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SKL
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I have been thinking about this a lot.  There is an individual in my extended family who wrote her parents a letter a while back saying "you are dead to me."  I know this family well enough to say that this woman had an idyllic childhood, to the extent her parents could make that happen.  She was the spoiled baby of the family, having several siblings who were much older and doted on her.  Always had one stay-at-home and one working parent (not always the same arrangement - parents discussed and agreed on who would work and who would stay home).  Nobody ever asked her to get a job until well into her 20s; her folks supported her arts and higher education dreams.

One of her written complaints is that her dad didn't spend enough time with her.  He spent time on a [paid] art in addition to his day job.  However, I know that her dad spent time with her.  [And I mean, my kids and most of their friends don't even have a dad at home.]  Another of her written complaints is that they "indoctrinated" her into the Christian religion.  [They are not very religious, but they let her aunt take her to church, and then continued that until she chose to be baptized as a teen.]

She's been living with a guy she met in college, who is clearly of a different mindset [different from her family], for some years.  From what I'd observed before she wrote her whole family off, she was influenced by him a lot.  OK, fine, but if I had her in front of me, I would say:  what happens if you someday decide he isn't the one for you?  If you lose him, his family, and his friends, what will you have left?

Her mom has been battling a potentially deadly cancer for years.  No contact all this time.  She also chose not to attend the funeral of her similar-aged first cousin who died last year.

I just can't stop thinking about this.  What is to stop my kids from doing this 10 years from now?

I'm not sure what I'm asking ... just, how do you process this kind of thing?  Is there anything that can be done to prevent it?

Edited by SKL
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4 minutes ago, SKL said:

Is there anything that can be done to prevent it?

For those who are already doing things well with their kids – good relationships, open communication, lots of love unconditionally, etc., I really don’t think there is. I think there will be some who are just going to do that at some point anyway. From what I’ve seen, some has to do with the kid’s personality and some has to do with what groups they fall in with. “Cutting off” parents is very popular in some social groups. Super sad. Of course, for those parents that are doing things that are responsible for alienating their kids, my answer would be completely different.

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6 minutes ago, SKL said:

I have been thinking about this a lot.  There is an individual in my extended family who wrote her parents a letter a while back saying "you are dead to me."  I know this family well enough to say that this woman had an idyllic childhood, to the extent her parents could make that happen.  She was the spoiled baby of the family, having several siblings who were much older and doted on her.  Always had one stay-at-home and one working parent (not always the same arrangement - parents discussed and agreed on who would work and who would stay home).  Nobody ever asked her to get a job until well into her 20s; her folks supported her arts and higher education dreams.

One of her written complaints is that her dad didn't spend enough time with her.  He spent time on a [paid] art in addition to his day job.  However, I know that her dad spent time with her.  [And I mean, my kids and most of their friends don't even have a dad at home.]  Another of her written complaints is that they "indoctrinated" her into the Christian religion.  [They are not very religious, but they let her aunt take her to church, and then continued that until she chose to be baptized as a teen.]

She's been living with a guy she met in college, who is clearly of a different mindset [different from her family], for some years.  From what I'd observed before she wrote her whole family off, she was influenced by him a lot.  OK, fine, but if I had her in front of me, I would say:  what happens if you someday decide he isn't the one for you?  If you lose him, his family, and his friends, what will you have left?

Her mom has been battling a potentially deadly cancer for years.  No contact all this time.  She also chose not to attend the funeral of her similar-aged first cousin who died last year.

I just can't stop thinking about this.  What is to stop my kids from doing this 10 years from now?

I'm not sure what I'm asking ... just, how do you process this kind of thing?  Is there anything that can be done to prevent it?

Sadly, there are no guarantees with kids and what kind of adults they turn out to be.  I have seen it over and over and in fact I have seen it in my family....my brother and I were raised in the exact same situation and he has turned out to be just.....crazy for lack of a better word.  He fluctuates between telling my mom how wonderful of a mother she was and then itemizing all of her shortcomings and blaming her for all of his woes.  He just breaks my mom's heart constantly.  

It is easy to say, 'well, just be a good parent and you will have a good relationship with them.'  It doesn't always work that way.  Very hard to take that these people we give everything to can potentially turn on us.

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I think society has moved this way, even with good parents.  It’s become quite common, and particularly in certain demographics.  I see it a lot.  Actually, what I see is almost binary—either complete rejection or heavy closeness.  None of the polite roll your eyes but still warm relationships that were more common a generation ago.

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5 minutes ago, KSera said:

For those who are already doing things well with their kids – good relationships, open communication, lots of love unconditionally, etc., I really don’t think there is. I think there will be some who are just going to do that at some point anyway. From what I’ve seen, some has to do with the kid’s personality and some has to do with what groups they fall in with. “Cutting off” parents is very popular in some social groups. Super sad. Of course, for those parents that are doing things that are responsible for alienating their kids, my answer would be completely different.

