Question: Dear Luise: My daughter is 30. I am 60. She is adopted…but I feel as though she wasn’t. When she came into our world she gave us such joy. I loved doing things with her, I was a stay at home Mom…loved every minute of it. She excelled in everything and was beautiful and I was so proud of her. I cried my heart off when she moved to a town only an hour away. I got over it and everything was ok. She met this guy from a far awy town and has become very distant to us and is now moving to that town. When she broke the news I again cried and cried. They were to be married in our yard and for months I worked planting flowers, husband built a gazebo and now she said the wedding was postponed. Won’t get in contact with me and says I need to go to a therapist. Why is she doing this to me. She says she is afraid of my husband and I. I just don’t understand. It hurts deeply. I am now going to get an appoint with a therapist to see what is wrong with me. I am so confused. My heart aches for us to be the same again…just don’t understand. B.
Answer: Dear B.: I don’t necessarily agree with your daughter. I think you can probably get through this on your own by being your own therapist. If you need some feedback, go to my Web-forum at www.WiseWomenUnite.com . You will find many women there who are working though issues with adult children and extended families. It’s a very loving and supportive community.
The only way to have things ‘be the same again’ would be to have your daughter never grow up. She has and you did a good job. Where you are stuck is in not knowing and facing the fact that your job is done. Many of us worked too hard at parenting and we don’t know what to do when we ‘graduate.’
Your daughter has left home and she is not taking you with her. If the crying (yours) lasts too long it evolves into self-pity and you can get stuck there. It’s time to face the fact that she is no longer your dependent and to see that you are trying to become hers. No, not consciously, but in doing your best as a parent you moved into the dangerous territory of having your life be about her. (I did the same thing.) Now, you have expectations that aren’t being met. They many be reasonable, like a wedding at home, but they are your expectations, not hers. She has absolutely no obligation to fulfill them. In fact when you persist, she is rightfully afraid of you and your intensity.
Your job is to get that you were a whole person before you became a parent and you can be whole again. Your job is to stop crying and find yourself and move on as an adult, not as a helpless child who has been abandoned. Do you see the role reversal? This doesn’t happen overnight, at least it didn’t for me, but the options to be of use and to enjoy life doing things that don’t involve your daughter are endless. Parenting is a small part of adulthood. I am 85 and my direct parenting ended in 1975…that’s 37 years ago. My son and I are good friends…but I live in Washington State and he lives in Kauai. We email and we care, but as you can see here, I have a life. It isn’t being lived through him or my grandchildren (or great grandchildren.)
Parenting is a stage in our lives. Some parents and adult children stay very close, calling each other several times every day and living in each others pockets. If that pleases both parties, all may be well, but it isn’t healthy. It arrests growth. Someone very close to me has that kind of relationship with her grown daughter, who is a mother herself and lives a long distance away. Her daughter, who is 33, cannot stay alone at night.
You have done a marvelous job. That’s why your daughter can draw the line. Wishing it to be otherwise and wallowing in self-pity is ridiculous. Pat yourself on the back, put on your ‘Big Girl Panties’ and get on with you life before she removes you from hers because she has to. Blessings, Luise