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2024-04-18 02:00:48
Carolyn Hax: When does a parent stop trying to please aloof daughter? - Democratic Voice USA
Carolyn Hax: When does a parent stop trying to please aloof daughter?

Dear Carolyn: My young adult daughter is closer to her mom and makes no effort to see me when she’s home, though we’ve always gotten along well. I’ve tried suggesting outings I think she’ll enjoy, I’ve tried to watch the shows she likes, I text and get a one-word response. If I call her, she says it’s a bad time. I’ve asked her to call me and she does not.

The split was because her mother was cheating, so I don’t think there’s any grudge toward me over the divorce. Also, my daughter and I haven’t had any kind of fight, and things are fine with her siblings.

She reaches out when she needs money or help with something, and that’s it. She’s blown off the last few family vacations. I told her I’m upset; she doesn’t appear to care.

At what point do I just tell her I’m going to stop trying but I’m here for her if she needs something?

The Other Parent: You don’t. You don’t put the whole relationship on your kid — definitely not a young adult one, but not even one who is fully adult. Especially not when there was traumatic upheaval in the family during her childhood.

If she’s in college, it’s a one-word answer: patience.

It can get bumpy when a parent-kid relationship transitions to one between two adults, especially if the parent is slow to let go of old ways and expectations.

Just in general, too — relationships get a lot easier when we remind ourselves the other person has a whole life’s worth of stuff affecting their interactions with us, much of it outside our knowledge and beyond our reach. (They can get harder with this reminder, too, if you use it to inventory everything you’ve ever done for someone who is now acting distant. But I recommend the former, using it as liberation.)

Your letter has great examples of why the unknowns of context matter: “I don’t think there’s any grudge,” you say; “she doesn’t appear to care,” you say. Meaning, you have no idea what’s feeding into her current state of mind, you just know she’s putting some distance between you. It is a show of respect to remain mindful that she has her reasons, you simply don’t know them (yet).

Respect is essential for parent-kid relationships in transition. Child rearing includes so many years of presuming to know what’s best for a kid, then trying to act on that responsibly, then trying to parse whether the kid’s tantrum/door-slamming/pushback is a sign we did the right thing as parents or a horribly wrong one. Given that constant conditioning, it’s normal for parents to keep drawing conclusions about their kids well past the usefulness of such reflexive certainties — and for the kids, young adult ones especially, to chafe at them.

Now take all this relationship context and consider your daughter. First, imagine some typical young adult challenges: establishing independence, processing some childhood stuff, differentiating from parents, seeing old relationships through the lens of growing maturity and newly mixed feelings. Etc.

Imagine she wants some breathing room to sort her stuff. Imagine her mom is more comfortable giving it to her (or a total pushover, alas). Imagine your daughter doesn’t have the maturity (yet) to say any of this to your face.

Now imagine how your “I’m going to stop trying” message would hit her ears.

Not great, right? A touch of quitting on her just as she’s launching, some thin-skinnedness, a few notes of “You like your mom better!”

When kids are at their least lovable is when they most need steady parental love.

You don’t have to be a doormat or have all your feelings extracted. Just be the person who puts all these together: love, “we’ve always gotten along well,” people go through stuff we don’t always know about, patience, respect, self-respect and “I’m the parent here.” They’re the building blocks for the long view.

What does this look like in practice? The same as always: Kid’s well-being trumps your feelings. Remain in regular but non-needy-smothery contact as she becomes who she is becoming. See the joy in her independence when you feel tempted to complain about it; I’d skip family vacations, too, if I felt guilted to go. Be glad she’s comfortable with one parent instead of resenting that you’re not the parent she chose. She may prefer her mom’s company, too, because Mom isn’t trying so hard.

And maybe most of all, don’t base your idea of your relationship on who she was. If she sees you letting go of that, without asking her to manage your hurt feelings, then she’ll know you’re ready to see her — whoever that turns out to be.

Source link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/advice/2024/02/25/carolyn-hax-connecting-adult-daughter/

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