Patricia Redlich

Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Daughter Dismisses Me

25th October, 2009


I'm 52 years old, married for over 30 years and have four grown-up children, three boys in their mid-twenties and a daughter who is almost 20 years old. I have always worked full-time and my husband is a farmer. We have an ordinary life, had no major hassle with the children as they grew up, they played the usual sports, and as parents we took an interest, turning up for matches, the normal stuff. On the home front there were simple rules about meal times, laundry baskets, needing to know where they were, collecting them from discos.

The three boys had no problems with any of this, but our daughter did. She always objected. And when she did her leaving cert and was offered a place in college, she turned it down, taking a job locally instead. Still living at home, she started staying out late, refusing to tell us where she was, never answering her mobile, never having family meals with us, refusing to contribute financially and refusing to fit in with the rhythm of the family when it came to house-work and clothes washing - all of which caused a lot of family friction, not to mention worry for myself and my husband. It also caused a lot of rows between her father and me. I tried to discuss the issues with her, but got nowhere. Her father adores her and she took advantage of this, time and time again. He either cannot, or will not, see through this. Certainly he won't reprimand her about her conduct and attitude.

Late last year she moved into rented accommodation, turned up on Christmas day for a few hours, and has visited us perhaps four times this year. She makes no attempt to communicate with us. On several occasions I've attempted to see her in town for a coffee, or lunch, but she refused to meet me. She also refused to allow me visit her flat. Where did we go wrong with her? Two of the boys live at home, have girlfriends who call in regularly, and socialise with their father and myself at local events. And the one who is away at college comes home regularly. How can four people who were reared the same way turn out so differently? What did I do wrong? This is the first thought I have every day, and the last one I have every night.

I don't know that you did anything wrong. Your daughter rebelled, refused to conform to the family's pace, did things differently. But does that mean you did something wrong? I don't think so.

A therapist friend of mine said recently that each sibling has different parents. Sorry, that sounds like a trick quiz question so I'll start again. People talk about the eldest child syndrome, or the middle child phenomenon, or how it's different being the youngest. In truth, each child experiences his or her parents differently. It's not that parents love one child more or less - although that can happen too. Parent and child interaction is a two-way process. And children come in different shapes and sizes, psychologically, emotionally, biologically and intellectually. Each child challenges us differently.

It probably is significant that the one to do it differently was a daughter, and an only daughter at that. It's not just that your husband adores her, and presumably let her away with murder. Or that the two of you openly disagreed on how to handle her, giving her pretty explicit permission to defy you. Daughters have a different relationship with their mothers than boys. And perhaps the kind of woman you are, and the kind of woman your daughter aspired to be, simply clashed. Or perhaps it had nothing to do with you at all really. Perhaps she never felt cut out for cosy family togetherness.

The point is, your daughter is doing fine. She's just not mature enough yet to handle her differences with you in a more confident and mature manner. She can't face your disappointment, disapproval, or just plain unhappiness because, having bucked the system, she's still busy putting a shape on a different kind of lifestyle, and feels vulnerable. And she's probably particularly sensitive to you, since you were forced into the 'baddie' role of disciplinarian, while your husband bowed out. So she's harsh, uncompromising, and ruthless in her withdrawal. That's what insecure people do.

Let go. You didn't go wrong. Your daughter chose differently. Swallow your disappointment. Respect her choices. Stop trying to change her. Soften up on yourself and on her. Say goodbye to the blame game. Tell her you love her, miss her, and would be happy just to have her company for an hour or so. And keep plugging away.
Irish based professional therapist and journalist. Website By : Deise Design