Themes of Estranged Parents' Forums
"Our children are laughing at us"
A member of an estranged parents' forum was locked in a years-long battle with her daughter and her high-school-aged granddaughter, with cycles of estrangement and reconciliation that had both daughter and granddaughter phasing in and out of the member's life. Most recently, the member told the granddaughter that she needed to stay on good terms with the member, because otherwise she wasn't going to give the girl the college fund she had promised her; and then the granddaughter picked a college the member didn't like, and the member categorically refused to give her the fund. So things were... strained.
Shortly after this, the member posted,
GD brought back the Norton disk I lent her today, put it in our mailbox with a note, "Sorry Nana had to rush and didn't have time to talk." Her Mom and other GD might have driven her here and maybe she said drop it and run. My Hub says I bet they were laughing as they peeled out of the laneway. I am glad she returned it but come on... this is the girl about to lose her college fund and she couldn't even ring the doorbell to say hello.
The member and her husband viewed the granddaughter's dropping the disk in the mail slot, instead of ringing the doorbell and giving it to them personally, as an intentional slight. And not only was it intended to hurt them, but it probably made their daughter and granddaughter laugh as though they were pulling a prank.
No one invited the member to reconsider her interpretation of the event. It seemed perfectly plausible to the other members; they frequently believe their adult children enjoy hurting them and laughing at their pain. They write about how their children must have been laughing as the police escorted the parents off the children's property, how their children love to "laugh at their misery." "I was crying over them, they were laughing at me," was one mother's refrain. Another mother received a curt email for Mother's Day and said, "What I feel is [my daughter] laughing at me." Members often interpret comments on estranged adult children's boards as "laughing at their pain."
When it's possible to see what the parents are reacting to, the contrast is informative. For example, a site had several threads by estranged parents in the "parents" section, and one thread by estranged adult children in the "singles" section. Two of the estranged adult children in the "singles" section talked about reading estranged parents' threads in the middle of a conversation about their own parents. Rather than excerpting the parts of the comments that are about the estranged parents' thread, I'm going to reproduce the entire exchange so you can get a feel for the tenor of the conversation.
The member names are shortened versions of the real names.
Dave, Sage, I can relate. It's really interesting to hear from the parents on the "Parents" forum because there is an estrangement thread over there (or five or ten) and it's mostly parent-centered. It gave me good perspective on how those parents feel about their children being estranged. I'm a parent, and estranged from my mother. A lot of what I got was that I must be 'spoiled' or 'unforgiving' or 'cruel' (projection?).
Sage, I worry about when my mother dies too. I'm so stressed under everything (my normal day-to-day reality) that sometimes I don't know how to release and really relax. I feel responsible for her. I love her. And I can't tolerate her behavior anymore. Were this a child I don't know what I would do. Be more forgiving probably. But this is a 60+ year old woman.
I think when your parents die you will know what feels right for you at the time. Going through the motions doesn't feel good. I wouldn't do it just for other people. Have your own ceremony, at a favorite location, with supportive friends. Bring something to burn. Let it go to the wind, and finally forgive and let go. At that time, there will be nothing but memories. And grieve. And now I'm crying. I LOVE my mom. And I can't be her friend. I don't know how to be her daughter. I don't know how to live this relationship.
Like Dave said, there is little support or understanding for adults who simply do not want to continue the pain of a relationship anymore. I wish you all the best,
Thanks for the feedback Silver, it is very helpful to me. I know that going through the motions doesn't feel good, in any type of situation - I have done that alot through my life in relation to my family, and it is against what I believe, and has only made me feel worse. I just think that maybe sometime I will have to do it just one more time in that situation. You are right, I will know at the time what I need to do. That is very good food for thought, I will think of that statement when I start worrying about the future. Thanks so much.
I tried to read various message boards that were from the parental perspective, as there seems to be alot of resources for parents of estranged children, but not vice versa. I have been accused of being spoiled, unforgiving, overly dramatic, too sensitive, unappreciative, and selfish by my parents directly. They have said these things to me over and over. I find that sort of 'tone' to be prevalent on the parent centered boards too.
But, now I can sort of see that this is just their own way of clearing their own conscience, convincing themselves they did 'the best they could'.(That statement in particular makes me very angry). My parents also used to say to me 'things could have been much worse, there are horrible stories on the news of child abuse, of children being kept in basements, tortured'. And that I should 'just be thankful things were not worse'. I think it is just terrible to not acknowledge their wrongdoing, and to twist it in that manner. Sick.
I don't feel love for my parents, and I still do feel guilty about that and maybe I always will. It is not 'natural', if you know what I mean. You are supposed to feel deeply connected to parents, love them, and feel love back from them. They did give me live, if for nothing else, I should love them for just that alone. But I don't.
Releasing and relaxing is something I struggle with as well. I learned how to do this more as an adult. As a child I was under alot of stress. So I didn't learn good coping skills and vented my anger in self-destructive ways - food, sex, drugs, isolation, I couldn't maintain friendships. Just realizing this problem (in therapy) was a relief, and learning how to relax gave me alot of peace.
Silver, at some point I hope you will come to accept the relationship. Don't blame yourself, it is not your fault. Remember you can't control what your mom thinks and what her actions are. Geesh, I wish I had some better advice, I don't know what to say other than 'I understand'. Crying is good, good to let out the stress. I wish you all the best as well in coming to terms with your own situation too.
Thanks for listening/reading everyone.
I know what you mean Sage. There really isn't any advice to give, is there? A heartfelt "I understand" is really appreciated.
What gets me is the constant statement that they were "good parents", and that the children did it for "no reason". They must have "loved them too much" and "given them too much". I think that's a load of you-know-what.
