The Parent/Adult Child Relationship

I’ve been wondering how to navigate the relationship between my daughter and I as she forges on into adulthood.

As luck would have it, I know someone whose Mom came up to town from Florida last week. As I watched their dynamic, I knew that I had the basis that I needed to start creating a better relationship with my own daughter…

  1. When you arrive at your daughter’s house, get mad that your daughter was working when you got there. Tell her explicitly that she should have been at the front door waiting with literal open arms.
  2. Complain, again, about the “no shoe’s in the house policy” that your daughter has. Repeatedly scoff at the suggestion of house slippers, because house slippers are stupid.
  3. Complain that your grandchildren are at school. What’s more important after all- algebra II or being there for your grandmother
  4. Remind your daughter all the things you did for her while she was growing up
  5. Tell your daughter that she doesn’t treat you with respect
  6. Cry that she treated her own mother so much better and she wants you to treat her as she treated her Mom
  7. start yelling at your daughter because your daughter doesn’t cater to your every whim
  8. Tell your daughter that she’s a despicable spoiled brat
  9. Call your son and tell him that she can’t stand his sister and she has to leave that very moment because she can’t spend another minute in the house
  10. Curse at your son because he dares to say that he will call her a car service- a good son would rent a car and drive over and pick up his Mother
  11. Remind both your children that they don’t respect you
  12. Tell your children about how you worked to support them and without her you would have nothing
  13. Spend so much time talking about a gift that you gave, that the daughter hands you a check for the amount of the gift because no gift is worth it being thrown back in your face a million times
  14. Ask why they treat their Father, her ex, so much better than they treat her, because he was despicable.
  15. Give a birthday toast that doesn’t say anything about your daughter, but tells all the sacrifices that you made for your children

Do you understand why this example showed me exactly how to further my relationship with my daughter?

Parents.

What would we do without them…

Anything Can Happen Friday: The Train Ticket

This is a totally fictional tale about some mother and some daughter.

Some mother and some daughter are having a perfectly lovely conversation over the phone. No Zoom. No texting. Just an old fashioned cell phone call on speaker because some mother hates holding the phone to her ear.

After much pleasant chatter:

SOME DAUGHTER- OMG I bought my train tickets for Thanksgiving. I need to leave Saturday night at 10pm and get into DC at 2am

SOME MOTHER: Really? They’re already sold out?

SOME DAUGHTER: No. The tickets for Sunday were more expensive.

SOME MOTHER: You know I’m paying for the ticket. How much of a price different are we talking?

SOME DAUGHTER: The Sunday afternoon tickets are X, about 50$ more than the 10pm train.

SOME MOTHER: I don’t want you getting to DC in the middle of the night and going back to a mainly empty dorm. Change the ticket.

SOME DAUGHTER: I’m not happy about the train time either.

SOME MOTHER: If neither of us is happy about the time, change the ticket. I am paying for the ticket and frankly that price is cheaper than I thought it would be.

SOME DAUGHTER: Morally, I can’t pay that much more for a train ticket strictly for the convenience.

SOME MOTHER: BUT I’M PAYING FOR THE TICKET

SOME DAUGHTER: Don’t you think it’s ridiculous that the afternoon tickets are more expensive?

SOME MOTHER: Supply and demand

SOME DAUGHTER: I just can’t pay more money than the other train.

SOME MOTHER: BUT I’M PAYING

SOME DAUGHTER: But Morally…

SOME MOTHER: Where were these morals when you chose to go to a private college that didn’t give you a scholarship as opposed to the colleges that gave you handsome merit scholarships? (OK- some mother didn’t say this, but she thought it…)

SOME MOTHER: Can you please change the ticket?

SOME DAUGHTER: Can you respect my decision and treat me like an adult?

In today’s adventure, who was right and who was wrong, or are both parties being stubborn?

Should Some Mother allow her adult daughter to make her own choices? Or should Some Mother back off?

What’s The Lesson

A few months ago, my daughter and I got into a fight.

As many mother/daughter fights go, I can’t remember what we were fighting about. I also know that we were a tad nasty to one another.

When I left the house to errand/walk dog, I was still annoyed with her and she was annoyed with me. We usually say “love you” to one another when we part, but this time I know we didn’t.

