Question: Dear Luise: My grown daughter who is 31 y.o. has had issues with me since she was 12 1/2 and I started a divorce proceeding against her father. She lived with me until she was 18 1/2 and graduated High School. The hospital where I worked at the time closed and I didn’t have full-time employment. I sold my house. She went to live with her father about 12 miles away for 2 years while she attended community college. She hadn’t seen her dad much during the preceding 6 years, since he really couldn’t relate to her at that time. In the custody papers she was to be with him every other weekend and 2 nights per week. I enforced at least a weekly visit with him for a few hours. I told her that did not want her to lose her relationship with her dad. Those 6 years were extremely difficult living with her. She did not like that I had a few boyfriends during that time. (Long term committed relationships that just didn’t work out mostly due to children problems and such). In the ensuing 13 years (not living with each other) it has been up and down with her. I have never known what to expect from her. She has praised my mothering and me in Greeting cards in her own words for almost 20 years. But in person there was usually tension with her. I have tried to talk with her and write letters and work through all of the emotional baggage. Just when I think maybe it’s better it always changes. I asked her if she would forgive me for all that she thinks I have done wrong and she plain came out and said “Why should I let you off the hook?” There is so much more I could say to flesh out this situation for you. In any case I actually asked something from her 9 months ago. She just bought a beautiful home, was living with a man who has adored for a long time and making a load of money (at least 2 or $300,000 between the 2 of them). I thought she was in a spot of happiness. She was so angry that she sent me an extremely horrible and critical letter pointing out all the mistakes and decisions that I have made over the years as just unacceptable. And how could she put up with a person like me? I just graduated from R.N. school. This economy drove me back to school and all she could do was put it down. I tried at least a half dozen times before the Holidays to reconcile with her and she text messaged me that my attempts were just manipulation. When she “is ready and not moment sooner she will get in touch with me.” She has blown off all relatives and friends that associate with meI have let it lie for over 3 1/2 months. I am just wondering if I am doing the right thing? She has had all the power in the relationship all these years. She is my only child. When she wrote that email, I emailed her back and finally stood up to her and said she had no right to judge me so harshly and treat me in such a low manner. I figured she is 31 and not a child any longer. If I didn’t put my foot down now and put her in her place this would go on through grand children for years to come. That would really kill me. I don’t know if she will ever grow up. She says she doesn’t have time for counseling (with or without me) because of her job. She texted me 4 months ago that “talking about it would do no good.” She doesn’t want to forgive me for what she sees as decisions she could have made better. She wants to be the mother. I, acting as her mother didn’t even talk to her like that. I have had to walk around her on eggshells lest I say the wrong thing. It is an impossible situation that I have really started to believe she likes because she is the one on top. I have missed her terribly and have cried hours and hours of tears. Should I just wait this out (which could take years) or should I attempt to contact her? If I do talk to her what should I say? Just being me doesn’t work to get through to her. I am afraid to say the wrong thing. I love this child. S.
Answer: Dear S. I have more questions about issues with adult children and extended families than I have on any other subject. Three years ago I created a Web-forum for women facing many different variations of what you have just written about. It’s too complex for a question and answer venue. What works much better is dialogue and a support system. I interact with everyone who turns up there but/and you will also have the benefit of being heard by others who understand and care. Please consider coming over to www.WiseWomenUnite.com You don’t need to start over, just copy and paste what you have written here and post it over there. I hope to see you soon. Blessings, Luise