A perspective from a distance.
January 14, 2015 11:03 AM   Subscribe

A mother estranged from her adult sons searches for answers in American culture. She has started a social network (now a nonprofit organization) for others in similar circumstances. A documentary may be in the works.
posted by prefpara (201 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
 
I give to you this response from The Toast. Which pretty much says it all as far as I'm concerned.

Because people with certain personality disorders always cast everyone else as the narcissist/borderline/hysteric in their own personal shitshow, where they themselves of course are the purest of martyred victims.
posted by blue suede stockings at 11:06 AM on January 14, 2015 [113 favorites]


I feel like I'm missing something. Maybe you were a just a horrible parent?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:08 AM on January 14, 2015 [21 favorites]


I believe that a culture of “self-esteem” — give everybody an award, change dress sizes so larger people feel smaller, allow teens to be disrespectful to those in authority — has set the tone and created a possible outcome I don’t think anyone expected: the idea that it’s OK to cut off contact with your parents.

I mean, yeah? It's good? A lot of people out there are probably not suffering through Thanksgiving dinners silently at the same table as their abuser/s?
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:08 AM on January 14, 2015 [44 favorites]


Yeah, this is just the absolute worst thing I've read in a long time.

You have TWO children who won't talk to you, and you basically blame "self-esteem"?
posted by lattiboy at 11:09 AM on January 14, 2015 [68 favorites]


The fact that both, not just one of the sons, are estranged speaks louder than anything in this piece.
posted by dr_dank at 11:10 AM on January 14, 2015 [46 favorites]


Look, it's clear this noxious culture of self-esteem gave them the courage to get away from her and that's wrong - children are servants and accessories after all.
posted by The Whelk at 11:14 AM on January 14, 2015 [56 favorites]


That was exactly my reaction, dr_dank. You can end up estranged from one child for entirely random reasons, they could join a cult, they could marry someone who really doesn't approve of you, etc. But when it's both, it pretty strongly suggests that they have some not so fond memories of growing up.
posted by tavella at 11:14 AM on January 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Most of the parents I talk to are boomers, who share similar values and beliefs..."

Me generation
posted by methinks at 11:19 AM on January 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


Any time the complaints about "self-esteem" and/or "political correctness" and/or "participation medals" come trotting out you can pretty much bet that this person can be safely ignored. Some people will do anything to avoid introspection.
posted by bleep at 11:19 AM on January 14, 2015 [44 favorites]


Maybe a bunch of estranged parents conversing with each other will lead to some discoveries among themselves. If not that, maybe some comfort. Even people who have hurt other people can benefit from some comfort.
posted by amtho at 11:20 AM on January 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm a millenial and have never received an award, medal, or trophy for participation. Does this actually happen outside of boomer-authored generational wankpieces?
posted by almostmanda at 11:21 AM on January 14, 2015 [131 favorites]


Yeah the self-esteem thing is pretty bad, but the real problem is that playgrounds have become just too safe. Every kid should either receive a debilitating injury or witness one of their playmates die a horrible death, otherwise they turn out soft.
posted by Poldo at 11:23 AM on January 14, 2015 [42 favorites]


Also they never closed school down for snow or cold when I was a kid and that's probably why kids can't stop looking at their screens and also we used to have sitcom plots about how people didn't have insurance. Thanks Obama.

I have to joke because, despite wanting to just dismiss everything this woman ever says or does based on this short article, it has also made me very sad.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:26 AM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


Let's hope this mother never discovers all the AskMe's about how to cut ties with one's toxic parents and family members.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:26 AM on January 14, 2015 [37 favorites]


I mean, I have a medal for participation in a triathlon. But I feel like I earned that.
posted by Polyhymnia at 11:27 AM on January 14, 2015 [26 favorites]


I read this and actually felt dizzy afterward. Oh boy.

I haven't spoken to my father in many years. I was not horribly abused or anything like that. He's just not a nice guy, and in my brother's case this had a big negative impact since my brother already suffered from mental illness. Sometimes you can be "ok" from a legal and societal perspective of "not abusive", and still not be someone I want to hang out with or talk to.

My mother, who is divorced from him and has maybe spoken to him twice in the last five years, does not get this at all. She feels like I should communicate with him, because he's my father.

I... that's just not a good enough reason.
posted by selfnoise at 11:29 AM on January 14, 2015 [80 favorites]


As an "evil" child. This made me shudder.
posted by pan at 11:29 AM on January 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


Does this actually happen outside of boomer-authored generational wankpieces?

Oooooh, I got one of those once. It was for one of those races where you build a crazy wheeled vehicle, and race it downhill. I came in dead last, and got a ribbon that said, "Participant."

8-year-old me would have rather gotten nothing, so I ended up feeling even worse than I already did, and ran home, crying.

So I guess it didn't help my self-esteem?
posted by god hates math at 11:32 AM on January 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


All this started because of a personal email they felt entitled to read on my computer.
So... what was in that email?
posted by Jacqueline at 11:34 AM on January 14, 2015 [41 favorites]


I am so relieved to see that it wasn't just my reaction that this woman is full of sh*t.
posted by airgirl at 11:35 AM on January 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


Narcissism has been long been associated with the notion of entitlement, which typically suggests a lack of empathy, a feeling of superiority and a tendency to overreact to criticism.

In previous generations, no one worried about a child’s self-esteem. In the past, elders’ experiences were valued and their children listened to them. Estrangement did happen, but it appeared to be reserved for parents cutting off a wayward child — the “black sheep” of the family.

Hmm. Hmmmmm, I say. Entitlement? Lack of empathy? Superiority? What did you just say this was associated with?
posted by desuetude at 11:36 AM on January 14, 2015 [24 favorites]


The essay was so insubstantial that it sort of slid over me like water.

All I'm left with is a BURNING NEED to know what was in that email.

Seriously this is going to haunt me for days.