Yes this.  And although I agree there are times parents are super toxic and no contact makes sense and is healthier.....I wonder how many times it is done to good and loving parents.

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I’ve allowed myself to be cut off from my mom and siblings. My childhood was fine but we don’t get along at all as adults. I finally stopped being the family doormat this year. My mom called me a month ago to yell at me and then hung up, and we haven’t spoken since. I know they are all waiting for me to reach out and make amends (to keep the peace because that’s what I’ve always done in the past) but I’m not doing it this time.

I’m also 100% positive that the story they are telling isn’t the truth and is probably something like the OP - that I’ve cut them out and they are victims. I don’t care enough to set it straight and have decided anyone worth having in my life will reach out to me for the truth. Also, I’m not saying the OP story isn’t accurate just that I know my family is probably saying something similar. 

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These situations are so unique, and I don't think there's any real way of predicting (or 100% achieving) meeting our kids needs and wants throughout childhood -- as seen by their eyes, at various levels of immaturity.

I think some of the firm cutting-off of unwanted parent relationships these days (as opposed to more casual distancing-and-tolerating) might be because of the connected nature of the digital world. My parents moved two provinces away from my grandparents, which, by necessity, meant that they spoke rarely (long distance) and visited as visitors. Although the relationships there were pretty bad, they were able to keep up appearances within those parameters. If the expectations around connectivity had been stronger, maybe true boundaries would have needed to be set. I can't imagine if my Grandma was texting my mom health and diet tips whenever the thought crossed her mind!

I also think that stories can be told different ways. With my kids, and my journey, there is a legitimate and completely truthful way of telling just the worst parts of our story into a pretty serious 'toxic mom' narrative. That's why I always make sure to acknowledge the truth of where my failings have caused damage to my kids. I emphasize that doing 'my best' doesn't always mean that it was right, or good, or what they needed.

In the OP story. a strong effort was made to craft a narrative that had almost no connection to the actual 'complaints' of the daughter. That kind of defensive narrating doesn't help mend things in a broken relationship. A strong first step would be to say, "Yeah, it seemed like a good idea at the time to expose you to religion, but I guess it wasn't. It wasn't clear to us at the time that you would have preferred to keep your distance from Christianity. It was a different time, and I think maybe we let adult peer pressure get to us. Anyhow, we're sorry we made the wrong call there." (And similar things.)

Also a lot of kids who are 'doted on' are also heavily regulated and parents expect to have a lot of influence long beyond the childhood years. This registers as disrespect for most young adults (because it is). This disrespect and sense of constantly being evaluated (judged) for all your choices can lead kids to find childhood reasons to push their parents away. So, maybe that's a factor?

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2 minutes ago, bolt. said:

These situations are so unique, and I don't think there's any real way of predicting (or 100% achieving) meeting our kids needs and wants throughout childhood -- as seen by their eyes, at various levels of immaturity.

I think some of the firm cutting-off of unwanted parent relationships these days (as opposed to more casual distancing-and-tolerating) might be because of the connected nature of the digital world. My parents moved two provinces away from my grandparents, which, by necessity, meant that they spoke rarely (long distance) and visited as visitors. Although the relationships there were pretty bad, they were able to keep up appearances within those parameters. If the expectations around connectivity had been stronger, maybe true boundaries would have needed to be set. I can't imagine if my Grandma was texting my mom health and diet tips whenever the thought crossed her mind!

I also think that stories can be told different ways. With my kids, and my journey, there is a legitimate and completely truthful way of telling just the worst parts of our story into a pretty serious 'toxic mom' narrative. That's why I always make sure to acknowledge the truth of where my failings have caused damage to my kids. I emphasize that doing 'my best' doesn't always mean that it was right, or good, or what they needed.

In the OP story. a strong effort was made to craft a narrative that had almost no connection to the actual 'complaints' of the daughter. That kind of defensive narrating doesn't help mend things in a broken relationship. A strong first step would be to say, "Yeah, it seemed like a good idea at the time to expose you to religion, but I guess it wasn't. It wasn't clear to us at the time that you would have preferred to keep your distance from Christianity. It was a different time, and I think maybe we let adult peer pressure get to us. Anyhow, we're sorry we made the wrong call there." (And similar things.)

Also a lot of kids who are 'doted on' are also heavily regulated and parents expect to have a lot of influence long beyond the childhood years. This registers as disrespect for most young adults (because it is). This disrespect and sense of constantly being evaluated (judged) for all your choices can lead kids to find childhood reasons to push their parents away. So, maybe that's a factor?