We were exasperated with one another.

Now, you may remember a few months ago I told you that I was out walking the dog and I witnessed a man get hit by a van.

Well, that incident occurred on the day that she and I had our fight.

So after I returned home from errands, my daughter flew out of her bedroom and hugged me and told me how sorry she was.

See, my daughter has that “Citizen” app on her phone and saw the notice that a pedestrian was hit by a van in the neighborhood that I was going to. She knew I would be in close proximity of the accident and she got worried that it had been me.

So what’s the moral?

I guess there’s different ways you can look at this:

  1. Don’t fight over stupid things
  2. Never leave a loved one on an angry note
  3. You never know what the future holds for you

I’m sure there are a few other lessons and tidbits from this.

What do you think is the greatest lesson that we learn from this situation?

Guest Blogger- My Daughter

Today is my mom’s birthday, and if things were normal, I may not have been in our home to write this blog post nor able to enjoy the wonderful tea we have scheduled later today at 2pm. See, my mom’s birthday always falls around some inconvenient times. In middle school, her birthday was always right near the school play, which I did the tech and lighting for. In high school, her birthday was days before, sometimes on the day of, AP exams – incredibly difficult, three hour long tests that students prepare for all year. And, as a college student, her birthday is during finals week, meaning I would typically be in my dorm room hunched over a computer instead of enjoying scones and petit-fours. 

Although we always manage to make it work, this year proved to be a little different. As I’m sure you don’t need me to remind you, the past year and a half has been far from normal. One consequence of the pandemic is that my college has been virtual the entire year, meaning, much to my mom’s displeasure, I have been taking my college classes from my bedroom, only 20 feet away from my mom. She’s heard me on Zoom interviews, in Zoom class, and in Zoom debate competitions. And since everything is virtual, by default, I was home for Mother’s Day and today for my mom’s birthday. 

While my mom is probably happy that she did not have to drag my dad to tea today or engage in a Mother’s Day celebration over Zoom, in general, she has not been thrilled that I’ve been home for the past year. It’s a lot, I get it. And, trust me, I would rather be a college student on an actual campus more than two minutes apart from my parents and the walls which still adorn my baby pictures. However, if you asked me to make lemonade, I would say there were a few good things about being back at home with my mom. This includes:

  1. Having someone who makes me good dinners
    1. I am not sure if she’s told you, but during quarantine, my mom has become quite the chef. She makes homemade pasta, potato chips, parmesan crisps (and everything else that starts with p). Her food is certainly better than my dining hall and proceeds to be something to look forward to.
  2. Having a movie buddy
    1. Nearly every Friday, my mom and I have watched a movie (recently, in movie theaters!). The best part? Getting to discuss the movie afterwards and having her read over my review before I submit it to my school’s newspaper. 
  3. Having someone to talk to
    1. In that same vein, having my mom rooms away means she is more in tune with my life and always happy to talk about it. She knows what time my classes are, and at the end of each day, she’ll ask, “How was History? Is your professor still crazy?” And, she’ll listen. She’ll listen to my rants, my excitement over the new Taylor Swift albums, and help me as I decide what to write my essays on. 
  4. Consistent advice
    1. Yes, this is like talking, but I feel it deserves its own item anyways. When I am struggling or hitting my college-life crisis concerning what I will do post-graduation, now I can hear a solution without having to pick up the phone. My mom is always here to provide me advice, and somehow (I don’t know how she does it), say the right thing. 
  5. Having someone to take care of me
    1. Perhaps this is all-encompassing, but this proved to be true just on Saturday when I suffered from a major headache. My mom was willing to drop all of her responsibilities and bring me water, tea, and whatever else I needed to ensure I felt better. Whether I am having an off-day physically or mentally, I have appreciated having my mom steps away. Her comfort alone often saves the day.

The pandemic was horrible, obviously. But, it provided me a few more months with my favorite chef, movie-connoisseur, doctor, and editor. Thank you mom for everything and for letting what should have been my miserable sophomore year of college be only half-bad. 

Don’t let it get to your head though – I am still going back to school, and you will have to suffice if I end up writing next year’s blog post from a library.

Love you so much. Happy birthday. Here’s to another year (without the guise of a pandemic).

