not a crime that requires atonement, and don’t make it personal. By articulating your thoughts, even if it’s just for your own eyes, you’ve created a manifesto to guide your attitude.
If your daughter rejects you or wants to punish you, try not to blame or apologize. Let her know you’re proud of your parenting and believe that, if she accepts you and behaves reasonably, you can have a good relationship.
When she does get in touch, don’t talk about sadness or sound like a victim; if you do, you may inadvertently reward their urge to punish you. Instead, convey hope that things will improve and optimism about your future relationship. In the meantime, stay patient, positive, and steadfast, i.e., be a good friend to yourself.
“My lack of a decent relationship with my kids makes me feel like I failed as a parent, but I have good reason to believe it has more to do with them than me. I will continue to look for what is good and healthy in them and stand by my belief that, if they’re willing to behave decently, we can develop a positive relationship.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname