Question: Dear Luise: My problem is my daughter in law and son. Ever since he got married at age 22, they think and act like they know everything…trying to make my husband and me feel stupid. They have demanded respect and to be treated as ONE. It all started when my son’s girlfriend (wife now) told my son not to see us or talk with us. They had only been dating for one month. I loved her and had open arms for her thinking of all the things we could do together. Giving her beautiful gifts and things. But she hated me from the beginning. Then she had my pictures thrown in the garbage at my son’s dorm. Then the real trouble began when they got engaged! It was one thing after another. Her family planned the wedding without showing respect to me by asking me one question or for my advice. They even demanded my youngest child to be a flower girl with out asking us. My son was the doorman at age 7 without asking us, either. When I had to withdraw my youngest daughter from being flower girl and my son from doorman for being too young, they threw a fit and demanded I apologize through my son. My son agreed with them and said I should listen to them. No apology given. Now she can’t come over because she is suddenly allergic to our cats and trees. Another issue is that my son thought her late nights out with friends at bars was a bit too much and I brought up the question of infidelity and alcoholism. He demanded that I apologize to her for even saying that. No apology given. I think my son causes most of the problems. They both are self-centered. I have lost my son completely to this girl who is so insecure. Now the demands are that I must apologize or they will not talk with us. I will not. They need to apologize to us and to our three children. M.
Answer: Dear M.: Adult children usually don’t start out being adults. A lot of grief may come to everyone after they move out and marry. Parents still think they have a vote and the adult children think a new address and a partner bring instant wisdom. They don’t need to listen…they “know.” If parents don’t back off…war may be declared.
It probably doesn’t matter how well you document their foibles. They have embarked, just like we all did, on their own journey of independence. Apology has little or nothing to do with it; either does being right…on either side. There’s no use cluttering it up with logic when a lot of what they do doesn’t make any sense. Step back.
This often long and arduous process can be painful to watch and even more painful to be involved in. They aren’t answerable to you any longer and that can feel like power. They’re in the driver’s seat. Everyone needs to take notice. (It’s like watching a two year-old driving a car when there’s no 911. Best get out of the way!)
It’s time for compassion and I know that’s hard to come by because much of what is going on seems senseless and non-productive. Let go anyhow and give them room to experiment and learn as they go without tripping over you. They already have enough to trip over and don’t have a clue. Be patient…you are adults here. Blessings, Luise