WHEN CAN YOU CLAIM ADULTHOOD?

Some moms never stop nudging. It was their job for many years, after all.

-Elizabeth Bernstein

This quote is from the article Calling a Truce in Mother-Daughter Conflict | Bonds by Elizabet Bernstein – WSJ.com and the article is about a new trend in therapy, mothers and their adult daughters in mother/daughter therapy.  The article annoyed me, so this is a bit of a crank.

Let it be known I did not have a good relationship with my mother.  I never felt I pleased her.  I think she wanted a debutante type of daughter and I was a book worm type.   According to the article that is fairly typical.  And that is partly what irritated me about the premise of the article.  Typical behavior was pathologized.

I was also annoyed by the use of the words “Mother Wound.” I might have been less annoyed if “Daughter Wound” was somewhere in the mix.  Although there was some attempt at balance, Mother was obviously the main villain. If you know me, you know I hate parent bashing, particularly by the media, therapists, and adult children.

Finally, the tips at the end were all very good, but like most advice offered in such articles, easy to spout as a writer or a therapist or a mother to a daughter or a daughter to a mother, but hard to do. I now have a very good relationship with my mother.  It began when she died and I no longer had expectations of a positive relationship.

And that is my main point. Relationships are hard; relationships are wonderful; relationships are painful; particularly when you are in each other’s lives regularly or have been and so live embedded in your mind.

What is a parent to do?   One of my favorite theorists in the shrink field was Theodore Reik.  He maintained that one only attained adulthood when you forgave your parents and hoped they forgave you.  Therapy helped me do that, as did knowing my mother had been physically abused as a child and she did not physically abuse me or my brothers.  But I was able to find total forgiveness and gratitude for what she did give me only when she died.  I wish I could have been completely forgiving while she was alive;  doing so is hard when you continue to be wounded.

You will wound your children just as they will wound you.  If you are wise and strong and lucky, you will be more nurturing than wounding.  Another of my shrink gurus was Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Therapy.  He coined the word “Awfulizing” to describe the human tendency to make mountains out of mole hills.  The idea that parenting should be conflict free has lead to awfulizing the normal slings and arrows, slights and wounds that go with raising a child.  So try your best, but also expect the wounds and practice forgiveness.

Keep caring and make certain you care for you, it is the only way to stay strong.

Katherine

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