Adult Estrangmtt from Parents?

duncankayakOctober 15, 2006

Hi there,

I'm a 40-yr-old adult woman contemplating separating from my parents--hopefully temporarily.

My eldest child-a 10 yr old daughter-has a medical condition requiring regular medical attention and daily medication --nothing so obvious as diabetes. My parents see my children about one-3-day weekend every three months. I usually speak my parents with a "family update" about every 2-3 weeks. Our contacts are usually positive and supportive.

Before children, I began a professional career. I had hoped to have children earlier in life, at 22 to 24....but my first child was born when I was 30. So, I had participated in a successful career that was intellectually challenging & quite interesting. I've backed off to part-time and worked very hard at balancing work & homelife (with my home coming first) in the last 10 years.

It seems that whenever I "relax" about the parents 'swoop' in and make me feel miserable about how I'm parenting them. 6 years ago - I was "favoring my son over my daughter" (I disagree), next it was I was too strict (don't think so), ...then blah it was that my parents disagree with my daughter's medical treatment.

I'm deeply thankful that my parents care enough to be aware of/concerned with "V's" treatment. Yet, it's SO DIFFICULT to talk through our different perspectives on her treatment. When my father (the spokesman) mentions an opinion, then it is offered as "fact" or "undeniable." But my responses are labled as "justifications" or "posturing"...yet all my information can be backed up with doctors' reports...

or curiously enough, the growth charts in my parents' home. Each grand child has a chart, and each is marked regularly. My daughter's...shows growth that is equal to any other grandchild's progress.

In my opinion, my daughter is slim, happy & attractive; since she's not like me...then her treatment is inappropriate. While I've grown into a very attractive, athletic woman ( ;-) still-at 40) I was a very tall, gawky, chubby, ~~unhappy~~ child--I was 5'6" at 6th grade.

My daughter seems happy and ... generally Okay. My parents want her to grow to be bigger and taller than me. Fine! My 5 ft 6 in is not so tall...but I am the tallest woman on my "side" of the family. My Mom is 3-4 inches shorter than I ... the next nearest female is only 5'.0" or 4.'11"

So, if all my family--all my children--are growing, doing well in school, socially well-adjusted - and my husband and I have a happy I doing so wrong?

After many months/years...of struggling with my parents' disapproval...I'm tempted to just...become less available. (This thought hurts me to my core...yet our current situation hurts my family too.)

They seem to only believe their perspective. I suppose I will always be a child in their eyes. My husband has a terrific relationship with my joke is that they prefer him over me. He and I agree completely about the medical treatment for our daughter. But it's me alone that gets "cubbyholed" with one of my parents to be informed that they deeply disagree with the treatment.

I'm tempted to ask my husband to sit down with them alone and address the topic. They like him, respect him, and .... he's not one of their children. But I hate to ask my hubs to take this on. I suppose I'm struggling with doing what I (and hubs) feel is best...and struggling for my parents' approval, when they don't agree. (BTW, hubs & I agree 100%)

When my parents tell my I'm wrong..I'm miserable, which rolls down to make the whole family miserable. Of course I don't tell the kids what makes me so sad--but they're not stupid. I feel torn between what I deeply believe is best for my immediate family and with my seeking my parents' approval.

I don't know what to do.... DDD

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You need need to figure out why what your parents think of your parenting skills si so important to you.
You are an adult, sure of what you are doing with regard to your children, seem to have a happy marriage, seem to be intelligent....why is your parents' opinion so important? Learn to say "yes mom" and continue on your way. But I suspect you will need a professional to work you through this.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 12:38AM
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I kinda agree with Lindac. You see, the only person's who's "approval" you need is your husband's. You two agree on treatment, so it doesn't matter what your parents think, feel.

The other option if you're a person who just will not go to counseling (some people won't), is to just not tell them. When they ask, say...treatment is doing fine, thank you for asking, and then drop it. If they continue, change the subject, or say..we don't feel comfortable talking about it.

You see, there are only so many things you can control, and then there are things that you cannot. You can control your daughter's treatment. You can control how you react to your parents and you can control what you tell them.

You cannot control: how you child looks, how your parents react to anything, your parents period. SO don't try. Don't get sucked in. Okay easier said than done you say. Ah but in some ways it isn't. You have the answers figured out ahead of time.
So dear what's "V's" (I'm hoping her name is Vickey...but I digress) treatiment now. Oh, let's not discuss that Dad, let's discuss something else. OR..I'd rather not discuss that. OR That is between Hubby, myself and the doctor, but thank you for asking. After a while they will stop asking.
Honey, why will you no longer talk about her treatment with us? Because Mom, Dad, Hubby and I have always made decisions for our children based on what WE felt was best. When I discuss their treatment, you always disagree. That upsets me, so we talked about it and decided that we would no longer discuss this with you. That way I don't get upset, and you won't disagree with OUR decision. Now let's talk about something else because I will not talk about this subject anymore. PERIOD.