-H

The Conversation

If you go way back and think about Monday, I wrote about a decision I made in regards to my college daughter. I just assumed what I am about to write would happen on Tuesday, but who knew the topic would reveal so many hidden truths and opinions. So today I am going to tell you conversation that I had with my daughter.

My Daughter told me she was thinking of coming home in a few weeks. There were two days in September when she would be free of commitments. Two days.

I asked why she wanted to come home. She said didn’t have someone to do something with on Friday or Saturday nights with.

I get this. I do not make friends easily. I am not good at small talk. I am not good at injecting myself into a group. And if I’m not now, I was hopeless at that task when I went to college. And yet, we all know I managed to make amazing friends.

My daughter marvels at how some kids just instantly form into a group. I had to explain to her that these are not really friendships: they are simply a group of people who fell together on the first day and whether or not they have anything in common they just group together because they do not want to be alone. There is nothing wrong with this action: it gets you out and in the game. I did this in college. I told my daughter about my experience. I also told her that I do not even remember the names of the girls on my floor that I hung out with those first weeks. I am not friends with them on Facebook, where you are literally “friends” with your neighbors work colleagues dog walker. And we all know that I made the most amazing friends in college that I still talk to till this day, often multiple times a week.

I also told her that I did not really hang out with these amazing women till I was a Sophomore. I knew them, but didn’t recognize how special and amazing they were. I explained to her that making real friends does not happen overnight.

My daughter has always had friends. In pre K she was inseparable from A- they were together every day after school for the entire year. Years K-2 brought about S. Then third grade happened, the year that kids really start to form personality. This is the year she became besties with R, who to this day remains her very best friend. This was also the year I noticed my daughter was on of the popular kids. I remember walking into the school cafeteria one afternoon to do something for PTA. There was my daughter at the lunch table in the middle, with the ten or twelve girls that everyone wanted to be friends with, the girls that all the kids at the tables surrounding them were looking at. This was a bizarre sight for me because I never sat at the popular table ever. I sat at the table in the back and ate my lunch as quick as possible so I could escape outside.

Then middle school came and my daughter was not  the “popular” kid, but the “smart” kid  who was in charge of everything. But she had friends: R from elementary school and a host of new best buds. High school- still the smart kid who was involved in everything. Had a really nice group of six girls, plus a bunch of others just outside the main group.

My daughter has always had friends. In fact, she has always had good, solid friends for she has chosen wisely. Her teen years were not filled with frenemies, but with kids she could count on.

So not having made friends yet is a new and interesting experience that does not always feel good. But she won’t make friends coming home on the weekends.

At the time I had the pivotal conversation with my daughter, it was early going: she’s barely been in class for six days. Club fair had not yet happened. Community service programs had not yet started. No one had even thought to form a study group yet. She really hasn’t had the opportunity to make any friends. Her roommate is a lovely person, kind, respectful and clean. But she doesn’t like to go out at all, so my daughter has no built in wingperson. It sucks, but it’s life: you don’t always get someone to hold your hand.

I told her that if she wants to have friends, she has to do something about it. It might entail smiling, which is not a sexist manipulation, but just a way of letting people know that you are approachable. Do you pet a snarking dog? I don’t. I pet a dog who looks friendly. Smiling does that too. We don’t always need to be stone faced.

Talk to people.

Have conversations.

Say Hi to the kid that sits next to you in class.

Introduce yourself to the kid in the elevator.

Tell someone you like their shoes.

Ask someone if they want to form a study group.

Ask someone if they want to practice for the moot court audition.

Do something.

It is probably 75% in your control if you make friends: some people are going to say no. Guess what? Rejection is a part of life. If everyone was afraid to talk to someone else, life as we know it would cease to exist.

But you have to be part of the game.

And sitting in your room in NYC is most definitely not putting you in the game.

And on a side note, my husband is Disneyland Dad: he just says “yes” to everything. If she had called him instead of me, she’s be coming home next weekend. So why did she call me, who she knew would say “No”. Cause maybe she really just needed a pep talk….

You’ve got to know your kid.

 

Culture Club

I would be remiss if I spoke of adult children without speaking of differences in culture. As Shallini pointed out the other day, it is customary for adult children to live with their parents until they are married. To do otherwise would be radical. And I think there are places where multi generational living is the norm. Some places, the youth take care of their parents. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this way of thinking: it is just counter to how I’ve grown up.

