Author Topic: Do you have a good relationship with your parents and/or grown children?  (Read 18008 times)

englishteacheralex

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I realize that to a certain extent, the relationship you have with your grown up children is not under your control. But I'd really like to have the kind of family that enjoys spending time together when the kids are adults. If you have that kind of family, how did that happen? Any insight? Any resources you've discovered that helped the process?

I'm thinking about this because my mom is a Difficult Parent and I don't love spending time with her. My own kids are small and I'd like to avoid becoming the kind of parent who makes her children wince at the idea of spending a vacation with her. I know to avoid the mistakes of my own mom. What I don't know are the positive things to put into practice. I'd love to hear some anecdotes about healthy parent/child relationships and any insight as to how they got that way.

IslandFiGirl

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I didn't have a good relationship with my mom.  She wasn't a bad mom or a bad person, but she lied all the time.  I never really understood why.  If she thought something would make her look bad, she would lie to make herself look better.  It was so frustrating because I never knew what was real and what wasn't with her.  Consequently, when I had my own kids, I was just honest with them and allowed myself to be me and not try to hide everything that came up that wasn't perfect.  Because I had a really bad relationship with my own mom I honestly did not expect my kids to have a good relationship with me because I just thought that's how it was, you kinda hated your mom.  But that's not how it turned out for me.  I talk to my kids all the time, I tell them the truth, I encourage and support them and also expect them to be as self sufficient as possible.  We have always acted goofy together and when it's time to cry, (like at my dad's funeral) we do that together and just feel what we feel when we feel it.  100 percent authentic all the time.  I have 2 adult kids and one younger kid left at home and I am close with all of them.  I realize that I am really lucky because even if you do everything right, your kids may end up not wanting a close relationship.  I know my mom never understood why I didn't want to be close with her, but she would never believe how infuriating she was with her lying and manipulating...she's gone now, nothing to be done now.

Frankies Girl

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My mom and I are estranged. So my what to do suggestions instead of the crap she's done:


My number one and two suggestions if you want to foster a good grown up relationship with your kids: don't cross boundaries and stop being their parent, be their friend.

Just because you once changed their diapers, doesn't give you a ticket to parent them after they are adults themselves. Step back and adjust to the idea that this person is someone you love but not someone you control or owes you for the special joy of being born to you. Offer help/advise/or just listen if that's what they ask of you. Make sure to communicate and really listen to them and give their words as much weight as your own. Don't mind read/expect them to just know or follow blindly. Don't be catty, coy or mean - to them or their spouses/SOs. Show them love AND respect and lots of kindness. And butt the hell out even if your curiosity is killing you unless they specifically want to talk to you about the Big things.

Treat your kids with respect. Give them guidance and love and instruction when they're little but also foster a sense of independence and give them your trust and their privacy, and respect them as individuals that are meant to become their own person. The main goal here for raising kids should be that they are meant to go out into the world without you as they grow older; don't cripple them, dump your own fears/ideals/dreams on their heads and try to trap them into your orbit forever. If you treat them with love and respect, they'll likely be happy to spend lots of time with you no matter what their age.

G-dog

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Bad relationship with mom - but thoughts:

Be fun and have fun sometimes! Jennifer Garner has talked about having a ďyesĒ day. This means saying ďyesĒ to something the kids want to do. And then going for it and not worrying about it. 

Try to not labell your kids - the smart one, the funny one, etc.  we all change and grow (even faster turnover as a kid). 

Donít pull out embarrassing stories forever ďremember the time you did this!?Ē. Itís okay if itís a fun story for the whole family, but maybe I was too sensitive and I was just mortified (even as a little kid) when my parents did this.

FINate

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I have a great relationship with my parents, we are now true friends and peers. We have healthy boundaries and are involved in each other's lives without meddling.

Of the families I know with fraught relationships in adulthood, I would say overall parenting philosophy seems like a big contributing factor. My parents viewed parenting primarily as a responsibility to launch functioning adults into the world. While affectionate and close, they never confused the parenting role with friendship, but neither were they overbearing. As we got older they gave us progressively more responsibility and let us experience the consequences of our decisions, good and bad. The key, I think, is choosing battles carefully to provide growth while protecting from (as much as a parent can) catastrophic failure. By the time we were adults it was clear that we were essentially on our own. This is somewhat counterintuitive, but important: you can't have a peer relationship with your parents (or kids) with an imbalanced power dynamic. So many adult kids now live at home or depend on mom-and-or-dad such that a true friendship cannot blossom. I see it all the time: parents holding the purse strings, trying to direct the lives of their adult kids, getting financially entangled with home purchases, etc.

Be a parent now and intentionally help your kids cleave so that the potential for friendship exists in adulthood.

maizefolk

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I have a reasonably good relationship with my folks. We probably talk every couple of weeks. Really enjoy going back for holidays. They had good relationships with their parents (my grandparents) as well.

My parents were both involved but hands-off when I was growing up. Involved in that they spent a lot of time with both me and my sibling and we did a lot of things as a family and I could always felt like I could trust my parents when they told me some thing or agreed to something. Hands off in that I never felt like there were expectations I had to live up to, and I wasn't pushed to get good grades, or summer jobs, or participate in extra extracurriculars or drive my life in any particular direction.

So compared to friends of mine whose relationships were more fraught: 1) I never doubted that my parents cared about me when I was a child 2) I didn't have to have the "I'm living the life I want, not the life you want for me" blow up sometime in my teens or twenties.

