When Parents/Adult Children Just Don't Get It!
Generations upon generations have found themselves on opposite sides of the spectrum in a struggle that has gone on, probably, since the dawn of time. What is that struggle you ask? The Parent vs Adult Children struggle! The infinite battle of parents understanding their adult kids and adult kids understanding their parents. The seemingly impossible task of respecting that we all have our own choices to make and they may not always be the ones we would like for them to be.
No matter what type of relationship you have with a person (mother, father, boy/girlfriend, etc.) communication is always important. It’s the thing that makes or breaks a relationship. However, that communication with parents and children seem to be the most difficult to iron out and understand.
I recently had a conversation with my mother that, for the most part, didn’t end to well but could’ve ended MUCH worse had my communication and understanding not been what it is. I recently made 2 big, life-changing decisions and I felt it only right to let my parents know just what they were. The first decision was that I had quit my day job to find something better. I know most parents and people period are probably wondering,
“Well did you have another job lined up?”
“Did you have a plan?”
“How are you going to make money?”
“That was a really stupid decision!”
The answers to these questions/comments are (in order): NO, Sort of, I don’t know yet, probably but it felt like the right thing to do so I did it. Moving on! The second decision I made was to leave Los Angeles and move across the country to a place I’ve never been and have always wanted to go: NYC! Now I’m SURE that the previous questions have either doubled in intensity or tripled in number but I’ll get to my “why’s and what for’s” a little later.
So I had the chat with my parents and all was good. They were supportive; they understood why I was doing it and agreed that being an “Almost 30” was the perfect time to make such a move. No kids, no spouse, GO FOR IT! Needless to say, aside from letting them in on the choices I had made, I also needed their help to save up money and make this move. It seemed like the stars were aligning in my favor. Three days past and I’m making things happen, closing deals, finalizing agreements and such and all of a sudden I get a text from my mother:
“Hey, call me in the morning.”
My heart starts beating a bit faster being that my mother NEVER texts me, so I replied:
Ok great, nothing major was wrong so I told her I had a meeting in the morning and would call her afterward and proceeded to go to bed. Next day came, meeting went well, finalized what I needed and jumped on my cell to call my mom. In a breathe-taking and gut-punching 2 minutes my mother proceeded to tell me that she had thought about it longer, prayed about it harder, had an anxiety attack and without consulting my father decided (for the both of them) that the help I was, at that point, dependent on would NOT be available!
Immediately my head and mouth flooded with questions while she began to give all of the justified reasons as to why she had changed her mind. I listened intently trying to find a common ground; some kind of footing that I could land on to get her to understand that I had JUST closed an agreement contingent on our conversation just a few days prior. Did she care? YES! Did she care enough to change her mind? NO! So as any normal kid (no matter the age) I got completely outraged; holding it in ONLY as to not disrespect my mother and keep some type of rapport on the bus on which I was traveling.
The more I listened the more I realized that this change of heart was LESS about my decisions and MORE that my mother was simply afraid to help me in the manner that I needed. She feared that it would put her at a disadvantage somehow. She allowed our tormented and tumultuous past to dictate who I was present day. Ere-go the ultimate child/parent struggle. A parent understanding that a child has to make decisions that don’t line up with theirs and children understanding that the parent, for the most part, only want the best for them. I had a choice to make at that moment. Do I get so angry that I hate my mother for changing her mind and therefore changing my path OR do I realize that my path is already written with ME in it? Despite her choices. The answer was clear. I took a deep breath and said to her,
“I don’t hate you, no matter what you might think. I think that it’s messed up that you decided to change your mind AFTER I’ve gone and made other arrangements but it is what it is. You’re my mom, you are who you are and I am who I am. You may not agree with my choices, you may not understand them but all I ask is that you judge me based on who I am today. NOT who you THINK I am based on an image that’s over 12 years old.”
The problem in this situation was twofold: I had made a scary decision that my mother didn’t understand and therefore couldn’t really support when push came to shove. I in turn had to understand that her fear and her change of heart quite possibly was her way of disconnecting herself from a situation that might further hurt her if, indeed, I failed to achieve my goal.
So what happens when Parents think they know it all and Children think they know more than that? How do parent and child meet in the middle to find a common ground? I wish I had a definitive answer for you but I don’t. All I can say in my own experience is that faith and trust go a LONG way in ANY relationship but specifically ones involving parents and their children. Each party has to have faith that the other is only looking out for their best interest and trust that somewhere, somehow they know what they’re doing/talking about.
My mother might not understand why I made the choices I’ve made but she has to trust that she didn’t raise an idiot and she didn’t raise someone who doesn’t know how to survive. She may have to look at me one day and have enough humility to say, “Son I’m sorry, I was wrong. You actually did it but I wish I could have been there to help you.” I then have to have faith that my decisions are the right ones for my life and if in fact they’re not be humble enough to say, “Mom I was wrong, you were right, I’m sorry.” There’s not a lot that I know in this world but here’s one thing I DO know: For better or worse you only get one set of parents (or one child of that kind) whether through birth or by way of some divine intervention. It would totally suck to sacrifice that relationship because you couldn’t learn how to have faith in each other, trust each other, communicate healthily and push to understand the other side. Don’t you think?
**Photo courtesty of ACaringCounselor.com