So much of this resonated with me. My relationship with my mom was so much better when we lived 1000 miles apart. We would visit each other and spend intentional time together but now that we live close it’s all messed up. Also, the texting! Not with me, but with my young adult dc. She wants to text them whenever and whatever she wants and expects a reply immediately, then gets upset when they don’t. It’s weird and doesn’t help things for her with her grandkids. And, my mom isn’t that old (still works full time, travels, etc) and knows better.

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2 minutes ago, bolt. said:

These situations are so unique, and I don't think there's any real way of predicting (or 100% achieving) meeting our kids needs and wants throughout childhood -- as seen by their eyes, at various levels of immaturity.

I think some of the firm cutting-off of unwanted parent relationships these days (as opposed to more casual distancing-and-tolerating) might be because of the connected nature of the digital world. My parents moved two provinces away from my grandparents, which, by necessity, meant that they spoke rarely (long distance) and visited as visitors. Although the relationships there were pretty bad, they were able to keep up appearances within those parameters. If the expectations around connectivity had been stronger, maybe true boundaries would have needed to be set. I can't imagine if my Grandma was texting my mom health and diet tips whenever the thought crossed her mind!

I also think that stories can be told different ways. With my kids, and my journey, there is a legitimate and completely truthful way of telling just the worst parts of our story into a pretty serious 'toxic mom' narrative. That's why I always make sure to acknowledge the truth of where my failings have caused damage to my kids. I emphasize that doing 'my best' doesn't always mean that it was right, or good, or what they needed.

In the OP story. a strong effort was made to craft a narrative that had almost no connection to the actual 'complaints' of the daughter. That kind of defensive narrating doesn't help mend things in a broken relationship. A strong first step would be to say, "Yeah, it seemed like a good idea at the time to expose you to religion, but I guess it wasn't. It wasn't clear to us at the time that you would have preferred to keep your distance from Christianity. It was a different time, and I think maybe we let adult peer pressure get to us. Anyhow, we're sorry we made the wrong call there." (And similar things.)

Also a lot of kids who are 'doted on' are also heavily regulated and parents expect to have a lot of influence long beyond the childhood years. This registers as disrespect for most young adults (because it is). This disrespect and sense of constantly being evaluated (judged) for all your choices can lead kids to find childhood reasons to push their parents away. So, maybe that's a factor?

Knowing this family, I really don't see them trying to control this young woman into adulthood.  It's not their style.  They have three older kids and that just isn't how they ever did things.

I'm sure there were points of disagreement; who doesn't have those with their kids?  I know I do, with both my kids and my parents.  Is the new standard that we cut off our parents if there are things we might have done differently from them?  Or we demand an apology for something they did with good intentions?

I was telling my daughter yesterday ... I am far from perfect, and not only that, I'm not even going to say that I always did my best every minute of every day.  I waste time looking at music videos on my computer, when maybe I could be spending time with my kids.  Is this unforgivable?  Or is it simply human?  What are people going to be saying to my kids about this?  I mean, I remember being a college student, hearing about "dysfunctional" families and thinking some of that sounded like my family.  I even said a few things I regret.  I fully expect my kids to go through such phases.  But "you are dead to me?"  Gosh.

One of my recurring worries, apart from the OP, is that my kids would make awful life choices and be apart from my ability to help them.  I see visions of myself recharging grocery store gift cards so they would always have something to eat, no matter what.  I really hope my kids will feel that they can always come to me when times are bad, for any reason.  As another friend of mine used to say, I want them to have a "soft place to land."  I dunno.  This kind of thing scares me.

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I think about this often. I have a prickly kid who rewrites history (in which I'm often the villain).  I worry that outside influence might someday convince her to...something. Cut ties or whatever. 😞

Edited by alisoncooks
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I cut off my family.

To outsiders, I was doted on, loved, had plenty of people who cared about me.  Point is, you don't know what goes on when you're not there. You hear one side, and if you choose sides, that's all you'll hear.

To prevent it with my own kids, it means eating humble pie sometimes.  Listening.  Acknowledging the less than rosy parts.  Being willing to move forward and help forge new ties with each other.  It doesn't mean telling a kid it didn't happen that way, that it wasn't that bad, that he should get over it.  It means helping to process and seeing it from a different perspective.  If I shrug it all off with "I did my best.  Sorry." it's going to increase the distance.

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I think sometimes as a parent you can do the absolute best you can and things still happen. Things you never would have thought possible when you were cuddling that sweet, vulnerable baby in your arms. Things like the example in the original post don't surprise me nearly as much as parents who still seem to firmly believe if they just do x, y, z (or whatever their personal game plan is) that their kids will turn out exactly as they want them to. Parenting isn't like baking a cake.

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9 minutes ago, Excelsior! Academy said:

...

