Mama, I’m Grown: Trying To Understand Our Complicated Relationships With Our Parents As Young Adults

November 28, 2012  |  


As children, we leaned on our parents, absorbing everything that they had to offer without apology. We depended on them for food, clothing, shelter and stability.  And, in return, our parents received blind respect. For a long time, everything they said was law, there being undisputed inherent fact and truth in everything our parents uttered. Then, we started to grow up… and more often than not, we began to see the flaws in our parent’s logic and their insecurities; and their desperation and fearfulness became more transparent.

As these changes occur, and self-realization is actualized, a ‘tug-of-war’ ensues. The independent personality that’s developing challenges our parent’s perception of who we are as their child, because they don’t want to acknowledge who we’re becoming as growing individuals. And the failure to recognize that metamorphosis causes a strain on the relationship between, one that will undoubtedly worsen as we become more defiant and independent and our parent becomes more controlling and/or judgmental. We decide as teenagers and young adults that the decisions and choices that we’d like to make are unique, and should be made freely, and without the regard or permission of our parents. And, our parents, who have made similar strides in their lives, are anxious to project our failures and successes based on their own, often finding themselves wanting to dictate and hover over our decisions because they don’t want us to make the same mistakes that they’ve made.

The struggle between powerlessness and power is an inherent part of the parent-child dynamic, because it’s several people fighting over the direction of one life –and what makes it a fight, as opposed to a negotiation are feelings of entitlement. Parents feel that they have a say over our future because they’ve invested our lives, and financially and physically nurtured us.  Less grateful for parent’s support, we see any attempt to direct us as a hasty attempt to manage us or stifle us.

The trouble with our parent’s hands in our lives is that as we grow, those hands have a less deserving place as a controlling hold on our lives, both physically and metaphorically. And, part of that growth is relieving our parents of responsibility. Some of our parent’s confusion over the power they hold over us is based on the fact that many of us still financially lean on parents –and within recent years, many of us have returned home after college. The issue with that is while using our parent’s funds and abusing their hospitality –as we did when we were children, we still express the desire to be treated like adults (stay out as late as we want, do whatever, whenever, even though we’re still coming home to our parents). But the blunt fact is that we can’t demand the benefits of adulthood, if we’re still behaving like children.

The only clear resolution to the parent/child problem is to find a place of understanding. Parents have to take a step down from their high horses, and children have to move out of a place of arrogance to discuss expectations and goals. Getting to a place where communication is possible may not resolve all of the issues that reside within the parent and (adult) child relationship, but it generates the possibility that both parties can explain their positions and help their relationship grow.

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