It’s not your parents’ fault anymore: making peace with your adulthood
When your parents decide to bring you into the world, you present a unique opportunity to the mother and father who will raise you. For the first and last time in their mortal history, your parents have the chance to dictate to, imprint on, and create something entirely of their own design.
And whilst there are books and documentaries and even university degrees you can take to improve your chance of raising a successful human being; ultimately, your parents will guess their way through the whole process, relying on things like instinct, empirical data, and the ancient ache of the parental bond.
During those early years, your parents are your primary source of knowledge about everything. And for a time, your parents are all-knowing and you hang on to their every word.
Fast-forward to adulthood, and somewhere along the way, your parents become fragile human beings just like you. They confide in you, they share their failures with you, and you discover that the people you once thought knew everything; struggle just like you do.
Despite this fragility, the first place you go for comfort is likely your parents, and this is natural. The issue comes when you turn to them in your adulthood, searching for childhood expectations to be met. Sometimes you end up feeling rejected, or confused, or perhaps even unloved. This isn’t the case at all.
You insist that your parents meet your emotional needs, but push them back with your independence.
You yearn for acceptance from your parents, and battle to accept your differences.
So what is happening here?
When you become an adult, you develop a sense of self that is separate to your family, and these qualities become uniquely you. On your quest for self-discovery, you develop traits like confidence, and cynicism, and during this growth, your faith in the institution of parenthood is challenged.
Paradoxically, you maintain a powerful bond with your parents, because even though you don’t want them anymore, you still want them. And for some of us who don’t transition into adulthood as smoothly as others, we keep reaching out to our parents hoping that one day we will have that same moment of connection that we had with them when we were young. That connection that gave us the push we needed to get through school, to cope with being bullied, to get back up after failing, to try again after everything falls apart.
Whilst maintaining a good connection with your parents is important, you need to set realistic expectations for that relationship. And that starts with you. Big-old grown-up you.
So now that you’re an adult and you can’t blame your parents for ruining your life anymore, how do you maintain a happy, healthy bond?
1. Don’t tell them everything.
Adulthood means your parents’ status changes. They no longer need to know everything about you, and they no longer need to accept you. You are responsible for the person you are today.
2. You can screw-up in private.
See point 1.
3. Guess what? Your parents still aren’t your friends.
Unless you’re Lorelai and Rory from the Gilmore Girls, the investment your parents have made in you will usually cloud their judgement. They made you, and telling them you want to skydive for a living implies a risk to your life that they probably won’t ever welcome.
4. Boundaries are good
Your parents can have all the opinions in the world, but you are allowed to tell your parents what is appropriate to share. If it is hurtful or unproductive, it doesn’t need to be aired.
5. Your finances are private
You don’t need to share every transaction you make, and your financial stresses probably aren’t doing your parents any good.
If your parents want to share their advice, let them. They’ve put enough on the line to earn a few minutes of your time. Saying ‘yes’ or ‘okay’ (despite what you might feel inside) won’t kill you.
7. Be kind
For better or worse, you’re sat here browsing Medium because they made you, and you had the good fortune of being born in the era of the internet.
It is so easy to blame our parents or the world at large for the misfortunes we face. It is not so easy to look into ourselves and search for our own shortcomings. Think about your own relationship with your parents. Is it good? Have you been fair? Are your expectations of your adulthood bond with your parents aligned with the kind of support they can give you?
I write this today because self-reflection can be hard, and as a daughter of divorced parents, I spent many years blaming the mother and father who raised me. For me, the turning point came when I stopped looking at my mother and father as parents, and saw them as a woman and a man, stripped away from their parental titles. They were once young just like me, and I’m sure, uncertain in the world just like me. And one day I might have children and face a daughter, just like me. And I hope she will be compassionate, as I now try to be.
Dish up some love and 👏 👏👏