Question: Dear Luise: I was divorced after 17 yrs of marriage back in 1993. my son’s were 11 and 16 @ the time. They decided they wanted to live with their Dad on the ranch and I moved around but within 3 months came back to stay in the same very very small town they lived in to be near them. Got hitched up wth a local mechanic, married and divorced him within a couple years. My kids didn’t like him very much and thought I had lowered myself for getting involved with him. It was an abusive relationship. They lost respect for me. Moved to a town 15 miles from them and never missed a school or athletic event, but our relationship changed. Now its almost 20 years later and my children have one child apiece, great wives but we have gone so many years not really communicating that its eaten a big hole in my that is ruining my everday life. I married again in 2007 then divorced in 2009 due to my rollercoster of emotions regarding my sons. Now, my 3rd husband are back together and trying to maintain a relationship but every 4 months or so I have a complete meltdown as I always have done and my depression and incrediable saddness over my sons is effecting my life and I am filled with guilt. What advice do you have for trying to open communications again with my kids after so long. My sons are 35 and 30 now with families of their own. Thanks B.
Answer: Dear B.: I would not try to re-open communication. You can’t change your sons’ perceptions or redirect their choices. They know where you are if and when they are ready…and they may never be. It’s their call.
You did a lot of things right. You honored their wish to stay on the ranch and you lived close by and stayed involved in their lives as they were growing up, to name a few. I see you as deserving a great deal better than you are getting and have gotten for a long time. But don’t get stuck there.
Kids often want mothers to what they aren’t…invisible for one thing. They don’t want to know what’s going on in mom’s life, not really. They want her to be there when needed without having anything much to say, if possible…a kind of loving servant without an opinion or a life. That’s an overstatement to make my point…but unfortunately, it’s also more accurate than any of us would wish. Sometimes they come around, as adults, to seeing us as people with human limitations, needs and short suits as well as long ones, but not always.
My take is that your life, your relationship and your health are all falling apart in the present because you haven’t let go of your past identity as a parent. You were a whole person before you had children and you can be whole again. All of us have expectations regarding where we will fit into the lives of our adult children. Many of us have had to let go of all of that. They are grown and they are at choice. They may choose to continue to have a relationship with us, and they may not…and we have to accept that fact. Life isn’t over when parenting is, unless we say it is. It could be easy to get stuck in self-pity. However, it’s a dead end and deadly.
It’s time to move on. Step back. Focus on your own healing from all that has transpired and learn how to take care of yourself. You matter. Your life can still have focus and purpose. Please consider coming over to my Web-forum for women dealing with issues around adult children and extended families at www.WiseWomenUnite.com It is a loving community of women healing from the same kind of thing you are. The players and circumstances may be different but the dynamics and the solutions aren’t.
The first thing they learn is that they aren’t going to fix it. They aren’t going to change how others feel and act. All they can fix and change is themselves; their perceptions, expectations, reactions…that’s where their power lies. Blessings, Luise