Rare visits and texts after acquiring a partner? I think this may still be in the realm of normal and not "cutting off". I often don't hear from DS for several weeks; the expectation of a weekly text would be totally unrealistic. But we still have a great relationship; he asked to come on a trip with us with his gf. He just doesn't have the need for frequent communication. 

Just for perspective. 

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1 hour ago, KSera said:

For those who are already doing things well with their kids – good relationships, open communication, lots of love unconditionally, etc., I really don’t think there is. I think there will be some who are just going to do that at some point anyway. From what I’ve seen, some has to do with the kid’s personality and some has to do with what groups they fall in with. “Cutting off” parents is very popular in some social groups. Super sad. Of course, for those parents that are doing things that are responsible for alienating their kids, my answer would be completely different.

My brother's adult daughters have both cut him off.  (his son thinks he's nuts).  He was toxic even as a teenager.  As far as he's concerned, they've been brainwashed by their "crazy" mothers and he's a complete victim.  Um. . . no. . . .   People who haven't heard his dds side/version, have believed him.  I've seen him up close and personal in how he interacted with his youngest.   People who aren't up-close-and-personal familiar with "toxic mind games" - would think he was being very caring.   He's not - he's manipulative as heck.

 

Those on the outside of family relationships, rarely know what happened inside.  And you're only hearing one side.

 

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55 minutes ago, bolt. said:

I also think that stories can be told different ways. With my kids, and my journey, there is a legitimate and completely truthful way of telling just the worst parts of our story into a pretty serious 'toxic mom' narrative. That's why I always make sure to acknowledge the truth of where my failings have caused damage to my kids. I emphasize that doing 'my best' doesn't always mean that it was right, or good, or what they needed.

You said this so eloquently. Thank you. I try to do the same with my own shortcomings (and also to acknowledge the not-terrible aspects of my own growing up, even though I have been estranged from my own family of origin for most of my adulthood). Family stories and experiences, like the people who live them, are complex.

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8 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Rare visits and texts after acquiring a partner? I think this may still be in the realm of normal and not "cutting off". I often don't hear from DS for several weeks; the expectation of a weekly text would be totally unrealistic. But we still have a great relationship; he asked to come on a trip with us with his gf. He just doesn't have the need for frequent communication. 

Just for perspective. 

We're the same way. DS22 lives here, so of course I have lots of contact with him. DS25 lives a couple of hours away, and it's not unusual at all for us to go a couple of weeks w/o communicating. I know he's okay because I see him reacting/responding to mutual friends on FB. If I don't hear from him for awhile I'll shoot him an "everything going okay?" text, or sometimes he'll do the same to me or DH. We're just not a family that needs tons of communication. But our relationship is solid.

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7 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Rare visits and texts after acquiring a partner? I think this may still be in the realm of normal and not "cutting off". I often don't hear from DS for several weeks; the expectation of a weekly text would be totally unrealistic. But we still have a great relationship; he asked to come on a trip with us with his gf. He just doesn't have the need for frequent communication. 

Just for perspective. 

yeah - kids grow up and have their own lives.   even 2ds - who still lives at home (we're in a HCoL area, and his commute is two miles) .. . . has his own life and there are days I only see him in passing.

I have three more that are out on their own, and it can go weeks without talking to them because we all have lives.  Then we get together (or skype), and have a great time.   

When dds were in college, I was known to drop them an occasional email saying it was "polite to let your parents know you're still alive".   But they were undergrads.   

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33 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

It doesn't mean telling a kid it didn't happen that way, that it wasn't that bad, that he should get over it.  It means helping to process and seeing it from a different perspective.  If I shrug it all off with "I did my best.  Sorry." it's going to increase the distance.

It took me until relatively advanced adulthood to recognize that so much of the way I was spoken to as a kid (who, by the way, was the envy of most of my friend group because I was so spoiled) amounted to gaslighting. I believe being treated the way I was is one reason I have no faith in my own judgment now and why I constantly feel the need to compare my perceptions with others to make sure I'm not crazy.

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31 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

To outsiders, I was doted on, loved, had plenty of people who cared about me.  Point is, you don't know what goes on when you're not there. You hear one side, and if you choose sides, that's all you'll hear

This.

For whatever it’s worth, I’ve calmed down a lot since my dd moved out. She and I would fight similarly to how my mom and I did when I was an older teen. And now we have a good non-cohabitating relationship, just like I (usually, lol) do with my mom. My cut off parent? We got along fine right up until he showed his true, rotten self, and I was done. No long, drawn out public spectacle to be had.  People hide things.

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6 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

My brother's adult daughters have both cut him off.  (his son thinks he's nuts).  He was toxic even as a teenager.  As far as he's concerned, they've been brainwashed by their "crazy" mothers and he's a complete victim.  Um. . . no. . . .   People who haven't heard his dds side/version, have believed him.  I've seen him up close and personal in how he interacted with his youngest.   People who aren't up-close-and-personal familiar with "toxic mind games" - would think he was being very caring.   He's not - he's manipulative as heck.