NotJen

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I have a really good relationship with my parents.  I don't know how they did it (no kids myself), but I think they did a great job and I have so much respect for them.  I think a big thing is that they never tried to control us.  We had rules and responsibilities, but I always felt free to make my own choices, and I was supported in those choices.  They were involved and interested in our lives.  As someone else said, they seemed to truly want to be parents.

They weren't perfect, and I needed some distance when I first moved away.  They both worked, my dad was away from home a lot, and we were latchkey kids.  They divorced when we were all in high school - they "stayed together for the kids" for a while - I didn't really know what was going on at the time, so I guess it worked.  I never thought I would have been better off if they had divorced sooner.  I guess they probably modeled better parent behavior than relationship behavior.  They are still friendly, maybe even friends sometimes.

secondcor521

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It's early days yet, but my DS26, DS21, and DD19 and I have a good relationship.

Lots of good advice already.  Some of these may be repetitive but I'll try to hit on points not yet mentioned:

1.  Don't try to shoehorn them into your dreams for their lives; let them become whomever they become.  When my kids were young, I sort of thought they would be chips off the old block.  In a few limited ways they are, but they are also quite different from me and their mom and each other.  It is utterly fascinating to get to know these people.

2.  Respect them.  Answer their questions honestly.  Listen to them.  Extend trust to them as long as they continue to be trustworthy.  Consider that their opinions and perspective and decisions might differ from yours.

3.  Be involved.  Attend every thing they're involved in.  Drive them to school.  Make their lunches.  Go to the games, the concerts, the engineering competitions, the plays.  Be there.  If you do this and the respect thing (see previous point) very once in a rare while they'll come to you and talk to you about their friend who is suicidal, or about sex, or drugs, or whatever.

4.  Don't "should" them.  Guilt trips are not a good way to parent them, and most people, including kids, resent them.  I always had a good reason for why I asked them to do something or expect something of them and willingly told them that at the time.  "It would be wise to get good grades so you have a better chance of getting into a good university so you can become that mechanical engineer you want to be" not "You should get good grades"  "Sex can sometimes result in unwanted pregnancies or STDs" not "You shouldn't have sex"  "I don't drink because it gives me headaches, I can't sleep, and I don't like how I feel drunk, and I don't drink so much that I can't make good decisions.  Plus DUI is dangerous, deadly, and expensive." not "You shouldn't drink underage."

5.  Be honest.  Don't sugarcoat and say "Yeah, apply to that expensive college" and then when they get in awkwardly explain that you can't afford it.  Don't tell them they should like Grandma even when she's annoying and a worrywart.  Don't tell them you'll think about buying them a pony or taking them to Disneyland if you have no intentions of thinking about it and already know the answer is no.

6.  Say yes on the stuff that doesn't matter so that on the rare times when you have to say "No" they'll be more likely to accept it.  (Plus the respect and honesty and all that jazz above helps.)  Wear your socks to bed?  Sure.  Put purple food coloring in your milk?  Why not.  Put bows in the cat's fur?  Whatever.  Steal/lie/do hard drugs/get married at 17?  Nope.

7.  Let them get to know you.  This may be part of #5, but you can share with them what's going on in your life as long as it's not done in a way to where they feel obligated to help you when they're still kids.  "I had a rough day because a client was being difficult, but we figured it out with some creativity, persistence, and listening."  "I can't figure out how to do this tax thing yet.  But I'll figure it out.  Maybe I'll ask a friend of mine."  This way they can see the real you.  Also, you can demonstrate to them at least your way of how to live life.

8.  Let them own their decisions, accomplishments, and their failures as much as possible.  I brag about my kids all the time, but it's their accomplishments, not mine, and I always give them the credit.  This is probably a sore point for me vis-a-vis my Dad, but I don't think he really ever meant to appropriate our accomplishments - he was just a really proud Dad who wasn't afraid to brag on his kids to everyone.

nereo

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I saw a comment on another forum recently that relates to this one.  It basically said:

Every time you hear about adult children who are estranged or distant from their parents, itís always the parentís fault.  Always. They messed up and squandered opportunities to be close to their children for decades.

Iím not sure if the ďalwaysĒ portion is completely true, but itís stuck with me. Iím fortunate to have a decent relationship with my parents, though Iíve been thinking a lot about my own role as a parent and how many of my close friends and spouses have very different relationships with their parents.

Some random observations:
1) If you want a relationship with your kids when they are adults, you have to adjust as they grow so you treat them like an adult.  The biggest strain I have with my father is he seems incapable of letting me be an adult, of not trying to tell me what I ďshouldĒ be doing, and constantly reminds me of moments from my childhood when I was stupid and made a mistake (the other day he asked me about whether I had forgotten my coat (I hadnít) by reminding me of when I was 15 and left my jacket on the train on a family trip).

2) Be involved during their entire life, but onít try to live (or control) their life. Taking an interest in what they do forms bonds - trying to interject, coach or make judgements (particularly as they get older) breaks them.

3) let them know and be apart of your life. EVeryone I know who has a strong relationship with their parents talks about doing things with their mom/dad because the parent enjoys it, even when the child is just Ďmehí about it. 


Freedomin5

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I have a great relationship with my mom (dad passed away several years ago, but I had a great relationship with him too when he was alive). My sisters still live with my mom (by choice, not out of necessity, because they enjoy each other's company so much), and it's culturally acceptable for them to do so. Whenever we go back to our home country, we stay with my mom.