You could organize an entire short fiction collection just on that premise: "The email that caused all of my adult children to stop talking to me for some mysterious reason."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:37 AM on January 14, 2015 [124 favorites]


I've seen some of this in my own extended family- not too close, thank god, but I'm related to people whose parents are basically awful human beings and whose children refuse to have anything to do with them. I see the parents at family reunions (nothing will make you more grateful for your healthy relationships than close exposure to unhealthy ones, let me tell you) and nod my way through their self-justifying babble, which every conversation comes back around to. This article? That is how they sound, to the point where I had to take a moment to check the byline.

That she won't go into any detail about the estrangement, only ramble about how terribly she's been treated and fumble for somebody to blame, is so horribly telling.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:38 AM on January 14, 2015 [29 favorites]


I can't help but take the illustrative stock photo as a clue: this woman glaring out at me while her husband totally ignores her, reading the paper in the background almost as if there were a thought bubble above his head saying "There she goes again".
posted by chavenet at 11:39 AM on January 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.

I love how she frames "parents cutting off a wayward child — the “black sheep” of the family," as a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but HOW ON EARTH could the kids serve it right back to their shitty controlling parents?
posted by Myca at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2015 [55 favorites]


It's a horrible thing to deliberately make a permanent breach in a family, one that negatively affects generations of people, and it should only be done in extreme circumstances. Taking advantage of one woman's lame theory about self-esteem to mock an entire class of suffering people is unkind and uncharitable. Hopefully some of these families reconcile.
posted by michaelh at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm a millenial and have never received an award, medal, or trophy for participation. Does this actually happen outside of boomer-authored generational wankpieces?

Video games?

Seriously though, I almost want to create a "boomer wankpiece" participation ribbon or sticker to mail out to people who write this kind of crap.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:41 AM on January 14, 2015 [22 favorites]


there are some great comments to this under the article. here is a particularly good one:

Both of my grown children are estranged from me. So, I did a bunch of research and set up social groups to communicate with other people in similar situations and discovered that it is my children's fault. They are a couple of narcissists. That helps ME really understand the whole situation. I am really glad about that because it was really bothering ME. Infact, it was really making MY life hard and stopping ME from finding MY peace and happiness as I age. MY happiness and contentment should not be interfered with because this is MY life here.

posted by ghostbikes at 11:42 AM on January 14, 2015 [62 favorites]


I think I got an end of season participation trophy for teeball? But given that it had no meaning, it was meaningless to me and did not affect my self-esteem one way or the other. It may actually have watered down other actual awards I eventually received rendering them into cheap pieces of plastic anyone could buy easily. In conclusion, this anecdotal evidence of mine proves that the entire boomer generation caused all of Gen-Y to be cynical, excuse while I run off to found a private social network full of people who agree with me.

This woman works in advertising I would call this article astro-turfing, but it's so completely unsympathetic that that can't be true.

Also this is my favorite quote from the article:

They accuse me of being a terrible person, but won’t elaborate about exactly what I’ve done. Well, sometimes they do, but it doesn’t make sense, at least to me.

I ask my children what's bothering them about our relationship, but when they tell me their concerns they seem so silly and unreasonable.
posted by edbles at 11:42 AM on January 14, 2015 [46 favorites]


Sarah Koenig needs to investigate what was in this email.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:43 AM on January 14, 2015 [88 favorites]


From the article: "At the same time, 76 percent of the adult children say that being estranged has affected their well-being (even though it appears to have been their choice)."

I checked the survey. She doesn't ask whether it affected their well-being positively or negatively; the first possibility doesn't seem to have occurred to her.

Hopefully some of these families reconcile.
posted by michaelh at 11:40 AM on January 14


I can't hope for that without knowing what caused the estrangement, and whether "reconciliation" would entail an abusive parent resuming the abuse.
posted by heisenberg at 11:44 AM on January 14, 2015 [21 favorites]


Eh, my knee jerk reaction was to blame her, also, but on second thought I don't know if that's really productive. We don't really know anything. Maybe this woman is crazy, maybe her kids are assholes, maybe both, maybe neither. People are complicated and we have no facts. It feels harsh to me to just write her off as a nutbar when we know nothing.

Of course, being so vague about her situation is her choice as well. Dunno that dragging out each excruciating detail of her dispute with her sons for the internet's delectation would be an A+ way to start the healing process either.
posted by Diablevert at 11:44 AM on January 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


Taking advantage of one woman's lame theory about self-esteem to mock an entire class of suffering people is unkind and uncharitable.

It's not just about her self-esteem theory (or at least it's not for me), it's about her absolute lack of self-awareness that she may have been part of the issue. I suspect, of course that she is 100% of the issue, but I'm not asking for that - just some awareness that she's fucked up, she's fucked up badly, and if she wants to have a relationship with her kids, she needs to make it better.

I mean, this is weird, obsessive, and creepy the same way continuing to try to win old arguments with your ex-girlfriend (And writing articles about it! And starting a nonprofit 'She never should have left me what's her problem anyway' group!) is weird, obsessive, and creepy.
posted by Myca at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2015 [21 favorites]


In lieu of a participation ribbon, perhaps I should send Despair Inc.'s poster: "Dysfunction
The only consistent feature of all of your dissatisfying relationships is you."

posted by BrotherCaine at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


Thank god my mother has the attention span of a gnat and so would never be able to write about how she can't understand why I limit my exposure to someone who mentally, emotionally and physically abused me for eighteen years.

Having two kids who won't speak to you is a giant blaring sign that it's not them it's you.
posted by winna at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


Seriously, so happy to see this here. When I read this yesterday, I anticipated research on the specific causes of estrangement, survey results, maybe some points of view on the lives of the kids/parents post-break. Instead, it's this Onion-worthy drivel that manages to embody every nasty cliche about entitled baby boomers while quoting every nasty cliche about Gen X-ers. The comments are amazing. Everything about this article is a delight, except probably the author.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:47 AM on January 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


Cathy,

Thank you for going Christmas shopping with me; lord knows I need the moral support with the crowds the way they are! Lunch was lovely, we should go there again sometime.

