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Letting Your Children Move Forward
Did you have a demanding parent that wanted you to live their dream for your life?
I used to play the violin. When I was a teen, I took lessons, and I really liked the instrument. My instructor, Mr. Mattan, was a former violinist in the Washington Symphony. According to him, I was quite good too. So why did I quit?
My mother pushed me too hard. It was her dream to sit up in the front rows of some famed opera house or performing arts center, and watch me sitting in the first chair. She would be so proud, that as she watched me, a tear would escape from the corner of her eye; and as she dabbed at it with a silky handkerchief, she’d say loudly and proudly, “That’s ma baby!”
The result of this dream was endless nagging. She harassed me daily about practicing. After a while, I got sick of it. After all, that was her dream, not mine. I was just enjoying playing, but I had no dreams of making a career of it.
I’ve heard many young men tell about a father who was never satisfied, and whom they could never please because they weren’t the athletic star basketball or football player that “dad” expected out of his son.
Likewise, recently, a friend of mine asked me to help her mom with marketing a talent that the mom has. Her mother has had many opportunities to get her talent out there, including contracts with the government for thousands of dollars. Her history with her product is quite interesting, but it is littered with inaction due to the byproducts of fear; mistrust, misunderstanding, miscommunication. The thing is...it’s her history.
She was talking to me a few days ago, and despite the fact that I had made contact with some manufacturers in China, she was ready to give up again. Every time I make a contact or get a response, she freaks out and starts backing out. I listened to an hour and a half of her depressed reasons why she couldn’t go through with this again.
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The main thing in this entire conversation that stuck out to me, was how the mother faulted her only child for her refusal to give up her dreams and education to assist her, the mother, with her dream; which she, herself had walked away from so many times. The mother claimed that the daughter was selfish because, at 18, she wanted to live her own life.
I felt bad. It made me cry and shortly after the call from the mother, I felt the need to call my own mother. I didn’t want her feeling neglected. Some parents have what one might refer to as an “aloneness syndrome,” in which no matter what, they feel like they are all alone. It makes no difference how much their kids try to spend time with them; it’s not about the effort made, but for them, it’s about having it their way.
Not only must their kids give up time from their busy lives, but the manner of time...the type of time given must be dictated by the parent. They are aware that their kids do have a life. The kids make time for them, but it’s never enough.
This mother, in her 60’s now, is full of regret over all of her missed/ignored opportunities, but what I could not comprehend is how all of this was the fault of her daughter. The mother stated that her daughter would rather go on trips with her friends, than spend time with her. But...honestly, if this is the expectation she throws in her lap on a regular basis, who could blame the daughter?
The Pursuit of Happiness
Why shouldn’t she be able to follow her own dreams, pursue her own interests, and have her own friends and a life? After all, that is what the mother did, despite the fact that she refused to pursue her dreams fully to its natural conclusion and the contracts she wanted.
They were offered, but each time she refused them for various reasons. All things considered, I felt the pain of the mother, which is what made me cry. But at the same time, I felt indignant on the behalf of the daughter.
The mother felt like she was justified in her sentiment, because she felt her daughter should have helped her, seeing as how she grew up watching her struggles and attempts to be a success with her talent. Her daughter saw all the venues her mother’s persistence got her into, despite all the odds against her.
Yet is it fair to expect that just because she was dragged along during the mother’s attempts to establish herself; that later as an adult, the daughter must devote all time to helping her mother, when her mother made her own choices?
Why is it that parents think that their children should give up their lives to focus on the parents when they reach a certain age; when the parents lived their lives, and had their fun, making their plans and choices already? I think it’s a miserable burden to put on their children.
A Choice To Be Made
I don’t have a problem with parents that want to see their grown children, and the children should make time for them. However parents need to consider that they can’t have it both ways.
Some parents couldn’t wait to get their grown kids out of the house. Then, once they age, they are just dying for them to practically live with them. That’s the amount of time they sometimes demand. A choice must be made. Do you want to spend time with your adult children, or is it more important how that time is spent?
This is the dynamic that I see that is causing such issues. The parent is demanding of their adult children’s time, yet at the same time, insistent on how that time is spent, and what that child must do for them.
There are so many retired adults whose children completely ignore them. If your adult child has managed, in this busy world full of distractions, to make time for you, as their parent(s), I think you should be happy that they have made time at all.
After all, you lived your life, and weren’t always available for your children per their desires and your life’s or job’s demands, so why should you, as their parent be so demanding on them at your desire?
Self-Development At Any Age
A major part of the problem lies in parents who make their children the center of their lives, as opposed to developing themselves and their own interests separately. Parents need to take the time to develop themselves. Just because you reach a certain age, does not mean your life is over. And just because you become a parent, does not mean that your entire existence is all about your child. You must make time for yourself and self-interests as well.
Life is meant to be lived to the fullest, and that means developing yourself, and your interests. You can still be productive and of value, but you have to seek out ways to do that, and have a fulfilling life without imposing on your children to the extent of making them miserable and plagued with guilt.
Scripture says, “Seek and ye shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” There’s no age limit on that statement. It’s available for people of any age. You become useless when you make the choice to feel useless, instead of making a choice to be productive and happy. Find what you can contribute to and give of yourself. You will find “family” even in those activities, and your life will be full and happy.