Question: Dear Luise: I have read stories of adult children hating their parents and I believe that my son hates both his father and me. My son is 40 yrs old, married with 2 children – he is a recovering (we think) alcoholic and drug addict. He has always been difficult to deal with and we have (when he was a teenager and young 20ish) taken him to counseling to help find some answers. It is clear from a recent 3 hr conversation (our contact has been mostly with our daughter-in-law since he doesn’t like the phone) that we have made no progress and that he only remembers the negative things in his life (not loaning him $7,000 to buy his first home – he ended up getting the money from his in-laws) and refuses to acknowledge any of the good (the $20,000 we gave him to start his own business). We are normal average parents who have made some mistakes but always loved him and tried to help him – we have not enabled him since his marriage 13 yrs ago thanks to Al-Anon and a strong belief that he had to do it on his own – the problem is he resents us for this plus many other things that seem to make little sense. I can tell you that he and his father had an argument last summer – there are valid points on both sides. I had tried to stay out of it hoping it would end on its own but recently tried to broker peace between the 2 of them (hence the 3 hr conversation) – asking that they find a way to move forward – both at this point say “no”. My husband was diagnosed with leukemia a few months ago and I had hoped that this would at least give way to a phone call but my son says he will accept nothing less than an apology from his father and has never even asked how he is. There is a lot of water under the bridge as you can well guess – but I feel that I can’t take much more of the hate. Right now we are able to see the grandchildren but I fear he will stop that – he is having marriage problems which I only know superficially because I have always told both of them that I don’t want to be involved – he is a union carpenter and out of work for 6 months – his wife works but I know they are struggling even though he claims they made $110,000 last year and “has nothing to show for it” (the marriage problem is that she took out a $10,000 loan without him knowing)…I know it sounds like I know a lot about their situation but it is the result of the 3 hr telephone call and the first times I have ever listened to him about her – and honestly, I told him I have no opinion other than they are in this together and can work it out. I don’t know what to do – my son has an anger problem – he always seems angry – it is difficult to tell who he is angry at – but I suspect it is himself. As a mother and grandmother what can I do – money might make the immediate problem go away but I know he will only hate us more – any help would be appreciated. S.
Answer: Dear S. Money hasn’t helped before, so I think you can be pretty sure that it isn’t going to help now. The temporary relief it offers appears to be followed by increased resentment.
Our adult children are out in the world on their own and it scares us to death. They make choices and they have to deal with the consequences. They have long suits and short suits just like we do and we simply can’t protect them from themselves. Some learn as they go, some fight any opportunity to learn and get stuck in blaming and there are dozens of variations of how the rest try to escape growing up entirely at the same time that they take on the responsibility of parenting.
You have your hands full. A terrible illness has intruded into your world and it seems to me that you and your husband need to put all of your combined energy and resources into your husband’s treatment and recovery. I would suggest that you let your son know that’s where your focus will necessarily have to be.
I would also suggest that your bring your issues to my new web Forum:
www.motherinlawsunite.com There is a strong community forming there where issues concerning adult children can be aired, support can be found and solutions can be sought. Blessings, Luise