I think Timmy and Jonathan will love their new designer jeans. Never tell them we bought them at the outlet mall; what they don't know won't hurt them.

Hope your holiday goes well,

Liz

posted by Juliet Banana at 11:48 AM on January 14, 2015 [46 favorites]


I'm not going to defend the mother or adult children in this article since I don't know all the facts, but I will say that I have a sibling that only contacts my parents and his other siblings when he needs something. It really has saddened and frustrated my parents (who aren't overbearing and who have never been abusive, physically/emotionally or otherwise) and me and my other sibling. At this point, I've basically washed my hands, although I still try to maintain a relationship with him for the sake of my nieces. Narcissistic or overbearing parents are not always to blame when the parent-child relationship dies.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:50 AM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


This article sounds exactly like it was written by my own mother (three adult children, none of who has anything to do with her). In spite of being told, repeatedly, in detail, for years, all of the terrible things she does, and continues to do, she still pretends as though she has no idea why we don't want her in our lives. My sisters and I are frequently baffled by (among other things) her play-acting to us as audience, as though we couldn't possibly remember our own efforts at getting through to her, literally throughout our entire lives.

The vagueness that oozes from every line in that article is very telling, as is the author's suggestion that she's being innocently victimized by her ungrateful kids because she was too good to them in their upbringing. I know that stereotypes of boomers as solopsistic narcissists are just that - stereotypes - but damn, if people like her (and my mom) aren't the reason they have such currency.
posted by Lord Dimwit Flathead The Excessive at 11:53 AM on January 14, 2015 [25 favorites]


Everything about this article is a delight, except probably the author.

What is delightful about it? She may well be a fool and a narcissist; if so, she's a pathetic vain fool struggling to work through the pain of living with the fact that her children don't love her. Thank god an Internet mob appeared to cut her down to size, that's making the world a better place.
posted by Diablevert at 11:53 AM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm 38 and I consider myself more or less estranged from my biological father. It isn't that he's a bad dad, it's more that he's an absent father, always has been. When he left my mom, me and my little sister (I was about three, maybe four), he didn't even try to fight for custody of us. He loved us, but he loved the idea of only having us for a little while more. And this was a recurring pattern throughout the rest of my life. We'd spend summers at his house with my new stepmom and step-siblings from ages 5 to 12, even tried living with him full time once or twice when we were particularly crappy and bratty towards my awesome mother. But he was never there. He was always at work. And when he wasn't at work, he used buying us things instead of actually finding out who we were. (This continued until my late 20s.)

So. I confess he came through when I found myself in a couple of really tight spots. I am grateful to him and have let him know that. But again, here I am married, living in another country, and he might call me every two months. My husband always says, "You can call him too, you know." And I've told him, "Yes, I know, but I'm always the one who calls and sometimes you get just tired of never getting a response."

Again, not a bad father, I guess. But we're not close. TBH, I don't feel bad about that, which sometimes makes me wonder if there's something wrong with me.
posted by Kitteh at 11:53 AM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Let's hope this mother never discovers all the AskMe's about how to cut ties with one's toxic parents and family members.

Nooo, I totally want to email her a new one every day for the next year.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:54 AM on January 14, 2015 [23 favorites]


Yeah, but if you have two pathologically narcissistic kids you'd probably be happier when they cut off contact, not fighting to get more of their attention.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:54 AM on January 14, 2015 [23 favorites]


Although I don't think there was much to her written piece, I don't think she necessarily deserves outright animosity (by readers). I think she feels pain and is trying to resolve/answer some questions, in whatever way that she can. There is not enough in her piece to know what happened in her family.

I think framing her children leaving as narcissist is odd, but who doesn't write their own narratives? In your own narrative, you are always the hero, and others (anyone can become "other"), in their silence, can morph into something else (narcissist, or whatever negative adjective you want to throw on).

I found her surveys interesting (adult children and parents).

In particular, there is a question: Have either of your parents been physically abused, experienced domestic violence, abused alcohol...none of the above..

Approximately 4% of the respondents (537 people took the survey) said none of the above applied - so out of people who left, 96% experienced some of these things in childhood. Many of those things are difficult to deal with as a child, let alone an adult. Even if you went back as an adult, unless those factors are removed, you would also re-enter those same scenarios (ie, alcohol abuse, unresolved mental health, etc.).

I think leaving a family, whether it be the adult child or left behind parent, is difficult for everyone. But I think it is far more complex than the few word blog piece.

I hope the author finds peace.
posted by Wolfster at 11:57 AM on January 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


You know, I'll bet that does happen sometimes. People cutting off their parents for selfish and/or trivial reasons. I've certainly seen a lot of kneejerk DTMFA advice for what I'd consider relatively minor transgressions and hostile perceptions. And there've been pretty clearly documented cases of false memories that resulted in total rifts in whole families. So it's not completely implausible that this is really an issue for some people.

It must be absolutely excruciating, even for a legitimately toxic parent, to be cut off entirely by a child. But for those whose children have cut them off over relatively minor issues, or who have never even been given an explanation, it's got to be all that much worse, particularly when you heap on the stigma they must feel.

So there probably is a need for some sort of support and/or resources for parents in that situation. But it shouldn't take the form of a blanket indictment of the children.

For fuck's sake, lady.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:58 AM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm reminded of the way that baby boomers were born into a world with solid infrastructure and public funding for the young. Then they graduate college, elect Reagan and convert that public wealth into private wealth. Then their kids face costs they can't imagine, and a job market worse than anything they had to deal with, and hey, whaddyaknow, it turns out that those kids are all lazy bums who can't get a job.

I know they're not identical stories, but dang they feel analogous.
posted by DGStieber at 12:01 PM on January 14, 2015 [115 favorites]


It's not just about her self-esteem theory (or at least it's not for me), it's about her absolute lack of self-awareness that she may have been part of the issue. I suspect, of course that she is 100% of the issue, but I'm not asking for that - just some awareness that she's fucked up, she's fucked up badly, and if she wants to have a relationship with her kids, she needs to make it better.