Growing up...

My parents always took a genuine interest in our lives. We ate dinner together as a family every single evening, even when my mom worked late and was stuck in traffic -- we waited for her to get home to eat together. During dinners, my parents listened to us talk about our day. They empathized with us without telling us what we should do or trying to solve our problems for us. They respected us and trusted our ability to solve our problems. They only gave advice if we asked for it.

They said sorry if they said or did something to aggravate us, and they backed off when we asked them to.

We enjoyed vacations with our parents because 1) they paid for everything, and 2) they chose a location but would let us choose the activity. For example, when we went to a resort in Cuba, the only stipulation was that we had to meet together for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the rest of the time, they just asked us what we wanted to do, and they would join us if it was something they were interested in, or they would go do their own thing if it was something they were not interested in. They would also tell us what they wanted to do and ask if we were also interested.

They let us be us without trying to change us. They appreciated our quirks and idiosyncrasies, and while they sometimes gave suggestions for us to improve ourselves, it was always from a place of acceptance. They never compared us to anyone else. They appreciated and respected our ideas.

Currently...

My mom trusts us to make good decisions. Whenever we go home for the summer (pre-pandemic), she would ask us what we wanted to do. Sometimes she had to go to work or take care of her own business, but she would allow us freedom and independence. She showed consideration for our preferences (just like when I was growing up), thereby modeling kindness and consideration to us. In return, we tend to show consideration for her preferences and needs, which makes for a very civil and pleasant household.

When I tell her my preferences, she does what she can to make sure I have what I need upon arrival to do what I want to do. For example, if I said I wanted to go up to the cottage for a week, she would see if I could have one of the cars so that I didn't have to rent a car. If I said I wanted to stay with her for two weeks, she would try to rearrange her schedule so that she could be home, and she would make sure that we have a private bedroom, bedding, a private bathroom we could use, etc. That usually entails one of my sisters moving out of their room and into the spare room, and sharing a bathroom with my other sister. I never feel like I'm imposing on them.

ender

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My mom and I are estranged. So my what to do suggestions instead of the crap she's done:


My number one and two suggestions if you want to foster a good grown up relationship with your kids: don't cross boundaries and stop being their parent, be their friend.

Just because you once changed their diapers, doesn't give you a ticket to parent them after they are adults themselves. Step back and adjust to the idea that this person is someone you love but not someone you control or owes you for the special joy of being born to you. Offer help/advise/or just listen if that's what they ask of you. Make sure to communicate and really listen to them and give their words as much weight as your own. Don't mind read/expect them to just know or follow blindly. Don't be catty, coy or mean - to them or their spouses/SOs. Show them love AND respect and lots of kindness. And butt the hell out even if your curiosity is killing you unless they specifically want to talk to you about the Big things.

Treat your kids with respect. Give them guidance and love and instruction when they're little but also foster a sense of independence and give them your trust and their privacy, and respect them as individuals that are meant to become their own person. The main goal here for raising kids should be that they are meant to go out into the world without you as they grow older; don't cripple them, dump your own fears/ideals/dreams on their heads and try to trap them into your orbit forever. If you treat them with love and respect, they'll likely be happy to spend lots of time with you no matter what their age.

+1

I have ok relationships with my parents and this is the number one issue that causes it to be harder. My mom does not seem capable of realizing that I am an adult and don't need what feels like babying.

I am much closer to my inlaws as a result, even though I've known them a fraction as long.

Sibley

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From what I can tell, the more you can not act like your adult child is your child and instead act like they're an independent adult, the better your odds of having a good relationship. It's not guaranteed of course, but it's a start.

TheFrenchCat

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I'm reasonably close to my parents and I agree with what others said that treating me like an independent adult made a big difference.  They were not perfect parents and there was some stuff I had to work through to get past from their parenting.  But I'm still pretty close, I think because once I became an adult, they started acting like I could make my own decisions.  Also, I always knew they were there for me, even if they weren't perfect in how they dealt with everything, I knew they were trying. 

I also saw how my husband struggled with his parents, who didn't want to let him grow up.  Even in college, they kept trying to make decisions for him.
 Once they started acting like he was an adult, their relationship greatly improved, to the point where we've moved to live on the same street as them. 

tygertygertyger

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I've thought about this a lot, mostly because my partner and his parents have a great relationship. I've asked lots of probing questions - did your parents yell at you and your brother growing up? did your parents fight ever? Did they ever ground you or punish you? And the answers are always that my partner can't remember any bad memories growing up - no fighting or anything.

1. His parents are delighted and genuinely enjoy spending time with their now-adult kids, and I am positive they felt equally delighted when they were kids.

2. They went on lots of camping trips, and my partner remembers his dad coming home from work in the summer and saying "hey want to go ride some roller coasters?" because they had season passes to the local amusement park. They'd go ride 2-3 rides and come home.

3. They aren't pushy and don't offer advice without hesitating first (I can see his mom wanting to sometimes and she stops herself!) They treat them like wonderful individuals, and they extend that delight to me and their daughter-in-law.

4. They are really generous. His mom goes way overboard at Christmas every year (she absolutely loves giving gifts), but more importantly, she actually knows everyone well enough to get everyone presents they'll enjoy. Her specialty is extending things she knows about them into a new area that they might like. She also makes sure there is always food and snacks that everyone likes. (Every time we visit, for example, either she or her husband will hand me an individual rice pudding to take home, because they know I like them. Such a small thing, but it adds up.)