 

Those on the outside of family relationships, rarely know what happened inside.  And you're only hearing one side.

 

This!

My oldest sibling has had almost no contact with my mom for 20+ years.  It was the right choice for their mental health.  My mom did many of the things described in the OP, staying home, “dedicating herself to her children”.  I am sure my mother’s friends all think she was a wonderful mother and we had an idyllic childhood.  The picture is more complicated than that, and while my brother and I who have better mental health have been able to have a functional adult relationship with very very clear boundaries, for my sibling who has ASD and mental health issues that wasn’t the right option.   

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My brother is mostly estranged from my mother. It's seriously one of my greatest fears as a parent in part because I've watched that unfold.

I agree with others who are saying that it's hard to fully control or predict and it does seem to be getting more common. I've seen statistics that say it is - there was an article in The Economist about it a year or two ago, I think that had some numbers about it.

I also agree that there's no way to know what the real story is unless you're in the thick of it.

In my family's case, my mother was a loving but imperfect parent to my brother. She made a lot of mistakes but also did the best she could to parent as a single mom to a rambunctious, sensory seeking, slightly difficult kid. My brother has done a lot of drugs (he's in the legal pot business now) and I don't think that's helping things, honestly. He has a version of things that is so far apart from anyone else's. My mom can be... annoying sometimes. But she's a million miles away from being a monster. He treats her horribly. Both overtly (calls her names, screams at her, that sort of thing... sometimes she takes the bait and screams back... sigh) and sometimes more covertly (the last time she spent a holiday with him, it was New Year's and his in laws were also there - they all did a giant Christmas gift exchange - there were dozens and dozens of presents including to and front all the adults and my mother brought presents - big ones especially with her fixed income - for them and their kids - they got her nothing at all and when she got home they had sent her a card and a little thing with soap... I was pretty shocked). She keeps trying to make it work and then having to back off. Most recently, she went down there and he let his almost 5 yo scream mean things at her after she let him win at hopscotch but apparently not by enough and he wasn't satisfied. Then he got all worked up by it and picked up the screaming and called her some really vile things in front of the kids. He waited for his wife not to be home, of course. Then he recorded videos of his preschool age children chastising her for leaving and texted them to her and me (I wasn't even there! Leave me out of it!). That was the part that was really unhinged to me. Like, who uses their little kids like that? Anyway, they're not speaking again now. I think it's for the best. I'm dreading having to deal with him whenever she dies. That's when she started talking about cutting him out of her will.

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47 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

I cut off my family.

To outsiders, I was doted on, loved, had plenty of people who cared about me.  Point is, you don't know what goes on when you're not there. You hear one side, and if you choose sides, that's all you'll hear.

To prevent it with my own kids, it means eating humble pie sometimes.  Listening.  Acknowledging the less than rosy parts.  Being willing to move forward and help forge new ties with each other.  It doesn't mean telling a kid it didn't happen that way, that it wasn't that bad, that he should get over it.  It means helping to process and seeing it from a different perspective.  If I shrug it all off with "I did my best.  Sorry." it's going to increase the distance.

IOW: don't gaslight your kids.

And I agree, we have to be willing to apologize when we make mistakes.  Kids are often more willing to give slack to a parent who is sincerely trying and admits errors, vs one who always insists they're right.

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1 hour ago, bolt. said:

I think some of the firm cutting-off of unwanted parent relationships these days (as opposed to more casual distancing-and-tolerating) might be because of the connected nature of the digital world. My parents moved two provinces away from my grandparents, which, by necessity, meant that they spoke rarely (long distance) and visited as visitors. Although the relationships there were pretty bad, they were able to keep up appearances within those parameters. If the expectations around connectivity had been stronger, maybe true boundaries would have needed to be set. I can't imagine if my Grandma was texting my mom health and diet tips whenever the thought crossed her mind!

This is such a great point.  

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1 hour ago, alisoncooks said:

I think about this often. I have a prickly kid who rewrites history (in which I'm often the villain).  I worry that outside influence might someday convince her to...something. Cut ties or whatever. 😞

I have one like this and worry constantly about it 

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A lot of times I think parents and adult kids just end up having nothing in common.  My brother for instance, wants complete acceptance of his choices.  Well, of course his choices are accepted....he is an adult and can do as he pleases.  But what he really wants is complete approval.  That is  just not going to happen in some situations.

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26 minutes ago, Scarlett said:

A lot of times I think parents and adult kids just end up having nothing in common.  My brother for instance, wants complete acceptance of his choices.  Well, of course his choices are accepted....he is an adult and can do as he pleases.  But what he really wants is complete approval.  That is  just not going to happen in some situations.