I mean, this is weird, obsessive, and creepy the same way continuing to try to win old arguments with your ex-girlfriend (And writing articles about it! And starting a nonprofit 'She never should have left me what's her problem anyway' group!) is weird, obsessive, and creepy.


Well, a parent-child relationship is not like a relationship between two people who used to date. It's normally ends at the parent's death and it's between people who know each other pretty well. So it's not weird, obsessive and creepy to try to understand what's going wrong with it years later. If they can reconcile, even 20 years from now, you know everyone will be happy about that.

Additionally, while I'm not estranged from anyone, I appreciate it when people take it upon themselves to organize a group of people who have a similar problem. If there is a systemic failure to understand children who won't speak to their parents, it's more likely to be discovered by a group working on a problem than by any particular isolated person.

To guess that she's 100% wrong when that doesn't really happen, put all the burden on her to fix the relationship (while cut off), or to, as heisenberg said, refuse to hope for reconciliation, is cruel and miserable.
posted by michaelh at 12:02 PM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


Reads like another Baby Boomer failing to take responsibility for past actions; if one kid out of a brood estranges you, who is at fault is up for debate but when all of your spawn swim far away it's pretty much your fault.
posted by Renoroc at 12:02 PM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


The most obvious clue, to me, was the bit about how she didn't even know a grandchild was expected. I assume the cause of the estrangement from at least that son was some level of intolerance about the mother/co-parent of that grandchild, whether involving race or gender or whatever.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:02 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Dan Savage (I know, I know) has a great point about gay kids who get thrown out of their families: Parents need to understand that it goes both ways.

That is, let's stop making kids scared to toe their parents' line out of fear of estrangement. Let's start forcing parents to respect that their kids are individuals with their own lives - and if they can't, then they don't get to be part of those lives.

My mother is a wonderful woman in every way, I had dinner with her last night, and I'm really happy she's part of my life.

But I've been in intimate relationships with three separate women who have been my kicked out of their families for things like dating (at all), being queer, getting a tattoo, getting piercings, getting a haircut they disliked, getting heavier than they liked, or leaving their religion.

It has been an accepted thing for a long, long, long time, for parents to disown adult kids who didn't do what they were fucking told. If you treat your kids like that when they're 19 and need your support, don't be surprised that they opt out when they no longer do.
posted by Myca at 12:05 PM on January 14, 2015 [51 favorites]


I'd be willing to wager that boomer parents estranging themselves from their children and then painting it as the children estranging themselves from them happens way more than children actually estranging themselves from the parents.
posted by blucevalo at 12:05 PM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


To those wondering about the email; I'd wager that the email was actually relatively tame, and was merely the straw to break the camel's back.

For my own estrangement with my parents, there's a myriad of reasons. Some of it just life; much of it is definitely on their plate, and some is definitely on my plate (some of it is admitedly quite selfish). But the straw?

I let my parents know that I wasn't catholic. In fact, I told the, I was an atheist (I didn't get into the specifics of weak atheism, as that would be beyond what they could handle at the moment). In the moment they declared that I was no longer their son, and they couldn't talk to me until I'd found my way back to christ. I'd known this would happen, and I'll admit that I planned this moment as a "suicide by cop" method of breaking contact with them. A few weeks or months later they started trying to recontact me, but I never replied to anything. I let me sister know that I wouldn't talk about them.

I'm sure in the tales my parents likely tell of this, it must seem horrible that I broke off all contact with them because they got mad, during the moment, at finding out I'd lost my religion; after all, they later tried to reconcile. But I assure you, that the relationship was dead, years before the phone call which ended it.
posted by nobeagle at 12:05 PM on January 14, 2015 [17 favorites]


You could organize an entire short fiction collection just on that premise: "The email that caused all of my adult children to stop talking to me for some mysterious reason."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:37 PM on January 14


eponysterical
posted by Jacqueline at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


If you're not estranged from anyone you can't have any intimate knowledge of what decades-long patterns of offensive and harmful behaviors can lead to such estrangement. Every relationship represents an investment of energy and an exposure of self to risk. It's not wrong to decide that a given relationship is not a good investment any longer and withdraw entirely. Calling that sort of self-preservation measure "cruel and miserable" is terribly ignorant.
It is not cruel to put down a dog that menaces and bites and resists any effort at reformation, it's crucial to self-protection. Many people don't have the luxury of sufficient strength to keep a harmful person in their lives.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2015 [64 favorites]


To those wondering about the email; I'd wager that the email was actually relatively tame, and was merely the straw to break the camel's back.

Yeah...If I'm remembering family lore correctly, a cousin of mine put up with his parents through years of indifferent treatment of him and outright abuse of his sister, years of alcoholism and drug abuse, wild rages and actual fistfights with other family members. But then one day his mom made fun of his girlfriend for being older than him and he was like I'M OUT, BYE FELICIA.

And all his mom could talk about was the heartlessness of a son who could leave his mother behind over a single lighthearted joke.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2015 [113 favorites]


I have absolutely no doubt that, as she says, her kids' self-esteem is too high to permit them to maintain contact with her.

Seriously, I went into the article completely sympathetic, thinking "how awful that would be for a parent to have your kids want nothing to do with you, I'd definitely want to learn what was going on and see if there was some way to make things right, man, I feel for her..."