So, when Shallini asked:

“What if she wants to move home?”

My first thought was:

“No &^#$^ing way”

Because, unless there is a legitimate reason, I have zero expectation that my daughter will ever live with me full time again. First off, I know she does not want to live with me when she gets out of school. Second off, I don’t want her living with me when she gets out of school. I love her….but…..in 21st century America that just doesn’t fly.

How does western society treat adult children that live with their parents when there is no legitimate reason? What do we really think?

Well, Big Bang Theory had Howard, who was continually mocked for living with his Mother, which he did until he married. He was seen as a man/child and routinely mocked. How many women want to marry a guy in his thirties who still lives at home? Who has a Mother that cooks for him and does his laundry? That’s the kind of guy that you tell your friends NOT to go out with. You see a guy living with his parents you scream TROUBLE….ISSUES…..

I had a friend from high school, a woman, who did not choose to move out of her parents home until she was about 40. I will tell you that this was a very weird dynamic and there were issues with her that did not constitute the living arrangement but signaled something was very wrong in her head. The red flag was this living arrangement and her parents did nothing to help her. Correction: they thought her living with them would help her.  This story ends with too many pills and a too early death.

As one blog friend stated yesterday, they have a friend who is in their sixties and still working hard to support a child in their thirties. I’ve heard of many such cases. Is this the new normal?

Or should we start to change out outlook, look towards a more Eastern way of thought, and consider multi generational households? Is there a benefit to many layers of a family residing under one roof? Incomes pooled together, helping one another out when needed?

Is Western society too focused on the individual other than the collective?

So my questions for write my blog Thursday:

What is your opinion of adult children living at home when there is no good reason (saving money for a short term basis, sickness, recent separation and need a place to crash short term)?

Why?

 

 

 

Where is the Line

So I blindfolded my daughter, drove her in a white van with dirty windows to a remote spot in the woods. We walked five miles till we were in the center. and then I spun her around ten times. I walked away, instructing her to count to 100, then remove the blindfold. This was her new home.

OR

I drove to Washington DC, a city my daughter loved so much she applied to three separate colleges there. To a school she really wanted to go to and screamed “YES” after receiving her acceptance letter. We drove through a posh neighborhood, and into the gates of her hallowed campus. To her dorm we went, the good dorm that she wanted with a private bathroom. We spent six hours decorating her room with all new things, met her incredibly respectful, sweet and clean roommate. She had a schedule full of her first choice classes, and a relatively inexpensive bill for rental textbooks. This was her new home…

As we continue on with the discussion of the past two days, we have to focus on what we do as parents, what responsibility we have to guide them. Every parent has to decide what is best for their child. Each child is an individual and has to be treated as such. I know my kid. I know that I can give my kid a nudge and she figures out what she needs to do to survive.

But I also realize that some kids can not be pushed quite the same way. Some kids need a little more coddling- it’s just the way they are built. After 18 years, you know who your kid is, what their strengths are and where their weakness lies. As parents we need to help them develop their strengths, and deal with their weakness. I know this is hard. I have been there. How do you help your child develop, strengthen, or enhance their weak points? I know my daughter needs to learn how to survive as an introvert in an extrovert world. This is why I made her stay. Coming home is not going to help her deal with that issue.

But I want you to think about something else. Does your child need the extra attention, or do you as a parent need to perform the extra act? Are you helping a child solely for your own benefit? We’ve all heard of stage mothers, parents who so want their children to be stars because they never were themselves? Parents who are living their lives vicariously through their children? Parents who can not separate from their child? At some point, the umbilical cord must be severed, for both parent and child.

So whether or not you let your child come home from college for a weekend doesn’t matter. What matters is the why. Why does your child want to come home? What ails them? Why do you want them, or not want them to come home? What’s the reasoning?

No good decision was ever made out of fear or guilt. You can talk to your heart, but use your head to make the choice.

PS- On this day I remember the friends, colleagues, classmates and humanity that was lost 18 years ago today, when I was seven months pregnant with my daughter. My thoughts are with those affected by the events of this day. Peace.

 

Why?