By contrast, while I love my parents, it can be a chore to spend time with them. My parents split up when I was 7. My mom loved us and thought we were wonderful (#1), but she was always tired and broke and wasn't able to prioritize fun with us. She can also be negative and has a hard time refraining from commenting or giving us unwanted advice. She does treat me like a friend now though, and I know she's defended some of my life choices against other family member's comments, which feels quite good. She and I periodically go on short trips together.

After the divorce, my dad treated me alternately like I was 5 or like I was 25, which was always weird. He made sure we did fun stuff (#2), but prioritized whatever lady was in his life over us kids, which took a toll on our relationship. My oldest sibling and myself have taken a somewhat hands-off notion on our relationship - when invited out to dinner, we say sure and have an okay time, but otherwise don't do much. My other brother has always wanted my dad to take a stronger interest in him, and has had a harder time as a result. Weirdly, with the pandemic, my dad and I are a bit closer and talk like once a month (!! - this is truly wild to me).

My partner finds all our friends' relationships with their parents to be really odd, as his own is great. I asked him before replying why he likes his parents so much, and he didn't have an answer - it doesn't seem like a big deal to him. He and his mom are currently planning what native plants to use in landscaping her front yard, as that is their most recent shared venture.

Good luck! I think the fact that you are thinking about this now bodes well.

Imma

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I saw a comment on another forum recently that relates to this one.  It basically said:

Every time you hear about adult children who are estranged or distant from their parents, itís always the parentís fault.  Always. They messed up and squandered opportunities to be close to their children for decades.

Iím not sure if the ďalwaysĒ portion is completely true, but itís stuck with me.


I have a fairly distant relationship with my parents, and while it's now (mostly) my choice that we're in this situation, I do think that in the end my parents are to blame in a way. We were never close when I was a kid. We didn't do stuff with the family. They didn't seem to enjoy their kids' company. They didn't show an interest in us. They didn't like to receive drawings or crafts we made for their birthdays. We didn't hug or kiss. I felt like we were a burden they were saddled with, like taking care of us was a chore.

One parent regrets that now and is trying to make an effort, but since they only started that when I was an adult, it's hard for me. The feeling just isn't there and I can't make myself have those deep feelings for them now. It's sad, because they are trying now.

We don't have kids and my friends don't have adult kids yet, but I see that they treat their own kids very different. They really love spending time with their kids. If you love your kids for who they are, your kids will know.

Laura33

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Figure out what your kids need, and give them that.  For my daughter, that was attention and independence -- not just independence, really, but really me sending out vibes that I had confidence she could manage something (even when I totally didn't).  She needed to know I was her biggest fan -- both in terms of providing whatever support she needed, and in terms of keeping my butt in my seat and cheering from a distance.  Now the kid who earned the nickname "Commander" at 2 1/2 is off on her own at college three states away, and yet she's texting/calling me 3-4 times a week just to update me on what's going on, and even occasionally to ask for advice (gasp!). 

My son's very different.  He needs attention when he wants it, but he also needs a lot of privacy -- particularly when he is upset about something.  He likes to work through his emotions on his own first, whereas DD is the emotional volcano who just vents everything orally as she's going through it.  So he gets a lot more space.  And that will likely continue as he grows up and moves out; he's just not the kind of kid who is going to be calling/texting 3-4 times a week.  But that doesn't mean he loves us any less.

I think it comes down to respect, love, and like.  You need to respect them as independent creatures who are entitled to hopes and dreams and fears that may have nothing whatsoever to do with your own, and to figure out what kind of relationship works for them as much as for you.  You need to love your kids for good or ill.  And you need to like them and like being with them, because people tend to like people who like them.   

Hula Hoop

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My God. All these perfect families.  I have a terrible relationship with one parents and kind of ok with the other.  My childhood was pretty horrendous.  As a parent myself now to younger kids I'm trying to be better than my parents were (frankly, not difficult) but this whole never getting frustrated, always putting the kids' needs first (yet somehow not spoiling them) thing is hard to pull off.

tygertygertyger

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My God. All these perfect families. 

This made me laugh a little bit, mostly because I'm taking the opposite view! Seems like most people responding have had somewhat-to-very difficult relationships.

This reminded me of something else. The first time I went with my partner to an extended family party hosted by his older cousin, I saw something that stuck with me. The couple hosting the party had 4 children ranging from say 8 - 16. The 16 yr old was a girl, and I saw her hug her dad and laugh about something with him. It was so casual and strange to me. Here they were, all living in the same house, and ... they liked and enjoyed each other? A 16 yr old girl and her dad - like, hugging for no reason? I honestly found it shocking. That's when I learned that my issues might just be Issues.

For years and years, I would only see my dad like 2x a year, because he or (more likely) his then-wife initiated a get-together. We never talked in between. I'd hear that my dad would complain to my siblings that I never called him, but he never called me either so it didn't worry me. I did not especially enjoy my childhood. It was stunning to learn that other people might have generally positive relationships with their parents. I have had to do a lot of thinking on this, as I tortured myself over whether or not to have children of my own. (I don't and probably will not.)
« Last Edit: March 29, 2021, 01:36:14 PM by tygertygertyger »

TrMama

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I have a pretty good relationship with my parents. Definitely a better relationship with my mom than my dad (they're still married). We've been able to negotiate the transition from parent/child to friends pretty well. However, we'll never vacation together. We like spending time with them locally and can even sometimes do daytrips, but my dad is much, much too high strung to be an enjoyable person to vacation with away from home. It's because he doesn't listen to what we tell him. He always thinks he knows best, even when he has no clue. It's partly because he still sees me as a child instead of a functional adult. Trying to stand up to him and redirect him when he gets off course is exhausting and often results in a fight. So I've started to just avoid him.

