I Can’t Figure My Son Ou

Question: Dear Luise: I am a mother of five teens ranging from 18 to 24. Life can be very difficult sometimes but I always tell myself there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My husband and I love our children and have been exceptional parents putting some of their needs first. We have never encountered this experience we are having now and it is very troublesome. I can’t understand my 24 year old. He is acting rather weird. He tells me today he hates me and my family and his dad’s. He says I do nothing for him and I make him sick. About two months ago I noticed a difference in him unhappy sad, confused, forgetting and just not the same person. This is a guy that worked out and was pretty happy go lucky and I know he loves us. He went to the doctor and he says that he is okay and that I am his problem. I can’t figure this out and I am torn to bits. M.

Answer: Dear M.: Do you know for sure that’s what the doctor said? If it is, it’s my guess that he may have the same malady your son probably has.

I can only share my experience with you on this…coupled with what other people who are facing the same thing write to me. The most active thread on my entire web site is “My Son Hates Me.”

First of all, there is a kind of “first Child” syndrome. They have been called the “experimental model” for good reason. Most of us were in parental learning mode with our first. Often they experienced too much control along with expectations that were too high…simply because we were not sure what we were doing and wanted to do it perfectly.

Adulthood can be pretty challenging. Right when our children want to look their best, they find their lack of experience coupled with the unrealistic expectations they inherited from us to be overwhelming. For the first born, it can all be greatly magnified.

Hating mom is the perfect solution…it has to someone’s fault! Who wants to take responsibility for such discomfort? After all, mom is the one who was the most present and the most visible. Right?

For some of these kids, the solution is to drop out and give up. They decree that the damage they imagine done to them is irreparable and their rage is all consuming. Others strive and compete but never feel the sweet taste of success, even when it’s real. No matter how it all plays out, any and all unrest and disappointment is “My mother’s fault.” It becomes an inner truth; the mother didn’t do anything right. If she had, the results would have been different. She’s the perfect scapegoat.

We never ask as much of our other children. We’re different by the time they come along. We are more relaxed and as a result, so are they. Often we don’t even see the difference our mellowing makes or what our over-zealousness cost our firstborn. (All of this is an over- simplification, of course, and only you can know if any of it applies to you. There are also times it’s the middle child.)

My son was materially successful and did well raising his kids. But he married a woman who blamed her mother for her every problem and failure, so they fueled each other’s denial of responsibility. We had, all three of us, a tenuous, walk-on-eggs relationship that was the best we could do. When he died of a sleep apnea stroke at 52, she wrote me a letter dripping with hate one week after his death. I was evil and my son’s life was Hell because of my multitudinous shortcomings. Grief can throw caution to the winds, I know, but that didn’t make it any easier to bear.

What’s the answer? It’s your son’s process. You did a great job and it wasn’t perfect. You can’t fix it now. He has to wake up one day and realize that no one has a perfect childhood and it’s his job to iron out the wrinkles. And apologize to you! Some do and some don’t. Blessings, Luise

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