Yesterday I told you that I told my daughter that she could not come home from college till Thanksgiving. Some of you came straight out and said I did the right thing. No one said I didn’t do the right thing, but I could tell…..they weren’t thrilled with my answer. And a bunch of people wanted to know “Why”. Why did I say no?

Ok.

Here’s the WHY.

The job of a parent is to teach their child how to live without them. Seriously- you are a successful parent if your child is able to leave the nest and prosper. And by prosper I do not mean make a million dollars, or start Microsoft, or be the President. Prosper means doing things for themselves: having a source of income and an abode and some sort of goal, even if that goal is binging shows on Netflix. Choosing reasonable friends and mates (but yeah- we screw up there 50% of the time, cause no one has a relationship crystal ball- but that’s ok cause they’re out there) Prosper means taking care of your health and home. Sewing a button. Making pasta. Cleaning the toilet. Eating healthy.

That’s the job description: must teach how to clean the grout in the tub and fold a fitted sheet.

That’s all practical of course. Your kid must learn how to do all the things you routinely do. Which means that you do not go to their house and do all those things…

Seriously- don’t do your kids laundry once they move out.

Now, along with the practical comes the emotional. Which is where my decision comes in.

I miss my kid. Of course I do. She spent almost 18 years in the bed down the hall, and way to long in utero before that. She is my debate partner. We recommend books to one another. We go to cultural events together. We had tea together every night so we could talk out our days. So of course I would love her to come home.

But what does coming home accomplish?

What does it really teach her?

Someone suggested that it would reassure her, to be able to know she can come home. But does it really reassure her? Or does it signal that I don’t think she can hack her new life? That it’s OK to run home at the slightest “misfortune” because Mommy will take care of her….

Shouldn’t the goal be to teach her that she can, is totally able, to care for herself?

Which is why I said “No”.

Remember when kids were little: how many band aids did they go through? They were still getting their sea legs, which cause them to fall. Running too fast, doing things they shouldn’t. My daughter would be covered in Dora the Explorer band aids…..Until she learned how to walk more confidently, and learned when to run fast and which situations could be dangerous….then she didn’t need as many band aids. She was solving the root of the problem. Coming home is a band aid. It covers the problem, masks it, but doesn’t really solve what caused the scrape. Coming home is essentially running away. If she is not at school, how is she learning to deal with what ails her at school?

Running away. Do we really want to teach our children to run away from problems? Run away from things that scare them? Emotionally I mean. If Godzilla is running towards you by all means RUN….

Don’t we want our kids to confront what’s in front of them?

Do we want them changing jobs because they don’t like their boss? I mean continually. I had a friend who used to change her job every year because of personality differences. Trust me: that story does not end well.

Do we want our kids giving up on relationships because their is a little bump in the road? While there are clearly times when divorce is necessary, do people give up and walk away a tad too easily?

Do you move because you don’t like your neighbor? (true story- my sister has a friend that did just this recently- and we’re talking selling a house)

So big picture: what lesson do I want to teach my daughter?

I love her. She knows that. Every action she takes dictates that she knows she is loved immeasurably. Her strength, character and resilience show that. I love her, but I am also tough with her. I am her parent, not her friend.

I want her to continue to be strong.

I want her to continue to be confident.

I want her to continue to be resilient.

But she needs to be a few hundred miles away.

Because while I am always there for her, I can’t always be there for her. She has to find me in her heart, not resettle herself in her bedroom down the hall. “Mommy loves you, but you don’t need me anymore. You got this.”

That’s why.

The First Fight

“I’d love it if she just knocked on her neighbor’s door and introduced herself.” my Husband said. He’d said this phrase about 15 times during the four days of drop off/parent orientation.

“You’re obsessed with her making friends.” I replied.

“WHY WOULDN’T I BE?! I JUST WANT HER TO BE HAPPY!”

We hadn’t even reached the Jersey Turnpike and we’d already had our first empty nest fight.

Seeing my daughter cry when we said good bye unnerved him. He’d already been sad, and that just undid him. I obviously understand his feelings: after all, she’s my baby too….

But here’s the problem. If you talked to my daughter, she was/is not worried about making friends. She was/is worried about academics. My Daughter is used to being the smart one, the kid who got great grades. Now, well, it’s a different fishbowl. Now every student graduated in the top 10% of their class, they all were 99th percentile in standardized tests, they were all captains and presidents and showered with accolades. She’s most worried that she won’t be able to keep up….that’s why she’s anxious.