For example, my parents really, really wanted to go to France with us. I was 90% sure this was a terrible idea, but just to confirm we did a day trip to the big city together. The trip involved walking on the ferry to get off the island we live on, then taking a bus to a transfer station, then travelling about 10 stops on the metro to get to the downtown of the big city. All this was pretty similar to things we'd have to do in Paris. My dad was horrid to travel with. Even though I told him we'd be on the metro for 10 stops he still tried to get off at every single stop. I nearly had to physically restrain him. Then when it was time for lunch he insisted that we should go to Robson St because that's where all the restaurants were 20 years ago (the last time he'd been to that part of Vancouver). Didn't listen to me at all when I tried to redirect us to GasTown where all the great pubs and restaurants are now. The result was a group of tired, hungry people walking past blocks after block of clothing shops looking for something to eat.

So my other bit of advise is to listen to what your kids say to you. Really listen and digest it. Think about things from your child's point of view.

Hula Hoop

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It was stunning to learn that other people have generally positive relationships with their parents. I have had to do a lot of thinking on this, as I tortured myself over whether or not to have children of my own. (I don't and probably will not.)

I feel the same.  I had a shitty childhood. And it's hard to move on.  I'm an immigrant here in Italy and i know lots of other foreigners here who do things like spend the entire 3 month summer holiday with their parents in their home country with their kids. Their parents enjoy spending time with their grandchildren too.  I just can't fathom this and frankly I'm quite jealous.

Laura33

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but this whole never getting frustrated, always putting the kids' needs first (yet somehow not spoiling them) thing is hard to pull off.

Eh, being the "perfect" parent is overrated -- in fact, I'd even say harmful to try to hard to achieve it (that's where you get to spoiling).  Every single one of us has lost her shit more times than I can count.  But when I've done something I wasn't proud of, I went to my kids later and apologized for it (not the emotion, the response -- "I'm sorry.  I got very angry and I yelled, and I shouldn't have lost my temper at you like that.").  Kids don't need you to be perfect (which is awesome, because if they did, boy would we all be in trouble).  They just need to know that they're still safe and loved.

Kids need role models for how to handle the bad times, stresses, and failures, too.  Everything isn't always wonderful, and kids are smart enough to see through a plastered-on smile or false cheeriness and know you're blowing smoke up their ass.  Seeing you be human -- watching you fail and then pick yourself up and figure out how to deal with it -- can be extremely reassuring, particularly for perfectionist kids who are afraid you won't love them unless they get everything right. 

scantee

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My relationship with my mom was pretty bad well into adulthood. Frankly, she was a pretty bad mom especially when I was a teenager. She had a pretty serious anxiety disorder (although I didnít recognize it as such at the time) and would go into rages when she wasnít able to control it. I spent a lot of my 20ís limiting contact with her and much of my 30ís tolerating her.

Then, in her early 60ís, she started taking anti-anxiety meds. She is like a whole different person. We have a very good relationship now. It makes me sad to think how much she suffered for decades, and how much my siblings suffered by extension, before she got treatment.

So my takeaway is: attend to your mental health! Whatever that means for you: therapy, exercise, meditation or medication.

englishteacheralex

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I've been enjoying these responses so much. I love to read about people who enjoy their immediate families. With a 6 and a 4 year old at home, I'm not sure how much of any of this I can put into immediate practice, but it's nice to know that it seems like reasonable, well-adjusted people tend to have decent relationships with their grown children as long as there are no extenuating circumstances.

It's also been reassuring to read that most people who have trouble with their parents are naming all the same reasons I have trouble with my own. So I'm not the only one! I'm not crazy!

mspym

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I had some stressful times with my mother and siblings, mostly because they couldn't accept that I could have a successful and happy life making different decisions than they would have. So I left the country at 35. I still visit regularly but I am not as close as the ones who stayed and had children around the same time. It's mildly irritating that I became An Adult in their eyes once I partnered up with Ofpym, who had children of an appropriate age, like I got back on script but at least I'm not having to defend every aspect of my life any more.

The boys are now mid-to-late teens and getting ready to launch. It's been kind of great transitioning our relationship with them to one where we are there as a cheering squad and a sounding board if requested but largely letting them work their life out for themselves. They are doing so good. I am consistently impressed with what good decisions they make and their general thoughtfulness.

former player

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but this whole never getting frustrated, always putting the kids' needs first (yet somehow not spoiling them) thing is hard to pull off.

Eh, being the "perfect" parent is overrated -- in fact, I'd even say harmful to try to hard to achieve it (that's where you get to spoiling).  Every single one of us has lost her shit more times than I can count.  But when I've done something I wasn't proud of, I went to my kids later and apologized for it (not the emotion, the response -- "I'm sorry.  I got very angry and I yelled, and I shouldn't have lost my temper at you like that.").  Kids don't need you to be perfect (which is awesome, because if they did, boy would we all be in trouble).  They just need to know that they're still safe and loved.