You see if you have the answers in your head, if YOU take control of the situation then they cannot control you and you will feel less of a child (which is how they're making you feel), and more of the adult that you know you are.


    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 3:52AM
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I read a book many years ago, about boundaries. It was a real revalation to me, and yet so simple.

You need to set up boundaries in your life. The reality is, that your parents are overstepping the boundaries, its your life, your marriage, your family, and what you do is the rule.

I would not rule them out of your life, just step back, and not get into any in depth discussion about your child. You are an adult, you know whats best, and thats the end of the story.

I read somewhere, maybe here, it takes about 30 days for a behaviour to change and sink in. If you change how you deal with them, then I am sure they will back off.

They should have faith in the fact that they brought you up, and that you know what you are doing.

You are not doing anything wrong.

Is it appropriate for your parents to say to you that you are doing something wrong as a parent ? No, it isnt, in my mind it is insulting.

I am sure you can work this out yourself, you are an intelligent woman. What does your husband think, talk to him.

All the best to you, my friend.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 4:00AM
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I regularly do the "unavailable" act when a member of our family gets out of line. Sometimes it has lasted for a full year, but it does work. It makes them realize that they can't take you for granted. And they can't treat you like dirt.
It has worked for me. A little distance can sometimes be a good thing.
Just don't tell them, they may figure it out. Just distance yourself emotionally and don't offer any details on what you are doing. Just give them the basic facts. They should be on a "need to know" basis.

You are a grown woman, who is perfectly capable of making her own decisions. And you should never look to anyone else besides your husband for validation on how you need to proceed in raising your children. Your parents are of a different generation and time. Things have changed since they raised you.

They need to deal. And you need to pull away from them.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2006 at 10:56AM
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What a terrible situation.

I think you need to have a serious discussion with your parents, before you start being "unavailable." That sort of behavior is so very childish. If you want to be treated like an adult, you'll have to continue acting like one. And your children need to see you acting like adults in your interactions with their grandparents.

Lay it out for them, how you appreciate their concern, but you do not like their constant criticism. Tell them that you will continue to give them updates on the kids, but keep the medical information to a bare minimum. Tell them about the kids school progress, after school activities. etc. And tell them that if they can't or won't stop their criticism, they you'll have to consider other arrangement.

Is it just the phone calls? If so, stop talking to them. Can the kids still visit them? If they criticize you to your children, then the visits would have to stop.

You are really caught in a tough situation. Cutting ties with your parents and your children's grandparents should be the last, worst option. I hope you can work things out.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 9:51PM
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How about when they ask about your daughter's treatment, you simply respond that you're "following the doctor's advice and it appears to be working as well as he expects it should" -- repeat as needed. Come up with a few variations on that theme so you don't sound like a broken record or 'snippy'.

I suspect they just try so hard to "fix" things that just can't be fixed... It's probably easier for your parents to act like (maybe even think like) there's something more or different you could be doing to help your daughter, than it is for them to admit that there's nothing more that can be done, perhaps nothing that will 'fix' what's wrong.

My own parents are wonderful people, but they don't know how to cope with my son's disability, and with the simple fact that he will never provide them with the same type of 'bragging material' they get from their other grandchildren. He's a wonderful person in his own right, but it's hard for them to appreciate what he has, when they've always valued what he doesn't have. If I over-analyze it, I could probably work up some real bad feelings... But it just is. They love me and want the best for me.

Just as your parents love you and want the best for you.
You probably already have much more of their approval than you'll ever know about.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 10:13PM
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I'm 55 with 2 grown kids and I have the opposite problem. My 28 y.o. daughter, who lives a sizeable distance away from me (can only visit in person a couple times a year), asks me, usually over the phone and out of the blue, what I think about certain areas/aspects of her life and when I give her my opinion that she has asked for and it doesn't suit her (or her partner) or isn't the answer she was wanting, she shuts me out after several hurtful emails, from her and her partner. I'm very careful to NEVER give her an opinion unless she asks for one but I'm totally lost as to why she asks me and then does this to me when I answer with my opinion and it doesn't match with what she wanted to hear. Is she lacking maturity or am I wrong to give her my opinion even when she asks me for it?

I'm sorry your parents are so critical and don't give you the freedom and space to parent your own children. However, being the Mother who suffers when her child shuns her, I would ask that you please reconsider pulling away from them because it is numbing and soul stealing when your child does that to you. Remember, unconditional love should run both ways. Just set some boundries and you need to be the one to do so with your parents and not have your husband do it. Just don't estrange yourself from your parents, please. Because in the end it will hasten their deaths from a broken heart and you and your children will be the losers.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 10:52AM
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"following the doctor's advice and it appears to be working as well as he expects it should". I think this should be good enough. repeat as needed... yes unfortunately people get into behavior patterns and you will likely have to keep harping on that advice to your parents.

I know we have to keep telling my inlaws the same things over and over. They get OK then they slip into their old behavior again and again and again. At their age they will never change and we accept that.