My dad and I have almost nothing in common. I am fine with it, but he isn't. I feel like he views me as a problem in need of a solution. It's exhausting. 

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5 minutes ago, MissLemon said:

My dad and I have almost nothing in common. I am fine with it, but he isn't. I feel like he views me as a problem in need of a solution. It's exhausting. 

I can imagine. It is probably exhausting for him too.  Sometimes two people just can't really have much of a relationship regardless of dna.  But that is not the same as 'you are dead to me.'

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35 minutes ago, Scarlett said:

A lot of times I think parents and adult kids just end up having nothing in common.  My brother for instance, wants complete acceptance of his choices.  Well, of course his choices are accepted....he is an adult and can do as he pleases.  But what he really wants is complete approval.  That is  just not going to happen in some situations.

I think that this is at the heart of a lot of modern cut offs—the idea that disagreeing with or even not being enthusiastic about one’s choices is devastating and deserves complete rejection.

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I've neither cut off my (was abusive, is no longer) parent, nor have my kids cut me off, but I have both observed this as an increasingly recommended option and wished I'd known things like 'going low contact' earlier, mostly in regards to my ILs.

I have three thoughts. 

1. Give adult kid some space. Try not to be all up in their business. Demonstrate that you trust them to make good decisions, and fix poor ones. 

2. Develop your own life such that you don't have expectations of things like grandchildren, or adult kid staying close etc. Nice bonuses but not part of your well-being. 

3. Pray that one of their mistakes isn't the toxic outsider/group. But if it is, stay mild. Don't criticise. Don't argue. But do keep reaching out in non-intrusive ways, even through times when it isn't reciprocated. Cut yourself off if the toxic person/group becomes a threat to your well-being. 

Ok. Four thoughts. If adult kid does go LC or no contact...

4. Be honest with yourself. Is there a way you're contributing to the problem? Don't be arrogant about it, or victimy..do some humble self searching, make amends as best you can. Don't be 'but all the things I did for you!'

Ok. Five. 

5. Parents don't have to be adult child punching bags. It's OK to walk away from an abusive relationship, even if your own adult child is the abuser. Verbal and emotional abuse just as bad as physical. Adults are responsible for their actions, even if you birthed them. Parent-adult relationships are a two way street. 

 

 

 

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Families don't always teach much about boundaries.

The chances of falling victim to domestic violence inspired "You are dead to me" is lower if your kids have adequate boundaries and understand domestic violence.

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There’s absolutely nothing to stop your kid from doing that 10 years from now. 

Because there’s absolutely nothing to stop your kids from growing up and having mental illness, be in an abusive or controlling relationship, or just decide they hate everything about you/your family life bc they just don’t want to live that way or tolerate it for visits.

Most of the time there’s more going on that can make that reasonable to an extent. 

Most of the time that doesn’t happen at all. 

But yeah. Sometimes free will is a total bitch that breaks parental hearts.

So love your kids and be open and honest with them. And pray for the best. That’s all we’ve got in the end.

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1 hour ago, gardenmom5 said:

IOW: don't gaslight your kids.

And I agree, we have to be willing to apologize when we make mistakes.  Kids are often more willing to give slack to a parent who is sincerely trying and admits errors, vs one who always insists they're right.

Yes.

It helps that my oldest realizes he's almost 3 years older now than I was when he was born.  He can step for a moment into my shoes and know I really and truly had no idea what I was doing because at this point in his life, he wouldn't know what he's doing either. 😄 It helps to bridge some of that gap between the "but you were an adult!" feeling when he was a kid and knowing that adults are just grown up kids doing their best, and falling down a lot.
 

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I have some insight into both sides of this. My mother has a personality disorder and refused to give me the space to make my own marriage and new family the way I wanted it, so I cut her off over 20 years ago. I have no contact with one of my siblings and a surface relationship with the other. That all works fine and dandy for me. 
 

I also have one child who constantly rewrites history and in her retelling, she is always the victim and I am emotionally abusive to her. I ask my other kids, “Is there any way this happened?” And all 4 of them say no. My version is the version they lived and experienced and now remember. I don’t think my kid is lying. I think she is genuinely confused. This happens with her friends and roommates too. I read about something called “tendency towards interpersonal victimization” which describes her to a T. 
 

She isn’t cutting me off and I’m not cutting her off, but it is clear that she doesn’t trust my interpretation of events the way that my other children do. She is also my husband’s favored child, so he never told her no about anything while I insisted that I love her enough to be the bad guy and actually set limits for her and tell her the truth about her behavior. 
 