Kids need role models for how to handle the bad times, stresses, and failures, too.  Everything isn't always wonderful, and kids are smart enough to see through a plastered-on smile or false cheeriness and know you're blowing smoke up their ass.  Seeing you be human -- watching you fail and then pick yourself up and figure out how to deal with it -- can be extremely reassuring, particularly for perfectionist kids who are afraid you won't love them unless they get everything right.
I agree with this and would like to add another reason for not trying to be "the perfect parent" which is that presenting yourself as a perfect parent leaves your child nowhere to go, emotionally speaking, if they are unhappy with the relationship they have with you.  After all, if the parent is perfect but the relationship between parent and child is not perfect then it has to be the child's fault - there must be something wrong with the child or with what the child is doing.  That leaves the child unhappy, bewildered and at a loss to know what to do, which can lead to things going wrong for the child in all sorts of undesirable ways.

Malcat

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My parents WERE NOT model parents, but as adults, we're all very close.

I actually left home as a teen because my parents were too fucked up for me. They're complicated, amazing people with boat loads of issues, but they're incredibly loving and always have been. Plus they've mellowed in their old age.

Basically, my point is that you don't need to be a perfect parent to have an excellent adult relationship with your kids, but you DO have to be willing to accept whatever your adult kid's relationship terms are. I didn't speak to my mom for years, until she let go of her pride and allowed me to be as angry with her as I needed to be. Now, she was my maid of honour at my wedding. She's a badass, I can't fathom not being close to her, even though that bitch drives me crazy.

My parents ARE NOT perfect, but I 100% know that they are there for me, and have proven that when push comes to shove, I want them in my corner.

maizefolk

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tygertygertyger, after reading your post I want to amend my own to point out that I have clear and strong memories of my parents fighting while I was growing up. It basically never spilled over onto me or my sibling, but we'd hear screaming at each other in the bedroom.

Just to say that the bar for having children who get alone with their parents as adults doesn't have to be "I don't remember my parents ever fighting" like your partner's case.

pachnik

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I have a fairly distant relationship with my parents, and while it's now (mostly) my choice that we're in this situation, I do think that in the end my parents are to blame in a way. We were never close when I was a kid. We didn't do stuff with the family. They didn't seem to enjoy their kids' company. They didn't show an interest in us. They didn't like to receive drawings or crafts we made for their birthdays. We didn't hug or kiss. I felt like we were a burden they were saddled with, like taking care of us was a chore.

The above paragraph sounds a lot like my parents.  Very rarely showing any affection or interest.   i figured they had kids because at the time me and my sibling were born, it was the expectation.   Mine was also an alcoholic home so that didn't help either.  Usually the attention revolves around the alcoholic. 

I get along with them but we don't spend much time together.  usually holidays and birthdays.

I really struggled as a child and a young adult until I got into a couple of 12-step programs.  They really, really helped.  Plus you meet people there who have similar issues with their families, so you almost build your own family of choice with the other members. 

Imma

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I have a fairly distant relationship with my parents, and while it's now (mostly) my choice that we're in this situation, I do think that in the end my parents are to blame in a way. We were never close when I was a kid. We didn't do stuff with the family. They didn't seem to enjoy their kids' company. They didn't show an interest in us. They didn't like to receive drawings or crafts we made for their birthdays. We didn't hug or kiss. I felt like we were a burden they were saddled with, like taking care of us was a chore.

The above paragraph sounds a lot like my parents.  Very rarely showing any affection or interest.   i figured they had kids because at the time me and my sibling were born, it was the expectation.   Mine was also an alcoholic home so that didn't help either.  Usually the attention revolves around the alcoholic. 

I get along with them but we don't spend much time together.  usually holidays and birthdays.

I really struggled as a child and a young adult until I got into a couple of 12-step programs.  They really, really helped.  Plus you meet people there who have similar issues with their families, so you almost build your own family of choice with the other members.

I think one of my parents wanted babies, the other parent had no clue what that would involve - they figured it would be like pets. Feed them and they'll love you. Turns out parenting is way more complicated than that. I don't think either of them fully realized that babies would one day not be babies anymore and would learn the word 'no'. Back then nearly everyone had kids which probably didn't help.

My parents were not alcoholics in the sense that they were drunks, but they definitely relied on alcohol way too much - they'd drink about 5 glasses between dinner and bed, every single day without exception, even when they had the flu, and that wasn't enough for them to get drunk but it was enough that they were emotionally unavailable for us after dinner. They drank until they were numb. They had abusive marriage and looking back, they had unprocessed trauma. Especially the parent who thought babies were like cats. My grandparents on that side both suffered from mental health issues and due to that my parent lived with family members for part of their childhood. So they didn't have it easy and I do feel compassion for them.

But yes, I do have several friends and a partner from a similar background, that we've all processed much better than our parents did, and we are our own family now.

TheFrenchCat

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My relationship with my mom was pretty bad well into adulthood. Frankly, she was a pretty bad mom especially when I was a teenager. She had a pretty serious anxiety disorder (although I didnít recognize it as such at the time) and would go into rages when she wasnít able to control it. I spent a lot of my 20ís limiting contact with her and much of my 30ís tolerating her.

Then, in her early 60ís, she started taking anti-anxiety meds. She is like a whole different person. We have a very good relationship now. It makes me sad to think how much she suffered for decades, and how much my siblings suffered by extension, before she got treatment.

So my takeaway is: attend to your mental health! Whatever that means for you: therapy, exercise, meditation or medication.

