Themes of Estranged Parents' Forums
"Unwanted Contact Is Not Stalking"
When I was persisted in calling my son I didn't look at it as stalking. Stalking? I was just trying to repair, what I thought was, a RIFT.
Estranged parents who become regular members of estranged parents' forums believe they must keep trying to contact their children to let them know they love them, regardless of the children's requests for no contact. They send texts and emails until they're blocked; they mail cards and gifts on birthdays and holidays, even if they know their children are throwing away their gifts or returning them to sender; they show up at their child's home or workplace to force a conversation. The parents believe that if they don't keep trying, their children will say the parents don't love them any more. When experienced forum members tell them to taper off contact, they refuse, saying they won't give up on their children and won't be as hateful to their children as their children are being to them.
Meanwhile, the estranged adult children feel terrorized. They feel a jolt of fear every time their parent's name pops up on their phone or in their inbox. They dread finding their parents on their doorstep. The thought of getting the inevitable holiday phone call ruins their holidays. They install security cameras, tell their neighbors not to give information to people who come around asking about them, give their parents' photos to the security office at work and at their children's schools, block their parents on every possible form of communication, and discuss whether or not to call the police if their parents bang on their door and refuse to leave. The gut-churning terror people feel at being stalked by their parents is no different than how they feel at being stalked by an ex.
The parents are completely unaware of this.
Estranged parents have no insight into how their children feel about unwanted contact. They read avoidance as guilt, refused gifts as deliberate attempts to hurt them, and calls to the police as attempts to publicly humiliate them. They pile labels on their children's behavior—selfish, vindictive, abusive, controlling, immature—but make no attempt to understand the situation from their child's perspective. As one estranged parent put it,
Unfortunately some kids see our attempts to show love as stalking. They are like teenagers trying to end a relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend. They see it as "get away from me" instead of having the understanding that this is their parent & adult behaviors & expectations are what is appropriate.
When faced with evidence of their children's true feelings about unwanted contact, parents minimize ("What have we been doing to him? Nothing but telling him we love him!"), deny ("She's saying that because her abusive husband ordered her to"), demand explanations ("Why should she be afraid of me? I'm a weak little old woman who wouldn't hurt a fly!"), assert that they are still doing the right thing ("How can this estrangement end if we don't talk about it?"), and dismiss their children's emotions. The dismissal is the hardest part to watch. The common attitude is that estranged adult children shouldn't feel the way they do, so their nonconforming emotions can be ignored. Even when estranged parents get direct, unvarnished information about how they affect their children, they refuse to believe anything that goes against their idea of how the relationship should be.
Eventually, some parents send out so many letters without a single response, or get so many bad responses, that they realize their unwanted contact isn't going to get them the response they're looking for. Do they stop attempting contact? ...No. They continue to try to contact their children because it's what they, the parents, need. They'll come out and say, "I don't expect him to reply, but I'm not sending him letters for him. I'm sending them for me." "You do what you need to do," the other members tell them. So the contact goes on. And their child is still terrorized. And the parent is still estranged. Nothing changes, except that the child has regular reminders that their parent doesn't respect their boundaries. In the name of feeling like they have fleeting contact, parents solidify their estrangement.
Finally the parents decide to cease contact. Some stop because they realize they're doing more harm than good. More stop because they want to give their children a taste of their own medicine. They want their children to feel ignored and unloved, to know their parents have given up on them. "It's natural consequences for their behavior," parents say.
And the children breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, no more calls, no more surprise visits, no more looking over their shoulder when they go out. They believe their parents now respect their request for no contact. If enough time passes, the adult children may decide they're ready to try contacting their parents again, since their parents are acting so much better.
How do the parents interpret this? One member had a favorite saying: "The cat that chases it's tail never catches it, but when it walks away, the tail follows right behind it." Some members believe their children keep tabs on them and are angry when they do well, so when the parents stop responding, the children are too curious to stay away. Other members believe their children try to control them through the silent treatment, so when the parents stop begging for attention and giving the children control, the children return to get the parents back under control. Either way, members recommend that estranged parents stop contacting their children not to honor the children's wishes, but because it'll bring their children hurrying back.
- It's not possible for a parent to harass or stalk an adult child.
- Unwanted contact doesn't count as harassment or stalking if it's done out of love.
- My actions are not harmful because they are done out of love.
- My desire to contact them is more important than their desire to not have contact with me.
- I must keep trying to contact them to let them know I love them. If I don't contact them, they'll say I hate them.
- Contact is necessary to heal the estrangement.
- Our children enjoy calling the police on us and causing us pain.
I have read in places (mostly websites by estranged adult offspring) that when a “thrown away” parent maintains an interest in their estranged adult offsprings’ lives that they (the parents) are stalking them (the offspring).
These parents did not ask for the estrangement and in most cases have done everything they can think of to end the estrangement. With no tangible reason and so many unanswered questions is it not reasonable that they would still have an interest in the lives of their adult offspring and grandchildren?
I think we can only be accused of stalking if our EC have told us unequivocally that they don't want us in their lives, and have forbidden us to have any contact with them whatsoever. If this were to happen, presumably we'd know WHY they were estranging from us and, although it wouldn't be any less difficult to deal with, we wouldn't be filled with quite so many unanswered questions and the utter confusion that drives us to 'stalk' them. As so few of us have been given any tangible reasons for the estrangement, and most of us are completely in the dark as to way it has happened, I think it's completely natural that we will do anything in our power to gain a glimpse into our ECs lives.
In one of our rare email exchanges, I sent a two line email and asked my daughter to unblock her Facebook so I could at least see her there since she doesn't want to see me in person. She said she didn't want me 'stalking' her! HUH??
In the second line of the email I asked if she thought the estrangement would pass.
She said this email was harassment.
Give me a break!!
My promise to my children as long as I live. I am your Parent first, your friend second. I will stalk you, flip out on you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare and hunt you down like a bloodhound when needed because I LOVE YOU. When you understand that I will know you are are a responsible adult. You will NEVER find someone who loves, prays, cares, and worries about you more that I do!! If you don't hate me once in your life, I am not doing my job properly.
A meme that's popular on estranged parents' forums
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