So I see both sides of it. I get to be both the ungrateful child who cut ties with her mother, and also the evil mother who is never good enough. My husband wonders if part of it is just an inherited personality trait. My best friend swears to me that my daughter has been this way since she was tiny. 
 

 

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My husband and I are both victims of narcissistic abuse. I guarantee you everyone from the outside looking in sees us exactly the way you see this girl. I don't believe people cut their family off for no reason. I don't think you know the whole story.

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9 minutes ago, Slache said:

My husband and I are both victims of narcissistic abuse. I guarantee you everyone from the outside looking in sees us exactly the way you see this girl. I don't believe people cut their family off for no reason. I don't think you know the whole story.

Same for us.  It was always so uncomfortable telling people my mother and I were estranged because she made sure no one (or very few people) saw her evil dangerous nasty spiteful side.  People had no clue and thought I was being unreasonable.  Same with DH's parents although they aren't/weren't as dangerous as my mother.  

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1 hour ago, Slache said:

My husband and I are both victims of narcissistic abuse. I guarantee you everyone from the outside looking in sees us exactly the way you see this girl. I don't believe people cut their family off for no reason. I don't think you know the whole story.

I believe that this is a possibility.

But, it is also a possibility that the person in question has a victim personality and re-writes history.

There is a 50/50 chance of either being the truth.

We have a family member "victim" who remembers and perceives everything very differently than the rest of the family. They have not cut contact, but they are not easy to be around due to their extreme negativity, jealousy, and bitterness at imagined events. The "whole story" in this case is untreated (and refusal to treat) mental illness.

 

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I wouldn't assume that her childhood was as idyllic as it looked.  Sometimes parents that are reasonably well meaning aren't the parent a kid needs at a certain phase.  Some parents can paint a picture that's very different for the kid in the situation.  I'm sure plenty of people would say I had a wonderful childhood, but I had many bumpy years with my parents for reasons I can articulate well now at age 51.  I do think my parents were reasonably well meaning.  But they were busy and self absorbed and were products of their own dysfunctional upbringing.  It did lead to some distance and prickliness my young adult years.  But frankly, I never had good modeling dealing with or articulating emotions.  It's easy just to point at a young adult and say wow what a jerk.  But maybe there were issues in the closet.  Maybe they would have benefitted from mental health care earlier in life.  My parents had very little tolerance for any negative emotion or angst my teenage years.  Usually family problems are complex and multidimensional.  I have a reasonably good relationship with my mom now.  My dad really changed his last year and was a much kinder and more empathetic person after suffering with heart failure for many years.  I benefitted with some intentional therapy and work on my emotions about my childhood that really brought forth a lot of self awareness.  Work my parents certainly would have never been willing to do.  None of us are perfect parents, I am very intentional about admitting my mistakes to my own kids.

Edited by FuzzyCatz
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13 minutes ago, FuzzyCatz said:

I wouldn't assume that her childhood was as idyllic as it looked.  Sometimes parents that are reasonably well meaning aren't the parent a kid needs at a certain phase.  I'm sure plenty of people would say I had a wonderful childhood, but I had many bumpy years with my parents for reasons I can articulate well now at age 51.  I do think my parents were reasonably well meaning.  But they were busy and self absorbed and were products of their own dysfunctional upbringing.  It did lead to some distance and prickliness my young adult years.  But frankly, I never had good modeling dealing with or articulating emotions.  It's easy just to point at a young adult and say wow what a jerk.  But maybe there were issues in the closet.  Maybe they would have benefitted from mental health care earlier in life.  My parents had very little tolerance for any negative emotion or angst my teenage years.  Usually family problems are complex and multidimensional.  I have a reasonably good relationship with my mom now.  My dad really changed his last year and was a much kinder and more empathetic person after suffering with heart failure for many years.  

Of course families are complicated.  People aren’t perfect……parents or children……But not sure a lot of that rises to the level of ‘you are dead to me’.

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17 minutes ago, fraidycat said:

I believe that this is a possibility.

But, it is also a possibility that the person in question has a victim personality and re-writes history.

There is a 50/50 chance of either being the truth.

We have a family member "victim" who remembers and perceives everything very differently than the rest of the family. They have not cut contact, but they are not easy to be around due to their extreme negativity, jealousy, and bitterness at imagined events. The "whole story" in this case is untreated (and refusal to treat) mental illness.

 

Exactly. My brother remembers things that just did not happen.  

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2 hours ago, Scarlett said:

I can imagine. It is probably exhausting for him too.  Sometimes two people just can't really have much of a relationship regardless of dna.  But that is not the same as 'you are dead to me.'

I don't really have a lot of empathy for his exhaustion. 🤷‍♀️ He could accept me as is and save himself the fatigue.  Doesn't seem like he's interested in that plan, so I guess he'll just have to be tired. 