I agree so, so much with this.  I wish my parents had gotten therapy or something earlier.  And even though I hate the treatment for my mental illness I do it anyways, mostly for my daughter, though also for my husband's sake as well.

familyandfarming

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Sooo many great insights! One thing Iíd like to add. When visiting your adult children, give them what THEY want/need! For example, depending on the person, one might want you to help them deep clean their house, another may need intense babysitting help, while another would like you to take them out for a pedicure (that you pay for). Please donít park yourself on their couch and expect to be waited on.

My MIL would make so much work for me when she would visit. Just about did me in. I vowed to be a help to my adult children.

ixtap

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Family time was pretty precious to my parents, especially Mom. That is Dad enjoyed a lot of things with us, playing sports, but he was also a workaholic, so we might go camping, but we had to choose the campground that had a payphone for him to call into work, not the one in the middle of nowhere.

They ran a Campfire group for awhile, Dad was a Boy Scout leader the whole time my brothers were in Scouts and Mom was happy to have the neighborhood kids over to play in our yard or basement, because then she knew where her kids were. Mom often had me in the kitchen with her  - one of my earliest memories is making a mess with the flour and her taking me outside to brush it off rather brusquely. If she wanted me out of the way, she set me up playing something in the kitchen doorway, rather than sending me to my room.

My parents were far from perfect, but considering one came from a neglectful family and one came from an abusive family, they made up a lot of ground in just one generation. Two of us are very close to them, the third calls voluntarily, but has had more trouble dealing with the less than perfect bits.

Sooo many great insights! One thing Iíd like to add. When visiting your adult children, give them what THEY want/need! For example, depending on the person, one might want you to help them deep clean their house, another may need intense babysitting help, while another would like you to take them out for a pedicure (that you pay for). Please donít park yourself on their couch and expect to be waited on.

My MIL would make so much work for me when she would visit. Just about did me in. I vowed to be a help to my adult children.

Know thine own kids. It took my Mom and I awhile to work this out because she was making me nervous by always trying to help. MIL is still trying to learn how to have a relationship with her kids when they don't need her help. She and I have a very good relationship, because we just shoot the breeze.

Imma

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Sooo many great insights! One thing Iíd like to add. When visiting your adult children, give them what THEY want/need! For example, depending on the person, one might want you to help them deep clean their house, another may need intense babysitting help, while another would like you to take them out for a pedicure (that you pay for). Please donít park yourself on their couch and expect to be waited on.

My MIL would make so much work for me when she would visit. Just about did me in. I vowed to be a help to my adult children.

My in-laws are the 'sit down and be waited on' types. I don't mind. They live less than an hour away so they just come for dinner, they don't stay for days.
But what really, really annoys me are all the comments about money! We are mustachians. We live a pretty frugal life. All our furniture is used, our house is small, we don't do crazy stuff with money. That's fine with everyone. But when we have lunch and I get nice bread from the bakery .... they immediately want to know what it costs, what's wrong with supermarket bread, "I always eat supermarket bread at home and it tastes fine". Bla bla bla. Not just bread, any food purchase they consider to be wasteful, like pastry from the pastry shop, loose tea, expensive veggies like fresh asparagus (it grows locally here so it's not even that expensive). We have lots of money, we hardly spend any of it, but I don't want to be called a spendypants for spending Ä10 on a family lunch. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with buying coffee, tea, bread from cheaper brands, I will have them at your house and I won't complain, but personally I prefer and can afford a slightly more expensive quality. 

tygertygertyger

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tygertygertyger, after reading your post I want to amend my own to point out that I have clear and strong memories of my parents fighting while I was growing up. It basically never spilled over onto me or my sibling, but we'd hear screaming at each other in the bedroom.

Just to say that the bar for having children who get alone with their parents as adults doesn't have to be "I don't remember my parents ever fighting" like your partner's case.

Of course! I know. The real question underneath all my other questions was "how did your family handle conflict?" But what I kept hearing was that his family didn't have conflict, which seemed unbelievable to me. Surely he'd left his toys where he shouldn't have, or came home late during high school, or at least that his brother took something without asking on occasion! We've been together for years now, so at this point we're better able to articulate ourselves, and he's since explained that of course, nobody agrees all the time. But rather that conflicts were rarely important enough to remember. If a person felt more neutral on a topic, they'd concede to the person who felt more strongly. Everyone respected each other, so no one was trying/wanted to take advantage of the other. His mom has expressed regret on a handful of occasions to me that her husband didn't want them to buy grass seed that contained wildflowers back in the 70s or 80s. That is one of the few occasions that appears to have stuck out.

By contrast, I can clearly remember LOTS of times my family experienced conflict! Both between my parents (those were some very bad fights), between my parents and us kids, and between us kids ourselves. And I can see how that has fed into our current relationships and whether those are good or bad or indifferent.

My dad was easygoing longer than you'd expect, but then he'd blow. I don't recall him ever apologizing for his behavior, though he may have. I honestly am not sure that he ever understood that there were multiple sides to a conflict, though his job required conflict resolution skills. When he became mad at us, there was no acknowledgment of our feelings or discussion about it. One of the most confusing things to me was that the rules were not clear. I remember being told that I could either do A or B. I chose A, and then 20 minutes later my dad would storm in that I had been TOLD to do B but had failed. Again, there was no discussion about it after or acknowledgment that he'd originally said something different. I can see how this lead to my having a more hands-off relationship with him as an adult.

My mom would yell at us when she got angry, and ground us, etc. If she became very angry, she'd mutter under her breath about us being ungrateful brats, etc. I DO remember my mom coming into my room and apologizing for the way she'd handled something on occasion - and that I can remember it really stands out to me. She mellowed the older we got. And now I like and admire my mom, though her negativity still pushes me and others away. 

