All Articles Tagged "adult children"
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?
I love my Father. I feel so blessed to have landed such a great one. The best chef, a wizard with words and a craftsman who has built houses with his bare hands. I owe a lot to him. He prepared me for so much in life.
However, there’s one thing he never prepared me for. As I approach my late twenties I’m struggling with watching my Father age. It’s like it happened over night. My Father was in his early thirties when I was born and other than his weight fluctuating he hadn’t aged much once he hit 40 years old. Since I moved out at 18, I’ve seen my father in 3-6 months intervals ever since. But it’s been these last two years where each visit it’s like I’m seeing a new person. And I’m terrified. Every visit I’m being reminded that there will be a day when I have to say a final good bye, a day where I will miss him and I can’t hop on the train to see him or pick up the phone and call him. Just the thought brings me to tears and now I have a visual reminder that it is the reality of me getting older, my parents are too. However what separates my Mother from my Father in the aging process, are factors that affect most men, especially the Baby Boomers of color. Mental health.
The Black community has long skirted the issue of mental health, curtly brushing it under the rug. Smacking it down as some repugnant trait of those with less melanin. Even as we have watched some of our biggest celebrities grapple with the complexities of poor mental health, D’angelo, Junior Seau, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. Our community has ignored the gravity that mental health has on our over well-being and quality of life. This is especially true for Black men who often are taught to define their masculinity by their ability to hold in their emotions. Never cry, never break down…you must always pick your self up and keep it moving. My Father has been threw two divorces, a failed engagement and a recession that wiped out his 401k and hopes of retiring anytime soon. He was trained to pick it up and keep it moving, never letting on to any emotional turmoil. He grinned and bared it all. My Mother was hit exceptionally hard just as my Father, with the ending of her marriage, another failed relationship, the complete burglary and then loss of her home. She too grinned and bared it, right to the therapist and gym. For women, though we still have a long way to go, the push towards understanding our mental health has been a lot more rampant and vocal. My Mother has had a chance to hear that discussion.
As a twenty something, watching the recession help make my college degree close to worthless, fighting to stay a float in the biggest rat race known as New York City and the myriad of other struggles that have left me not wanting to get out of bed, the biggest mental note savior has been that I can’t give up because I still have so much life to live. At 60 years old, the same mental note doesn’t carry much weight. The aging I’ve seen my Dad undergo, seems to be a clear sign of his beginning to give up. He’s going through the motions of life and it’s as if I’m watching him dig his own premature grave.
Father’s Day is Sunday, and the biggest gift you can give to your Father is that of happiness and health. There’s a myriad of statistics to back up my personal tale, even Soledad O’brien touched on it on Black in America. But it’s not numbers that need to move you. Rather your heart that makes you sit down and have that careful conversation with your father. No one wants to see their Dad die from a sudden heart attack, stroke or any other stress induced condition. We can’t ignore how our Father’s eating, sleeping and personal hygiene habits are indicative of their mental health. If any of those habits are faltering it is a clear connection to their mental health.
Put out some thoughtful suggestions even if he shoots them down, just ask that he think about them on his own. Then offer to do your part to help him get better. It can be as simple as calling every day to pray with him, offering to make his bed, buy him new pillows (good sleep is important!), whatever simple task cater it to your father’s needs and being.
I implore all of you for Father’s Day to make that start too. Find your angle and have that talk with your father.
I did and in one sentence I burst into tears and finished out an hour long conversation in between sobs.
Dad, I love you and I need you to live long(er)…