That didn't last more than a couple paragraphs. Damn, I'm glad her kids got away. And I hope this attempt at publicly shaming them into returning backfires, as I expect it will.
posted by edheil at 12:12 PM on January 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


I think I received a participation award or two during my childhood. I definitely received my fair share of "honorable mention" ribbons. And, let me tell you, even kids know that stuff is bullshit. Like, oh boy, here's a crappy little satin ribbon to junk up my room, we have a huge box of these in the storage room and hand them out to everyone. You pretty much sucked at this coloring contest/field day/fundraiser, but at least you showed up? Maybe next year you can get first place, like Becky did this year. Okay, you're right, Becky gets first place every year, but what's important is you tried your best, right? Where are you going?
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:12 PM on January 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


Wow, so far the uniform response to this piece is that this woman is unambiguously the problem. Is there not something to be recognized in that alone, even if one can't separate one's impressions of this woman from the social network of people in her position that's mentioned? I mean, aside from the unlikelihood that everyone commenting here has a clinical psychology background or other expertise outside of anecdotal or personal experiences?

I wish there was a "serious replies" tag or something here. I'm not calling everyone a reflexive narcissist or something. But my number-crunching tendencies tells me that there's very definitely a self-selecting bias going on in these comments!

I'm also sighing with the awareness that I'm probably about to receive some of the "Christ what an asshole" reactions that this woman provoked.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:13 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


You could organize an entire short fiction collection just on that premise: "The email that caused all of my adult children to stop talking to me for some mysterious reason."

"This is just to say..."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:13 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


My first thoughts on reading this was that she's right her children are narcissists and were probably made so by her child-rearing techniques. Maybe she and her children are part of that subset of Baby Boomers and Millennials who do fit the stereotypes, because they do exist. But then the comments here made me do a total reversal and think I got suckered by the manipulative, sociopathic Baby Boomer parent who authored this. Who can say for sure though? It's pretty self-absorbed of me too to assume I'm somehow better. I can't know any more without learning more about their relationship.
posted by ChuckRamone at 12:17 PM on January 14, 2015


I wish there was a "serious replies" tag or something here. I'm not calling everyone a reflexive narcissist or something. But my number-crunching tendencies tells me that there's very definitely a self-selecting bias going on in these comments!

It's the language she's using. The missing details. The calling the children, all children, out as the problem. "Forgiveness"

I HATE the idea of triggers / trigger warnings, but this nearly sent me into a fit.
posted by pan at 12:18 PM on January 14, 2015 [43 favorites]


To guess that she's 100% wrong when that doesn't really happen, put all the burden on her to fix the relationship (while cut off), or to, as heisenberg said, refuse to hope for reconciliation, is cruel and miserable.

No, like I said, I just see the total lack of anything approaching self awareness as a red flag here. Of course she hopes for reconciliation!

This is not the way to do it. There's no "I'm sorry for how I treated you." There's no examining her part in this. There's "You're wrong, and I deserve a relationship with you!" That's entitlement.

This is the way to prove to your kids that you're exactly as self-centered and horrible as they thought you were.

And hey, all relationships are give and take. I'm not assuming things are 100% her fault. But the fact is, she's the one asking for contact, so she might have to be the one to bend a bit.

John and John said it best:
I could shake my tiny fist
And swear I wasn't wrong
But what's the sense in arguing
When you're all alone?

Keep on shaking that tiny fist, lady. Good luck with that.
posted by Myca at 12:18 PM on January 14, 2015 [25 favorites]


Wow, so far the uniform response to this piece is that this woman is unambiguously the problem.

yeah well, she really gives that impression. It's either a very revealing piece about someone who has no self-awareneness, or she's a terrible, terrible writer.

Or both.

The third line of the article is: "The truth is — I can’t understand how in the world this has happened."

I already decided she was a creep when I read that.And then: "They accuse me of being a terrible person, but won’t elaborate about exactly what I’ve done. Well, sometimes they do, but it doesn’t make sense, at least to me." It just screams, "When they try to tell me, I don't listen at all and dismiss all their feelings as nonsense."

If she's actually world's greatest mom, she should learn to write.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:21 PM on January 14, 2015 [42 favorites]


Late Afternoon - I think Pan's right on the money. Consider yourself lucky that you don't know anyone like this, and that this article didn't ring as loud a bell with you as it did for some of us.
posted by Lord Dimwit Flathead The Excessive at 12:21 PM on January 14, 2015 [25 favorites]


It's the language she's using. The missing details. The calling the children, all children, out as the problem.

It reads exactly like those 300-comment askmes where the anon OP is like "i just don't understand why these people are being so terrible to me, i've done nothing but give and give and they treat me like shit" and then in the OP's followup after 50 or so sympathetic replies they casually mention that they are Joseph Stalin.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:22 PM on January 14, 2015 [140 favorites]


There has been two points where I had cut off my parents from my life. I always felt it was a temporary thing, but I felt I needed it because the emotional tax was way too much. In both cases contact was made after real change happened. With my mother it was the abusive step fathers, with my father it was the fallout from my mentally ill grandmother.

In a way I'm really lucky, because the transgressions were forgivable enough. Once the parties owned up, it was easy to let bygones be bygones. Hell, one of my ex stepfathers owned up, and it was fairly easy to forgive him too.

But I tell you, teaching people introspection is a real 'horse to water' problem if there ever was one.

“Don't you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?”
― Calvin Coolidge
posted by The Power Nap at 12:24 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wow, so far the uniform response to this piece is that this woman is unambiguously the problem. Is there not something to be recognized in that alone, even if one can't separate one's impressions of this woman from the social network of people in her position that's mentioned? I mean, aside from the unlikelihood that everyone commenting here has a clinical psychology background or other expertise outside of anecdotal or personal experiences?

Familial relationships depend on personal experiences, so why would or should we favor a constantly-evolving and wide-ranging school of though like clinical psychology? 60 years ago, clinical psychology articles would probably have been telling us that this woman is a victim for anything short of torturing or murdering her children. I certainly trust the anecdotes and personal stories of those here and among my acquaintances (and in behaviors that I have witnessed) that have an extremely strong consistency in events, tone, and emotions with how this woman sounds.

I wish there was a "serious replies" tag or something here.

The replies here are, for the most part, serious. I would include in that category every one of those anecdotal or personal experiences that you're dismissive of.

I'm not calling everyone a reflexive narcissist or something. But my number-crunching tendencies tells me that there's very definitely a self-selecting bias going on in these comments!