This is why I started the "avoidance" thing... not for a long time. Just a couple weeks usually. And we never have true arguments with them. We just get weary of dealing with their "quirks" if you will, so we just have a time out to avoid having things getting into a real bad argument.

Good for all involved usually. Not a permanent estrangement... that is never recommended when their are grandchildren involved. They need their grandparents!

jwatrlily - I feel bad for you! Don't you hate the e-mail arguments? I have SIL who did that to me. It makes you feel even worse because they actually spent time composing and writing something hurtful. Not like they can blame it on "in the heat of the moment" saying something stupid type of verbal argument. (Remember this forummers!)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 11:25AM
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You are lucky to have parents that care so much about their grandchildren. Mine live close but are so distant at the same time. They will literally stay at my sister's house about 5 miles away and not call to ask me to bring the kids over. Anyway...

My parents criticize everything we do. We got a boat, used, and it was "why would you want that". Whatever we do is dumb, or probably dh's idea and not mine, etc. DH has been driving old cars for years and years. He got a new car in 1980 but all others have been used until 1993, again used after that. Finally this spring we got him a Mustang. It is waaaaaay hot. I kept it from my entire family for two months until they all came for a party and my visiting sis spilled the beans. She did not realize I did not want the rest to know. And both my parents acted like we did not need it, "when does she, meaning me, get a new car?" Ok, my car is fine and I don't need a car.

DH and I finally decided to keep our info to ourselves. If it comes up in conversation, fine we share. But I no longer tell them the latest and greatest. It is so much hassle.

DH is looking to another job, which means he will need a commuter car also. (No, the mustang is not for daily driving) I don't need to hear all the negative feedback so I am not saying anything. When they ask how work is, I just say "it is fine". They make no effort to be a part of my life and make it difficult when they are.

I do not think you need to keep them posted on your dd's issues. This is stressful enough. You seem to want their opinions, or at least share way too much info which causes them to become way too involved. I think you need to look closely at what it is that triggers them going overboard and do not feed into that. Do not pull back all the way, just enough to keep them from becoming too involved.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 9:41AM
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I have just started reading a book called When I Say No, I Feel Guilty and I recommend it to you as a good resource. I know I am going to have to re-read it several times before I even start to "get it" but it seems to have some good suggestions for practical ways of setting boundaries and becoming more assertive.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 2:20PM
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How are things going now?
I hope you have not shut your parents out of your life, though I do hope that you've come to a workable plan based on the advice you have recieved here. Personally (having only discovered this forum a few days ago, LOL) I would've shoved the problem onto ol' Hubbs! Teeheehee, I love long-suffering men.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2007 at 11:31PM
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'You need need to figure out why what your parents think of your parenting skills si so important to you.'

Are you unsure of your own skills - are your parents touching a nerve?

'I think you need to have a serious discussion with your parents, before you start being "unavailable." That sort of behavior is so very childish. If you want to be treated like an adult, you'll have to continue acting like one. And your children need to see you acting like adults in your interactions with their grandparents.'

I hope the OP has listened to some of the excellent advice given and been able to disregard some of the childish statements.

Your parents are your parents and for that reason deserve your respect and deference. You don't have to agree with them, but they are your parents. Parents down through the ages have always commented their children's parenting skills, for better or for worse.

You are allowing your parents to make you feel miserable, but distancing yourself from them will not resolve the problem and will, over time, make it even worse.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 9:50AM
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It can be difficult as we grow up to change patterns of how we have always interacted with our parents...and some of us get to a point when we recognize that old patterns need to be changed, because we realize that a parent does not seem to respect us, or respect the way we are doing things. We find that they may treat other family members (less deserving with more respect) even though that person has their own issues. And so, we begin to understand that changes need to occur, so that they begin to see us as an adult, and respect us.

Read what you can find, or better yet, find books on DVD as you drive in the car. Make this a year that you grow and evolve. Ask for suggestions with a counselor on communicating as a grown up with your parents, instead of still being the little girl needing their help and advice all the time. I find myself falling into old patterns too, and I am working on it.

Perhaps this is your time of personal growth. Perhaps now that you are in your 40's it is a time in life for you to begin to grow into the woman you are meant to be. You may try talking to them, and telling them that their negativity and lack of confidence in your decisions has reached a point where it needs to change. That they need to see you as the adult woman, wife and mother that you are. That you know that they are concerned, but that they need to work "hard" on putting a "POSITIVE" spin on their words, because it is necessary for your emotional well that you can parent your children from a healthy state of mind, and not a discouraged, or angry, or upset state of mind. And that you need them to work on this, and that you are going to call them on it their behavior if they don't.

Sometimes, parents too fall into old patterns of behavior, and may not even realize how they sound, or the effect of their tone, or words. Or their general attitude may need re adjusted to a much more positive one.

Its a new year...a good time for fresh new changes for everyone!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 12:01PM
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