« Last Edit: March 30, 2021, 09:42:29 AM by tygertygertyger »

MaybeBabyMustache

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My parents were/are fantastic parents, and we are very close. My husband & I are taking them to Hawaii to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday/my parents 50th anniversary. We enjoy spending time with them, and also spend the holidays together & get together during the summer as well. They are also fantastic grandparents. I have two sometimes moody teenagers, and their absolute favorite people in the world are my parents. My 14 y.o. barely exchanges a word with us at this stage (so moody), but calls my dad each week to check in. It's awesome.

I'll agree with much of what's been said up thread. My parents made mistakes (well into my adulthood, particularly when I got a divorce), but they were & are parents who always want best for me & my family. I had a pretty idyllic childhood. They were there for us, emotionally & from a time perspective. They put family first. We went on fun vacations. They set good financial goals (didn't have a lot of money, but made the most of what they had). They were very close to their parents.

Also, my parents demonstrate a fantastic love of each other, which I think gave us a lot of security growing up. That said, I did struggle a bit with healthy conflict resolution in my first adult relationships, because my parents kept conflict very private. They had it, they resolved it, they had healthy ways of dealing with hit, but they didn't model it openly for us.

On a related note, my sister is my BFF, and I think that dynamic has a huge impact on how I feel about family generally. I really hope that my kids have a similar relationship in adulthood.

utaca

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My mom and I are estranged. So my what to do suggestions instead of the crap she's done:


My number one and two suggestions if you want to foster a good grown up relationship with your kids: don't cross boundaries and stop being their parent, be their friend.

Just because you once changed their diapers, doesn't give you a ticket to parent them after they are adults themselves. Step back and adjust to the idea that this person is someone you love but not someone you control or owes you for the special joy of being born to you. Offer help/advise/or just listen if that's what they ask of you. Make sure to communicate and really listen to them and give their words as much weight as your own. Don't mind read/expect them to just know or follow blindly. Don't be catty, coy or mean - to them or their spouses/SOs. Show them love AND respect and lots of kindness. And butt the hell out even if your curiosity is killing you unless they specifically want to talk to you about the Big things.

Treat your kids with respect. Give them guidance and love and instruction when they're little but also foster a sense of independence and give them your trust and their privacy, and respect them as individuals that are meant to become their own person. The main goal here for raising kids should be that they are meant to go out into the world without you as they grow older; don't cripple them, dump your own fears/ideals/dreams on their heads and try to trap them into your orbit forever. If you treat them with love and respect, they'll likely be happy to spend lots of time with you no matter what their age.

AMandM

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We are not a perfect family by any means, but we are very close. I have close, warm ties to my sisters and to my father (and did to my mother until she died). My father, in fact, recently moved in with us. My husband has the same with his siblings and parents, most of whom live within an hour's drive. The three of our kids who are grown and married all bought houses within a couple of blocks of us, on purpose to be close to us and to each other; their kids are all growing up in a pack of cousins together. It's like living in a Norman Rockwell calendar.

I have thought a lot about how we got here, and I can tell you what are in my view the biggest factors. But be aware that just because they were the biggest factors for us doesn't mean that they are any guarantee of the same outcome for another family.

1. Respect--it's not a coincidence that so many people have highlighted this. Even when I was a child, my parents listened to what we had to say and replied to it. We grew up with a foundational sense of self-confidence because they had so clearly communicated, by their attention and response to our ideas, that we were worthy of respect. They exercised authority, but were always ready to explain the reasons for their rules.
When we became adults they would offer advice when asked, but let us decide whether to follow it and not pout if we didn't. The same is true of my in-laws. Our grown children say we do this for them, and they also say that few of their friends can say the same.

2. Shared family culture.  Each family (my family of origin, and my husband's, and ours) has a huge store of shared experiences and in-jokes and recurrent themes that are shared by all family members but not so much with the outside world. They are based, fundamentally, on time spent together as a family. All three had daily family dinner as the norm. All three had some amount of travel or vacation traditions (two of them were academic families that lived abroad for sabbaticals, which were strong bonding experiences). Not only did parents attend the kids' events, but so did the siblings.

3. Honesty. Never, ever lie to your kids. Admit your mistakes and wrongdoings and apologize. This is partly just general child-rearing advice, but to the point of this thread, it is what earns your children's trust in the long term.

Morning Glory

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I have a pretty decent relationship with both of my parents, considering.  Not super close like some families but I try to at least talk or text once a week with each of them.  I see my mom and stepdad more often because they are about a six hour drive away. I tried to talk to my mom about some things from the past recently and it did not go very well (I think I wrote about that in my journal).  When we get together we usually play board games or go shopping, and we get along fine doing that.   

 My dad is in another country that is a nine hour flight away (and still not allowing visitors from the US), so we don't see him as often. I did not get along well with his second wife. The third one is nice enough but I haven't had much of a chance to get to know her.   His family of origin was seriously fucked up; I never knew that until my aunt told me a couple months ago.  His parents took my mom's side in the divorce and he never spoke to them again. His share of the inheritance was split between me and my brother.

My mother in law died a few years ago and I have never met my husband's father. His sister lives close by but they don't get along that well. We see his niece a little more often.

I am fairly close with my half brother who lives a couple of hours away (text weekly, visit a few times a year).  My full brother and two stepsiblings I only see at holidays and don't talk with much except to share big news.