Probably because abuse, neglect, and whatever else may cause a child to estrange themselves from their parents brings out strong emotions from survivors.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:25 PM on January 14, 2015 [35 favorites]


I met my participation trophy wife at my fallback school. I was her guy on the side until we got engaged. I am an understudy for a second rate actor.

(none of this is true)

Being estranged from a parent is hard. And then there are the ways it affects other relationships. People treat parental relationships as a litmus test in dating. People have all of these assumptions about how a parent must feel about you, and in turn what the parent must mean to you (and assumptions about some bond that you must have etc. ...).
posted by idiopath at 12:29 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Wow, so far the uniform response to this piece is that this woman is unambiguously the problem. Is there not something to be recognized in that alone, even if one can't separate one's impressions of this woman from the social network of people in her position that's mentioned? I mean, aside from the unlikelihood that everyone commenting here has a clinical psychology background or other expertise outside of anecdotal or personal experiences?

Basically, between adults, I will always support someone trying to enforce boundaries over someone trying to transgress those boundaries. And this article makes it pretty clear which one the author is.
posted by almostmanda at 12:30 PM on January 14, 2015 [74 favorites]


Wow, so far the uniform response to this piece is that this woman is unambiguously the problem. Is there not something to be recognized in that alone, even if one can't separate one's impressions of this woman from the social network of people in her position that's mentioned? I mean, aside from the unlikelihood that everyone commenting here has a clinical psychology background or other expertise outside of anecdotal or personal experiences?

I think that Squeak Attack captures it here:

yeah well, she really gives that impression. It's either a very revealing piece about someone who has no self-awareneness, or she's a terrible, terrible writer.

Or both.


I think it's much more telling that in a piece of writing where she's the only source of information on the story of the estrangement she still fails to convince her audience of her victimhood. Arguably she could just be a bad writer, but there's a clear lack of self-awareness in the absolutely unsympathetic nature of the way she's telling this story.
posted by edbles at 12:33 PM on January 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


So anyway can someone please make an account at that forum and then confirm or deny in a general and non-privacy-breaching way that many of these estranged parents were, in fact, the cause of the estrangement and not the innocent victim?

or is that creepy, idk, it feels like it might be creepy
posted by poffin boffin at 12:34 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


myca: It has been an accepted thing for a long, long, long time, for parents to disown adult kids who didn't do what they were fucking told. If you treat your kids like that when they're 19 and need your support, don't be surprised that they opt out when they no longer do.

QFT. I know there were a number of things that led my parents to say, "And we will seriously disown you if you ever..." One of which had been become non-xtian, thus my letting them pull the button on the estrangement. And with all the previous emotional crap that they gave me, the fact that they could predictably go all nuclear-estrangement over a belief in their sky-daddy (wow, I am regressing by thinking about all of this), really kind of demonstrated just how weak those ties of theirs were to me.

On the general subject, of a bunch of people coming together. I don't think it can be taken for granted to be a good thing. Consider the MRA - that's a bunch of hurt people coming together and trying to understand the problem. They've just got a horrible answer.

When a groupd of parents dealing with estranged children comes together, and they've got a survey which had 96%(!) of responding children say they've suffered abuse of various sorts, and the conclusion the parents come to is "those kids are narcissists." ... really, they seem to have *way* more in common with the MRA than with al-anon.
posted by nobeagle at 12:38 PM on January 14, 2015 [35 favorites]


My strong reaction to this article, besides the vibe that has been expressed in this thread, is that I don't have any of the information I need to understand this while being extremely curious about it. What did she do to attempt to reconcile? What did her children tell her she had done wrong? What was in that email? What would her children say if you asked them why they have distanced themselves from her? It also seems like the estrangement isn't total and there is still contact - why? What form does that take? And is the father of her children alive? If so, what is his take on all of this?

Of course, it's not my business, but intense curiosity really flooded me when I finished reading. My googling came up with a few articles on the topic of estrangement in which she was quoted and a blog devoted to hatin' on her forum for banning people, but not much more.
posted by prefpara at 12:40 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I found her surveys interesting (adult children and parents).

Oh my god that survey for children! Question #7 "don't forget all the nice things we did for you and how many sacrifices we made"! Question #33 "see how terrible it is now without us? SEE?" because of course there's not a single option for 'mental health vastly improved' 'started being able to sleep and eat' etc. Why would there be?
posted by capricorn at 12:44 PM on January 14, 2015 [17 favorites]


a blog devoted to hatin' on her forum for banning people, but not much more.

Man, only a narcissist with too much self-esteem would ban someone from their forum. Why won't they try forgiveness and reconciliation?
posted by almostmanda at 12:45 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The most obvious clue, to me, was the bit about how she didn't even know a grandchild was expected. I assume the cause of the estrangement from at least that son was some level of intolerance about the mother/co-parent of that grandchild, whether involving race or gender or whatever.

And her response to that is kind of rules-lawyer-y, which I think gives a window into her reconciliation attempts generally. She's refusing to "let" her children be estranged from her without a good reason, and since she doesn't think they should be allowed to be estranged from her, no reason is good enough.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:46 PM on January 14, 2015 [17 favorites]


She's refusing to "let" her children be estranged from her without a good reason, and since she doesn't think they should be allowed to be estranged from her, no reason is good enough.

And that response is exactly what you'd expect from someone with no boundaries at all. It's classic.
posted by winna at 12:47 PM on January 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


Wow, so far the uniform response to this piece is that this woman is unambiguously the problem.

I don't think that's exactly accurate; I think that many responses recognize that the actual truth of this particular woman's family may very well be more complex. But based on what she's telling us and not telling us -- the omitted details about why her children were offended, the me-me-me framing -- it does raise a healthy suspicion that she is a big part of the problem and in denial about it.
posted by desuetude at 12:47 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh my god that survey for children!

9-10: look how spoiled you are! look how unreasonable!