The friends thing: first off, my daughter has never been the “popular” girl. But, she had friends, good friends, all the way through school. She had kids that she could rely on, who were solid. She might not be a social butterfly, but she is very able to make acquaintances and friendships. This wasn’t really a worry.

“SHE NEEDS TO GO OUT OF HER COMFORT ZONE.” was the next comment he screamed.

I looked over to him. “She’s in a new city and state. She’s sharing a room with someone she met on Friday. She’s about to take college level classes. She needs to find out where the CVS is. Cleaning her own bathroom. Doing her own laundry. Figuring out how best to organize her time now that everything is different.” I took a deep breath. “Do you think any of that is in her comfort zone?”

He relaxed a little.  “It would still be nice if she went out of her way to meet people.”

Which led me to my next thought, which was clearly a bubble in my head because I didn’t want to engage in the introvert/extravert see saw. Why do people think being an introvert is bad? Why do they want to change us? Why is it bad that my daughter has no interest in knocking on people’s doors?

Why does he think my daughter needs to change?

Why can’t he accept who she is?

As a parent, you need to love and accept your child for who they are. If your child is introverted, you can’t make them change. And obviously, there are a thousand other examples of allowing your kids to nurture their nature. They are who they are: accept them, love them and help them become the best person they can be.

On a side note. My daughter has the greatest roommate. She has been hanging out in the floor common room and met a bunch of nice kids. She contacted a girl she met during the roommate search and is meeting her for coffee. She’s doing fine socially.

Classes began yesterday and so far, so good. Her professors seem nice, though she found out that “Bleak House” is a thousand pages long so she’s not too thrilled about that….

And there you go…..

 

 

I still Haven’t Cried

As we said good bye, a big fat tear rolled down a cheek.

But it wasn’t my tear, nor was it a tear of my Husband.

It was my daughter who cried the first tear. My stoic, tough, low on visible emotion daughter.

Who saw that coming? Certainly not me.

There I was, tissues in hand, waiting to bawl my eyes out. But then I saw that tear, I took a deep breath, and I went into Mom mode. I was thankful for all the sports movies I’ve ever seen as I gave the pre game pep talk: I’m so proud of you, you worked so hard for this moment, you are prepared for the battle ahead. I made a self deprecating joke and my daughter followed it up with a wise crack and a smile, and as I hugged her that final time she looked at me and said

“I’m good.”

I gave her a thumbs up and watched her walk away from us, across campus towards her dorm so she could change out of her dress from convocation into an outfit more acceptable for the afternoon orientation events. She didn’t turn back.

It’s then that the whining started. Not my daughter’s: she was practically skipping down the steps. Nor was it from me. It was my husband.

“She could have walked us to the gate.” he said. “She didn’t even turn back around to wave.”

So I didn’t cry. I consoled him. I talked straight to him.

“She needs to make a clean break. She still loves us. But this is the time she needs to become an adult. She needed to walk away from us in the middle of campus. She needed to head off into the future and not look back.”

“Well” he said. “I don’t like it.”

We got back to the hotel and loaded our stuff in the car, saying good bye to the concierge who had been consoling parents all morning. We began to drive north.

I did not cry.

We got home and greeted the pets, ordered Chinese food and put some things away.

I did not cry.

I met my friends for lunch on Monday, Mother’s who had just performed the same dropping off ritual that I had. They cried. I did not.

I dropped off dry cleaning yesterday- my dry cleaner sends her son off to college for the first time on the 30th. I watched her eyes well up as she spoke to me, because we are sisters in this: I know how she is feeling as she knows how I am. As I patted her shoulder I did not get weepy, I did not shed a tear.

Alas, as I spoke to my very special friend last night, I spoke of how I have not cried….yet. I know it will come- it’s inevitable. But I need to still be strong for my daughter. She is adjusting well so far, and I know when classes start today she will get better. She likes the routine that classes and activities give her. Neither one of us does well with unstructured time- we like routines and planners and all things like that. We like busy. So she will shed no more tears. She will thrive in her new environment of new studies and new friends.

Then- it will be my turn to cry.