Ways Your Parents Still Trigger You
Nobody quite understands us and misunderstands us, all at the same time, the way our parents do. Am I right? I know. It is frustrating. They’ve known you your entire life. They know the kid in you. And, in many ways, the kid in you is the real you. There are elements of you that you have carried with you since childhood, and will always carry with you, and that’s good—that’s the real you, unencumbered by the worries and complexes adulthood give us. But there are other elements of the kid in you that you have done away with, and it’s for the better. Maybe you have become more confident, while you used to be so insecure. Maybe you have become more patient, while you used to throw a tantrum over anything.
Unfortunately, it can be hard for our parents to detangle the good parts of kid you from the bad parts of kid you that they know. They might always see you just the way you were when you were seven years old, and treat you as such. That can be frustrating. It can lead them to say things to you and believe things about you that just aren’t true (anymore), and are rather hurtful.
Then there’s the simple fact that our parents worry about us deeply. They literally wake up every day, live, and breathe, just to be our parents—even when we’re grown up. So they’re very invested in our lives. They can’t just say nothing when they see something that concerns them. For all of these reasons and more, our parents can say and do things that deeply trigger us. But you must understand, for all these reasons and more, that they don’t mean to. You may not be able to change them; you have just to change your response to them. Here are signs your parents still trigger you.
Comments about your clothes set you off
When you visit your parents, sometimes you step out of your room (or the guest room) and they immediately say something like, “You’re going to wear that?” “That’s inappropriate, change,” or “Why don’t you wear the dress I gave you?” and it makes your blood boil. In fact, you put on something even more inappropriate just to remind them you’re an adult who can dress herself.
Hey, they dressed you for 18 years
Try to understand that your parents literally dressed you for much of your childhood, and financially dressed you until you were 18. They can’t just shake off the instinct to participate in your appearance. And, in their eyes, you are a reflection of them and their parenting—even if you’re a full-grown adult.
A career question feels like a career rejection
When they ask things like, “So, is it normal for this to take so long?” “Is there any upward mobility in that job?” or “But what does one really do with that skill?” you feel like they’re saying, “The industry you have chosen is stupid and useless. We are just waiting for you to figure that out.” You become very defensive, and sometimes even begin criticizing their jobs.
They want you to meet your potential
Your parents just want you to meet your potential. They aren’t even necessarily saying that you aren’t meeting it, but they’ll always want to check in and make sure you’re meeting it. Because they think it’s great. They also probably aren’t that familiar with many of the jobs that exist today, because they didn’t exist when they were your age. Like…social media strategist…what?!?
They may not understand your potential
Your parents may truly just not understand your potential. That’s not to say that they don’t think you’re capable of great things. They just had different great things in mind for you, and they didn’t realize that, along the way, you developed some surprising skills that they don’t know about. So show them. Invite them to see your work. Help them understand.
A comment on your income feels like judgment
“That’s all they’re paying you?” “Can you ask for more?” “How do you live like that?” and questions/comments like those can feel like a judgment of your accomplishments, or choice in work. You might overreact, start picking apart how much money they made in their jobs, and say things like, “You don’t even know how hard I work and you never worked this hard!”
All parents want their kids to be rich
Hey, honestly, every parent on the planet wants her kids to be wealthy. Every parent wants her kids to not just support themselves, but to be able to stay at five-star resorts, buy nice cars, and put their kids through private schools, all while living in mansions with full staff. That’s what they want for their babies, so they’ll always want you to make more money.
And they may not understand the landscape
Your parents may not really understand the economical and professional landscape right now. They may not be familiar with gig economy, and just how normal it is for people to have several small jobs while pursuing their passion. They may not understand what the going rate is for certain jobs, and how that’s actually very reasonable. Things are different now from when they were your age.
You always fight when you’re together
You always find yourself fighting when you’re together. When you visit them, you feel like you’re counting down the minutes until they make one of their comments. When they do make such a comment, you feel they are picking a fight. You explode. You ask, “Why do you always do this!” and storm off. Or you say something intentionally hurtful, and escalate the conflict.
But they don’t seem to understand why
Meanwhile, they do not understand why you two fight. They’re genuinely shocked by your reaction. They don’t know what they did wrong. If that’s the case, it’s because they didn’t realize their comment was rude or hurtful in some way. They were just thinking out loud. They thought the comment would come off a different way than it did.
Comments about your partner infuriate you
Your parents will say little things about your partner—like about his facial hair, his job, how much he did (or didn’t) help you with something, how many beers he has at dinner, and things like that. They make you so mad. You tell them that if they won’t accept him, you won’t be visiting them anymore.
Nobody will ever be good enough for you
Try to understand that, in your parents’ eyes, nobody will ever be good enough for their baby. They reared you, protected you, and cared for you your entire life. You are their entire life. You’re the most precious commodity they have. And they scrutinize every partner you bring home, with all of that in mind.
And a good partner will get that
A good partner will understand that your parents are going to hold him up to high standards. He won’t mind because he wants to be the best partner he can be for you. He also probably has parents that behave the same way. So don’t sweat it too much: any man who wants to spend his life with you should be willing to put up with this.
You hate their outdated view of you
You just feel like when your parents look at you, they still see the eight-year-old girl who fell off the swings and cried very loudly, who used to cut her doll’s hair, who used to get scared at sleepovers, and who had her heart shattered by her boyfriend when she was 13 years old. They don’t acknowledge all of the personal work you’ve done and all of the progress you’ve made. And that makes you very mad.
Hey, you know it isn’t true
So long as you know that you’ve grown up, that you’ve made strides, that you’ve matured, that you’re smarter, that you’re wiser, that you’re successful, and you’re proud of yourself, that’s really all that should matter, right? And if those things are true, your parents will see it in due time.