11: you selfish brats!
posted by poffin boffin at 12:50 PM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wow, so far the uniform response to this piece is that this woman is unambiguously the problem.

I mean, I think her kids might be a little sensitive or drama-prone, since they're her children and we often have similar personalities to our parents. It's possible they're all partially at fault because they lack emotional maturity or self-awareness. It's still a sad situation.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:57 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


IIRC, the general idea the Boomers and older generations were raised with was that family is the end-all-be-all, something that was enforced by the religious institutions. We still see it's affect by how often most people are shocked when someone says, "I don't talk to my mom (or dad, or whatever.)"

Speaking as an Gen X member, perhaps because we and the others did not hold onto the belief that one should tolerate any toxic family member just because we're family. Many of us fought painful, tear-filled years against that indoctrination just to be able to separate from those that were destructive to us. Many of us made sure to let our children know they don't need toxic relationships.
posted by _paegan_ at 12:57 PM on January 14, 2015 [26 favorites]


What did she do to attempt to reconcile? What did her children tell her she had done wrong? What was in that email?

As edbles says, I think it's worth asking: why, after reading her article, do all these questions remain? They're hardly tangential, either - they're core questions about the substance of the article she chose to write. It staggers the imagination to believe that she has so little understanding of an issue that she presents as being so important to her that she can't even explain her side of it. That's a red flag the size of Kansas.
posted by Lord Dimwit Flathead The Excessive at 1:01 PM on January 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


Oh god, my mother could have written that article. It sounds exactly like her, and if it wasn't for the bit where none of the details about her kids match and that I'm the only one of us actually currently going "fuck this, I'm out," I'd seriously wonder.

Everything matches. The insistence that everything is a "misunderstanding" at heart--even when there's really no way to take the things she says as not offensive, and when she gets angry, not apologetic, if I say they're hurtful. The statement that she is "just trying to understand" when she shouted down or ignored my five previous attempts to talk about why she and I have problems in our relationship. The bit where she keeps going "It was totally out of the blue!" despite, you know, me bringing up the problems five times trying to explain why she doesn't get to know about huge parts of my life. The constant use of the word "entitled" and the emphasis on how parents/elders should be respected by their children. The baffling refusal to admit that her children have actually explained why they're angry. I just--everything matches. And it is so fucking painful to be in this position, as a daughter, because I keep trying to figure out what it is I'm doing wrong, why I'm not explaining things properly, whether more or less emotion or words or analogies would be enough. Nothing ever changes.

I'm not estranged from her.... yet. But I did refuse to talk to her for about six months recently, and she is currently expressing to me how shocked--shocked!--she is that we're not as close as she thought. I mean, I only said "I think there's a huge problem in our relationship because you keep making these nasty comments about queerness and atheism when I'm around and refusing to acknowledge that they're hurtful, please stop because I feel like I can't share my life with you at all" six times over six years. But she's SHOCKED, because she thought we were super close. I just, I don't fucking get it.
posted by sciatrix at 1:06 PM on January 14, 2015 [75 favorites]


"THE NARCISSISM IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!"
posted by nihlton at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2015 [85 favorites]


And my mother isn't a Boomer, by the way; she's a Gen Xer herself. I don't think Boomers have a monopoly on wanting to control their children, or on this type of behavior more generally.
posted by sciatrix at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


The truth is — I am estranged from my two adult sons.

The truth is — I love my sons and I miss them every day.

The truth is — I can’t understand how in the world this has happened.

The truth is — saying you love them and miss them is not enough. There is much more to say, but you need a conversation — you need actual interaction, not just silence.


When you feel the need to tell your audience not one, not twice, not even three but four times that you're telling the truth, before you even begin to lay out your story, chances are you're lying to somebody.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 1:10 PM on January 14, 2015 [28 favorites]


She doesn't remind me of anyone I know.
posted by Ashenmote at 1:12 PM on January 14, 2015


Yeah, sometimes it is 100% one person's fault. The idea that there are always two valid sides to any given story is a stupid and thoughtless one. It might make you feel better to pretend like there are no genuinely abusive parents, but that is completely false.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:14 PM on January 14, 2015 [28 favorites]


I agree with the general consensus on this woman and her article, but I'm continually befuddled by the idea that everyone younger hates the boomers. I feel like I missed that memo (I'm GenX/millennial cusp i guess, age wise), possibly because my parents moved to America as adults (before I was born).
posted by zutalors! at 1:14 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


IIRC, the general idea the Boomers and older generations were raised with was that family is the end-all-be-all, something that was enforced by the religious institutions. We still see it's affect by how often most people are shocked when someone says, "I don't talk to my mom (or dad, or whatever.)"

I was absolutely raised with this value, and for a long time I was extremely angry at the estranged relatives who didn't help to care for my grandmother. It was actually reading MeFi and AskMe and learning more about the painful relationships many people had with their parents, that precluded even Christmas cards or yearly phone calls, that helped me get some grace. My sadness now is that often, as it seems to be in this case, someone's personality is part or all of the reason they can't have the love and relationships that they crave. There are people who can't stop getting in their own way.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:15 PM on January 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think the other issue here is to look at her article and proposed diagnosis and carry them through to their logical conclusion.

Her kids have too much self-esteem. Okay. How would a child having 'too much' self esteem lead to them cutting off contact with their parent?

Her kids feel entitled. Okay. What, specifically, do they feel entitled to they they shouldn't?

I'm having trouble coming up with answers for this that aren't awful.

I mean: "The problem is that all these kids these days think too highly of themselves" ... because if they thought less of themselves, I'd still be in their lives.
posted by Myca at 1:19 PM on January 14, 2015 [63 favorites]


I agree with most of the comments here....what I am wondering is, is there anyway to show this threat to the author of the piece? Anyway to comment in her blog? Are there any other (hopefully more self-aware) boomers that she can talk to? Honestly, calling your children narcisistic in the same piece you say you miss them is a big red-flag.
posted by The1andonly at 1:19 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Has anyone seen the film "All Fall Down" with Warren Beatty and Angela Lansbury?