I think it's interesting that you mention love. Eskimos have something like 500 words for snow. We only have one word for love. But there are so many kinds of love... parent love, child love, friend love, food love, fun love, sexual love, appreciation love. I think maybe you are being too hard on yourself. You don't have to love anyone. And maybe love is the wrong word anyways because it is too narrowly defined. If you can be thankful that you are here and that they gave you life then when you think "oh, I feel bad, I don't feel love" maybe next time just turn it around to "I appreciate this day, that I am able to be here doing this. My parents made it possible for me to be here." It's silly, I know! But sometimes I have to talk myself out of my expectations of myself.
It sounds like you had a very difficult childhood. Mine was emotionally treacherous. I never knew where I stood. And I was expected to be very strong. I'm focusing on letting go of my resentment and moving forward but it is very difficult when there are reminders constantly. I know what you mean by not wanting friends to come over. I always wanted to live in another house. Mostly for the stability they seemed to have.
Glad you are here! I am thinking about these issues alot as the holiday season approaches. I tend to mull about them, and it gets me down. Nice to release some of the anxiety here by writing about it, trying to figure it out, and to relate to others who actually can understand.
Thanks for your words of encouragement. I think parents who maintain that they were 'good parents' even though they very obviously were not, are in complete denial. My parents are like that. I think they are incapable of dealing with their own guilt so they say "I was OK, I did the best I could." And then stuff away all the other associated emotions. A complete cop out. Nothing gets to me more than that, my parents complete disregard that anything at all was wrong. It might have helped if they acknowleged it, maybe apologized? Not sure how much that would have helped. But over the years when I was actually trying to fix our relationship, they never did admit any wrong doing at all. It is so insane.
I know what you mean, positive 'self-talk' is important, I do that quite a bit! :) I recall vividly being very worried and afraid friends would come over and see what went on at our house. I always envied friends, felt so peaceful at their house, not stressful - and I never wanted to go home.
When I was seeing a therapist I realized how much my childhood experiences formed how I deal with my emotions as an adult. In particular, rejection. I never felt loved or part of a family, so small rejections in adult life would send me spiraling downwards. It was a relief to realize this. I never connected the two until I sat and talked with someone about it. I don't blame them for everything wrong that I have done, I am cautious of doing that. But I see the affects a lack of parenting and abuse can have, and can see some connections to my childhood to how I deal with things now.
I have a very good life now, everything I could ever want. I am now 40, and it is time to let go of the resentment. It is just the hardest thing to do. But it is getting better.
Over on one of the parents' threads, an adult child wandered in looking for a support group. Silver invited her to the thread on the singles' forum. One of the parents, Straycat, followed the link to the singles' forum, and returned to the parents' thread to post:
WOW- what to hear what the "other side" says about us on this side? It's amazing how someone who states we should welcome their advice (even though they are not and have never) been in our shoes speaks about our posts...
Over in the "singles" section is a place where adult children estranged from their parents has someone who posts here and there actively making fun of our heart felt emotions. I was amazed. One person said "they say they (us) didn't do anything wrong unless they loved to much" and goes on -how ridiculous we are to "think that."
I really do not understand how people post deliberate painful words-taken out of context and then expect people to listen to their "words of advice." Or to take our post once again out of context and subject them to ridicule...
This is not high school for me-a competition- or certainly a way to expose something so precious to me-to anyone's hateful remarks.
Many of us are women who are hurting and personally I just can't imagine someone would posts our remarks in such a way to inflict more pain upon us...Wow- I guess I'm through-
That is just too much for me.
I'm hope you all have a good Christmas-take care everyone and Thank you for all the support you have so freely given. I really appreciate your kind words, and believe me I've hung on to them all.
Straycat, I assume you are talking about me when you say "...someone who posts here and there actively making fun of our heart felt emotions".
I'm not making fun. I'm not laughing. And I'm not posting to inflict pain on anyone.
It's an open dialogue.
Why would you think I was talking about you?
I thought we were hitting it off?
1. I posted the link
2. I'm the only one on that thread who "posts here and there"
Straycat went silent for six days, then posted,
It seems to me our posts have changed quite a bit....and that many people who were posting either don't post very often or are not posting at all. Any one have any ideas why this may be happening or if they think it is happening?
...which is a classic attempt at deflection and history-rewriting.
So why do members of estranged parents' forums perceive their children as laughing behind their backs?
Neither members of estranged parents' forums nor members of abuse victims' forums are good at reading one another's tone. Parents read abuse victims' posts as angry and blaming; abuse victims read parents' posts as nasty and vindictive. Abuse victims read a desire for control into their parents' continual attempts to contact them, actions that are often rooted in the parents' desperate need to maintain the illusion of a relationship. Parents read a desire for control into their children's decision to cease contact, an action based in the children's need to protect themselves from their parents' behavior. Both sides interpret the other side according to how the other side's actions feel to them.
So when estranged parents say their children are laughing at them, I think it's another facet of the dynamic described in "They want us to chase them." The parent feels reduced, belittled, by the need to beg for a relationship that should be theirs by right. They feel humiliated, and more, they feel that their children want to humiliate them, that the entire point of the exercise is to humiliate them. Their children aren't estranged because of the parents' abuse; their claims of abuse are a lie they use to hide the fact that to the adult children, estrangement is a game. And when they win a round, of course they'd laugh.
 I make a distinction between members who say their children laugh behind their backs and those who say their children laugh in their faces because when the parent and child are face to face, different forces come into play. Some adult children do laugh at their parents, either out of sadism or to deflect the parent's rage or because sometimes, you've got to either laugh or cry. However, when the parent claims to know what their child is doing in the absence of any information, what you're seeing is purely the result of their mental model of their child.
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