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4 hours ago, gardenmom5 said:

Those on the outside of family relationships, rarely know what happened inside.  And you're only hearing one side.

Yep, this. 

I'm sure my mom tells some serious sob stories about why I don't talk to her much anymore. (We text and occasionally visit, but I won't talk on the phone with her and keep my distance -- we're pretty low contact.) When I try to tell my mom what kinds of things she does that bother me, she tends to trivialize them to some total nonsense, like the kind of stuff mentioned in the OP. 

This is a good read: 

https://www.issendai.com/psychology/estrangement/missing-missing-reasons.html

Edited by Not_a_Number
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8 minutes ago, Scarlett said:

Of course families are complicated.  People aren’t perfect……parents or children……But not sure a lot of that rises to the level of ‘you are dead to me’.

Hmm ... if it's at that level, there is mental illness involved or something else.  Emotionally healthy people with good 2 way relationships don't just randomly sever ties.    

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15 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Yep, this. 

I'm sure my mom tells some serious sob stories about why I don't talk to her much anymore. (We text and occasionally visit, but I won't talk on the phone with her and keep my distance -- we're pretty low contact.) When I try to tell my mom what kinds of things she does that bother me, she tends to trivialize them to some total nonsense, like the kind of stuff you mentioned in the OP. 

This is a good read: 

https://www.issendai.com/psychology/estrangement/missing-missing-reasons.html

That was an excellent read.  Thank you.  

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6 minutes ago, Scarlett said:

That was an excellent read.  Thank you.  

Thank you! Yeah, I saw this linked somewhere a few months ago and thought it was great. It's worth looking through the whole site, if this is the kind of thing you're interested in. 

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You never know.  Seriously, you can be a very observant person and around others on a very regular basis and you still don't really know what goes on behind their closed doors when you're not there.  It could a be a parent problem, it could be a child problem, it could be a some of each problem.  Unless you have secretly placed video cameras inside their home and regularly review the footage, you don't know.

We live in a polarized culture fueled by all or nothing thinking, and some subcultures and personality types are more prone to it. The culture also is increasingly aware of genuinely toxic behaviors, so victims feel more empowered now than ever before to establish and enforce boundaries. Add to that mental illness that can fuel the toxic behavior and/or imagined victimization. Parents are better off conscientiously doing the best they can and understanding their limitations.

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Very interesting topic. I have been on these boards for over 10 years and I have been surprised at how many people « cut off » their parents. In addition, I have noticed there seems to be an even greater trend for cutting off in-laws and I have wondered how this would play out as the children of the group become adults and then continue this practice. This article in the Atlantic answered some of my questions. It appears that it is in part due to a major cultural shift regarding the role of families and the view of duty  to a family.  In a nutshell the newer generations place a higher value on personal fulfillment than familial loyalty. I am definitely from the older generation here so I had not experienced this growing up. The article gives insights into this trend. Well worth the read.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/617612/

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1 hour ago, FuzzyCatz said:

Hmm ... if it's at that level, there is mental illness involved or something else.  Emotionally healthy people with good 2 way relationships don't just randomly sever ties.    

I think that’s completely true. It’s just that sometimes the one who severed ties is the one that refuses to engage in a 2-way relationship and has mental/emotional health issues.  Sucks. But there’s the truth of it in many cases. I would not presume it’s the family they’ve severed ties with that has the issues. 

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You know, a lot of this discussion seems to imply or assume that one side of the equation is to blame. I'm not sure that's always true.

As a witness to my brother and mother's estrangement (and I'm basically estranged from him too, so I'm not a total unbiased outsider)... I don't feel like either of them are fully to blame. Like, he is the one who is harder to reason with. But in the thick of it, when the **** starts getting slung around, they can both be horrible. She has had some truly bad moments in how she deals with people and he brings out the worst in her. Like, he generally starts it by setting up a trap that she walks right into or he just starts up accusing her of everything under the sun all in a row and doesn't listen to any attempts to discuss, apologize, process, etc. When he gets going, you can't get a word in edgewise and if you try he pulls out foul mouthed sexist language for you. His grievances are warped and he perseverates over things and twists them... but she also made a lot of big mistakes when he was growing up, many of which she has never fully owned in my view, making it hard for him to even have had a chance to heal from those wounds. It's probably too late now - the wounds have healed wrong and she can't go back and fix how she dealt with them then and he has zero sense of grace. But I think in the rest of his life that he's not as utterly dysfunctional as he is around my mother and I. My mother is definitely not as dysfunctional as she is when she's walking into his little traps and when he's riling her up by screaming at her what a c*** she is. Ds thinks my brother is really horrible too... he says that brother is the most narcissistic person he's ever met. Ds does not suffer fools and always calls it exactly as it is. But... I feel like he's a loving father and usually a pretty sane person. 

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