3/13/2010

Always a Mother, Sometimes an Outcast



I find it fascinating to compare stories with other women that have adult children. I am not sure at what age the parameters of the relationship change, but everyone agrees, it does change.

No longer are you, the mom, consulted on major decisions. Infact, it is more likely that news is dropped on you like an atomic bomb. With no advance warning, you are told things like “I am getting married; I am buying a new house; I am pregnant, I want to get divorced.” There is usually no precursor to the news flash it is just blurted out. Young adults simply want their moms to say “That is great, I am happy for you” even if you are thinking “Oh no, what a bad move!”

During the formative years, teens, kids chose frequently to alienate their parents. Their parents epitomize ‘ uncoolness’. For some reason, moms think, when they their children graduate from high school, this stage will end and this attitude will also. Sometimes it does, but more often, it does not. This then becomes even more hurtful as mothers are first dealing with the empty nest syndrome and are now even less kept in the loop of what is going on in children’s lives. No matter what age a child becomes, they still, in the eyes of the moms, are a child.

I think adult children see it differently though. A friend recently said, “Thank goodness for facebook! I can know learn what is going on in my children’s lives. Before facebook, I sat waiting for the phone to ring. “How sad is it that, after all the years of sacrifice, parents are left sitting waiting on their adult children to find time to call them?

A lot of my friends complain that their opinions are not sought out anymore at all by their adult children. When they give their viewpoinjts, whether it be verbally or by today’s main course of communication, email, the advice is met with anger. The adult children today perceive this input as interference in their live and unsolicited advice they do not want nor respect. It is fine to give adult children money when they hit hard times and need it but it is a totally different scenario when it comes to giving advice. The advice can be the death kiss to a relationship,
Amazing that all those years of changing diapers, taking children to sports events, and holding hands and broken hearts lead to this, a feeling, at times, as if a parent is a stranger and on the sidelines of their adult children’s lives. Any interjection on your part, as the parent, in particular moms, is met with animosity so you slowly learn to pull back and just totally keep opinions to yourself and learn to deal with the hurt.

A good illustration of this is was from my daughter in law recently. She said via text to my phone when it came to mothers in her life and support, “I don’t ask or need anyone’s advice.” When did this happen? That a young mother needs no one else’s input? It is not a far stretch to say inputs from elders is not respected nor considered good advice. Otherwise, why would so many young adults turn away from loving advice given with nothing but a desire to help, not enabling advice but just input.

I guess it is a lot like riding a bike. As a young parent, we had to let go and watch our children go down the street eventually, on their own, all the while praying they don’t fall. They looked to us for training, and then looked at us to celebrate their great ride on the bike and for input on how to stay on. But, in life, when they are on the ride, if and when they fall, as all of us have some failures, it all changes, even with the adult child. All of the sudden, the first person they want to call is a parent. It is as if the emotional distance was nothing more than an illusion. But when it comes to all else, stay put and stay out. It is like they all belong to a club and you are forbidden to join.

Every parent I know with adult children gets called when there are troubles in their children’s lives or, if they have things to boast about. Our role as a parent is to be called upon only in these circumstances. Our adult children are more diplomatic in rejecting advice as they get older , but it is still a rejection. Too often we are silenced and told our opinions are not valued. It is seen simply as interference that is unwarranted. I admit there are those that do have adult children that seek out their parents advice for their honest viewpoints. This appears to not be the norm, in my circle. Either that or I am hanging with the wrong group of friends!

Whatever happened to the sentiment in the past, elders were, without question, given respect? In days gone by, hearing an occasional no or constructive criticism was a parent’s way of showing love and concern. A close friend of mine, years ago, left her job and her family to care for her elderly dying grandfather. In the worst of circumstances, as he lay on his death bed, she recants all the lessons in life she learned from him. She never stopped believing he, her grandfather, had knowledge and wisdom and she wanted to tap into while he was still alive. Yet, when it came to her own daughter, as soon as she grew up, it is as if her own mother was denied access to her inner circle. What a shock to a mother who spent her living as a living role model to family unity.

The generation of adult children only wants to hear affirmation for everything they decide to do. They want a world with resounding yeses to everything they do, nothing but positive affirmation. When, in reality feedback, positive and negative, provides insight and growth opportunities.

How odd too that the adult child seeks out other’s opinions that they are not related to but won’t listen to their own parents. In my case, I have many young friends who frequently like to use me as a sounding board for their lives, much more so than my own children. These young people will listen with an open mind. Those relationships often seem as strong if not stronger than those with my biological children.

I am not alone in this observation. The premise of this viewpoint is something many have shared with me over the years. Input into life’s decisions are valued and sought out by young adults but just not by our children. Somehow parents have become an obligatory call, when things are going well and a sounding board only when things are going major array.

It makes me wonder about the future. No one lives forever, parents that are here today could be gone tomorrow. When they die, all that is not expressed dies with them. Too many people my age wish they had one more day, one more conversation with their deceased parent. They long for the honest open dialogue they will never have. And yet, all around me, I see young people that just take it for granted their parents will always be there. The relationships they are forming are based on solely what their needs are, not on what their parents need and want in the relationship. Honest feedback is constructive and does not demonstrate parents wanting to meddle in lives but perhaps something greater, love and a better understanding of part of who they are. Once a parent is gone, the question will never get the chance to be asked. Open the door while you still can. Embrace your parents, they need and want that and yes, at the end of the day, miss it.
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