Question: Dear Luise: I am a seperated mom and have a 22 yr old son. We are very close together. He had a girlfriend of 2 years and my partner and I used to love her like our own daughter. We used to all spend alot of time together. However things changed..his girlfriend, suddenly cheated on him before Christmas and he was devasted and they split. I was also very hurt as I loved her alot. My partner and I gave all our energy to help and support him as he used to come to us for help and support. A year passed and he was ok. He dieted, started going out and life seemed ‘normal’ for all of us. Suddenly they got back together! It was a shock for all of us. We made it clear to our son that we do not want her in our lives. She hurt us all too much! Now my son spends all the time with her, sleeps weekends at her house and comes home just to wash and sleep. We seldom talk. He abondoned us suddenly after all that we did for him and it is very painful. We do not fight but I feel that I have a right for an opinion as he did and I do not believe she is the women who will love him for life since she cheated after 2 years! I know I may loose my son, but the thought of her in our lives makes me feel sick! Thank you for your help. Regards, P.
Answer: Dear P.: Since you also posted on www.WiseWomenUnite.com , my Web-forum for women who have issues with adult children and extended families, I have answered it there.
Here is a copy of my response:
My take on this…and I’m happy that you are getting many different approaches to it…is that we open our arms willingly and take our newborns into them. We vow to stand by them and protect them and give them the best we have to give. And we do. We aren’t taught that our role has a “shelf life” and that one day we will have to let go. We see them through thick and thin and we are praised for that and it becomes our life. Then they cross that magic threshold called adulthood. When they wake up that morning, they are supposed to be wise and capable and on the same morning, we are supposed to wish them well and turn away…leaving our charges to whatever life throws at them.
I have deliberately overstated that to emphasize the issue but the bones of it are the truth. Some grow wise slowly and leave our loving care gently. Some stay and have to “call mom” and ask for her direction when they are 40. Some have more growing pains in adulthood than they did as kids and it breaks our hearts. Some think we could have done a better job…anyone could have done a better job. It’s a crap shoot.
The issue is usually the same. They need to learn and grow, separate and move on and watching that happen is often unbearable for us. It’s no comfort to know that our parents went through the same thing. None at all.
We can’t drop them like a hot potato but we can get that our job is done and start to rebuild our self-worth around something beyond parenting. We were whole before we became parents. What a novel concept. We can back off and work through our end of the separation and not make it worse. We can support our kids in moving out and being responsible, so the parent/child thing isn’t still going on in the physical sense. We can even get therapy if we continue to see their adult lives as our business. or that the past will be part of the future.
On this forum we see every possible combination of situations and circumstances and yet the issue remains. As our adult children, who often don’t look like adults to us or to others, struggle with taking over the reins of their lives, making decisions and learning from the consequences…or not, we can learn to accept the process. They may turn away from us only to return later as friends or they may choose to go on alone. Our concept of family may eventually expand but there’s no guarantee that it will.
The truth remains that we gave them life and the best environment in which to grow that we could provide. They take that with them. We let go. Then dynamics can still change! I am 86 years old and my son is starting, in very subtle ways, to take care of me. We are always adapting or at least trying to. It’s life. Blessings, Luise