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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  • Alohilani

    ” I have heard the idea from Black parents time & time again that anything goes because they are the boss or superior from simply bearing offspring. And if they assist you, they somehow own you.”

    Yes, I am very aware of this sentiment. My own mother has this type of attitude.

  • Guest09

    When you were a minor the law required your parents to take care of you. There is no law in the western world saying they are required to do so after you turn 18. Unless your wearing a drool cup and a bib, after the age of 18 heck I’ll even give you 21/22 if you are in college you need to man up and handle your own business. If you don’t like your parents telling you what to do in THEIR house after the age of legal adulthood its pretty much too bad. You pay the cost to be the boss.

  • Alohilani

    Some people merely live at home, but take care of all their own financial expenses. This is no excuse to treat an adult like a child.

    One thing I see is that a lot of parents aren’t preparing their children for adult life and continue to offer no guidance to their child(ten), and then wonder what the deal is. If a parent doesn’t prepare their child, that child is going to struggle.

    • I agree with parent’s not preparing their kids to handle themselves in the world. But there is no such thing as ‘merely’ living at home. The truth is for whatever reason you cannot support yourself without your parent’s assistance and when you don’t control/pay for your own house you are subject to the whims and yes tyranny of the person that does.

      • Alohilani

        I don’t disagree that a person may be subject to that type of behavior. I just believe that it needs to stop. As I said, a lot of times in Black households, everything is about money. It is a shame when parents allow money to dictate the kind of relationship they have with their children. I would have to say that in an ideal household, a child is a ‘baby’ for 18 years.

        In non-American culture or those who live here, but maintain the customs of their culture, it is actually the opposite. Parents encourage their children to stay home while they work and/or obtain a higher education. And then once the education is complete, the child is able to obtain a job and then live on their own.

        There is only so much a person can do at 18 anyway. Heck, our government expects for parent’s to be financially responsible for their child’s education up until the age of 24 whether that parent is actually financially supportive or not.

        • I won’t disagree with your assessment. In many cultures it is expected for the child (man or woman) to stay home until they get married. You save money for a down payment for your own home, then you get married, then you move out. Even in those cultures there is a high deference the child has to show the parents. That’s just the way it is.

  • People need to come to a realization. If mom and day are financing your lifestyle even a little they are going to treat you like a child no matter how many kids you have or how old you are. Want to be grown? Pay the cost to be the boss, move your overgrown azz out of your momma’s spare bedroom and get your grown man/woman on.

    • Alohilani

      It’s not that simple. Some people live at home because they can’t afford not to. This whole thing of “I pay the bills, so I’ll treat you like a child’ thing needs to stop. This is something I see a lot in Black households. How one is treated is based on how much money one contributes to the household.

      • It is that simple. You were their “baby” for 18 years. If you are still needing them to support you they are still going to feel as though they can intrude and run your life. It happens all the times in relationships. A woman who is with a man who doesn’t work so she has to give him money for stuff like toiletries, gas, food etc. She’s gonna complain because she feels like she’s his momma.