I was 23 when I realized that I am an adult free to make my own decisions regardless of what my parents think.
My dad had just passed away and I was forced to look for an apartment of my own. My older cousin had run into some legal trouble and was also living with my dad at the time of his passing. When he died suddenly, neither of us had a place to go. My mom suggested we find a place together and I was adamantly against it. My cousin couldn’t hold down a job and devastation from my dad’s death aside, I was thinking clear enough to say there was no way I was getting a place with her. She was wild, had a child with a neighborhood thug, refused to work, and showed no respect for me whatsoever.
Hearing my objections, my mom continued to press the issue saying I didn’t need to live alone while grieving my dad’s death. She insisted that my cousin and I stick together and that we’d get along better considering the circumstances. I relented, feeling that I had no choice in the matter. She was my mom and I allowed her to tell me what to do.
As I suspected, that turned out to be the worst living situation I ever experienced. Not only did my cousin fail to contribute a dime to a single bill, she refused to clean up, and allowed her toddler to run wild around the house. To make a bad situation worse, she moved in with some guy before our lease was up and left all of her stuff in her room. I repeatedly told her to come get her things because I was considering renting out the room. She ignored my requests and by the time the lease was up and it was time to move out, she was back in jail and therefore I had to pay to move all of her stuff to storage.
Since then, I’ve definitely learned to go with my own decision making and not blindly obey what my parents suggest. Still, it’s a strange transition going from a parent-child relationship to a parent-adult child relationship.
In Creating Family Relationships, psychotherapist Dr. Tina Tessina says:
If you’re an adult in college, working, or married, it’s time to grow up and move on from your family and your childhood. While it’s lovely to be close to your family if you have a good relationship with them, it is also time to build a life of your own, and the sooner you begin, the quicker you will become well-established. It’s a big change when you first leave home to think of yourself as being in charge of your life. “I’m 31 years old,” said a client “and I still feel as if someone else is running my life.” That is not a good place to be.
The key is to decide that you, and only you are in charge of what you do from this day on.
I will always be my parents’ daughter, but I no longer have to do what they say. I’ve moved from the “obey your parents” scripture to the “honor your parents” commandment. No longer do I have to absolutely submit to their commands “because they said so.” Now, I respect and esteem their opinions and give them considerable weight, but what they say doesn’t necessarily go.
I felt I learned my lesson late, so it’s odd to me when I come across people in their late 20’s and 30’s who have not yet made the transition from obeying to honoring their parents. They allow their parents full authority over their life decisions even if they don’t agree. Just recently, a 28-year-old friend commented that she wanted to go on a cruise but her dad felt they were dangerous and he didn’t want his daughter “trapped on some boat in the middle of the ocean.” Her husband suggested they go anyway, but she declined as though going against her father was unthinkable.
Dr. Tessina says to change your relationship with your family from that of a dependent child to a fully respected adult, you must first change the way you think of yourself in relationship to your family.
How do you do that?
In most cases, it’s easier to come out from under your parents’ authority if you’re not turning to them in every emotional and personal crisis or looking for a financial bailout. Using their resources gives them control and going to them for advice can make you feel as though you have to take it. If you treat the others in your family as “fellow adults”, you’re more likely to get treated like one yourself.
Then there are those people who aren’t really listening to their parents but instead are just using their parents as a way to get out of doing something they don’t want to do anyway. They cite their parents’ objections and pretend that they’re just being obedient. They don’t realize that others aren’t seeing that as a valid excuse and are only thinking “Why are you listening to your parents when you’re a grown woman?” Crutches only work when your leg is actually broken, not when you’re pretending you need them.
In that situation, it’s important to ask yourself why you don’t feel comfortable with your own adult decisions and feel the need to drag your parents into it and essentially blame them for a way of thinking they have nothing to do with.
You don’t need your parents to validate your positions or beliefs. Being adult means you can think for yourself and make your own decisions whether your parents agree or not.
What do you think? Are you surprised when people use their parents as a crutch in decision making? Do you still obey your parents or do you try to honor their opinions about your life?