Lansbury plays a pent-up housewife who's a little too interested in her handsome older son, played by Beatty. At one point Beatty comes home for the holidays, stays for about five minutes, suffers through some very inappropriate behavior from Mom, and exits stage left.

Lansbury is left on the stairs with her husband (played by Karl Malden). And she shakes her head forlornly, wondering out loud what she did wrong. She really... doesn't... know. You sense that she would LIKE to know on some level, but she doesn't know how to ask, or perhaps is too afraid of the answer to ask.

The lady in the FPP... well, the minute she started going on about narcissism, I thought "point the finger and look at the three fingers pointing back." And many of the comments above deal with people who would be deaf to you even if you could get a word in edgewise to tell the truth. But there is a sadness to people who are simply incapable, for whatever reason, of seeing that their actions have consequences. That's true even if they don't want to pay any prices.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 1:21 PM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Everything matches.

Eerie, isn't it? The resemblence is so uncanny, I had to doublecheck the article to make sure she said "two sons" and not "my son and two daughters". Same sense of borderless entitlement, same feigned ignorance, even some of the same phraseology. My wife gets the same sense of recognition when watching the Emily scenes in Gilmore Girls, but at least that show is written from a comedic point of view. This? Not so much.
posted by Lord Dimwit Flathead The Excessive at 1:25 PM on January 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


Ok, so I have a kid. Now let's assume he mysteriously decided as a grown-up that he just couldn't be around me anymore. Maybe he joined a cult, or had a terrible girlfriend, or whatever, as suggested above. Maybe he was having some sort of psychological issue and I was just a convenient or necessary scapegoat until he worked it out.

So, what's my reaction? Hurt? Sure. Confused? Absolutely? Making it about me? No. Either he's being unreasonable (in which case, something has gone wrong in his life) or I actually mistreated him (in which case something has gone wrong in mine.) My hurt feelings, in either case, are the least important issue. And if we really couldn't heal the breach, then it would be time for me to shrug, go to therapy, and let him live his life. At some point, your kids are not yours to guide anymore.

So that's why I think this is some bullshit. She's not frantically worrying if her kids are mentally ill; she's not doing any self-examination or attempting to figure out what went wrong. She's just angrily demanding their attention and love. Most kids do love their parents, too; there are abusive parents whose kids still care for them. So you have to wonder; what the hell happened here to make these two have to put up these walls?
posted by emjaybee at 1:26 PM on January 14, 2015 [45 favorites]


Oh, my mother frantically worries if I'm mentally ill. She asks me if I'm acting this way because I'm depressed or if I need to be on psychiatric drugs pretty much every time I get angry at her, and when things get really bad she starts asking if I might be developing schizophrenia like her older sister. In fact, I'm pretty sure she thinks that's what's happening with us. Either that or that my partner has ~*~turned me against her~*~ and I'm actually in an abusive relationship or something.

She's trying to figure out what went wrong pretty hard. It's just that all her attempts to figure that out presume that something went wrong with me somewhere alone the line, not with anything she's said or done.
posted by sciatrix at 1:31 PM on January 14, 2015 [28 favorites]


You know, I'll bet that does happen sometimes. People cutting off their parents for selfish and/or trivial reasons.

It does. But twice in one family? How likely is that? I think that her doing something that was over the line is a more likely explanation.

Of course, she has a plausible motivation for wanting to think that her sons aren't estranged from her because of anything she did. If it was Dr Spock's fault and not hers, she didn't do anything wrong, and doesn't have to change anything she's doing. Cui bono?

I also wonder what was in this email...
posted by Anne Neville at 1:32 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is definitely, to me, full of specific wording and thoughts that make me think this woman is the lion's share of the problem. But I think some of what I'm reacting to, you wouldn't necessarily pick up if you hadn't been on the other end of someone demanding you explain why her son isn't speaking to her. When the answer is "you are literally the worst human being and parent I have ever met, and you have failed to take in a word we've said any of the times either of us has tried to explain, because you have no input mode at all."
posted by Stacey at 1:35 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Everything matches.

Same here. Especially the part about "just trying to understand" which really means "demanding an explanation!!" and now that we're decoding, "make you behave the way I want". None of which has anything to do with me at all -- it's all about HER.

And while I'm venting, that "personal email" was a chat session with whom I can only infer, by the explicit and amorous language, is the person she's cheating on my father with. Last, let me translate again: "entitled to read on my computer" means "typed while sitting next to me, in large fontsize".

thank you for letting me vent
posted by Dashy at 1:38 PM on January 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


to, as heisenberg said, refuse to hope for reconciliation, is cruel and miserable.
posted by michaelh at 12:02 PM on January 14


No. I refused to unconditionally hope for reconciliation, because I know too many people who have been pressured to "reconcile" their way back into relationships (familial and otherwise) in which they suffered abuse - and continued to suffer abuse after the reconciliation. There's nothing cruel or miserable about wanting abuse to end, or refusing to hope for it to resume.
posted by heisenberg at 1:42 PM on January 14, 2015 [22 favorites]


Something I'm still dealing with lately is the idea that many (some? most? I have no idea) abusers have no idea that they are abusers.

Growing up I think I was under the impression that abuse is usually obvious because when abusive parents are portrayed in the media, physical abuse also seemed to be associated with general contempt and anger and desire to control. My abuser wasn't that. My abuser was a nice and loving and supportive parent who cared for me, didn't have anger problems, wasn't controlling, wasn't a pedophile, and wasn't even intolerant. If I hadn't lived it, I wouldn't believe that someone could physically abuse a child to the extent that my abuser did without being one of the above. I truly sincerely doubt that they realized how tortuous what they did to me was when they were doing it.

I couldn't cut my abuser out of my life for a few reasons, and one of the bigger ones is that I feel that it would be wrong to do so without telling them why, because they love me and have sacrificed for me, they rely on me, and have tried to be decent their entire life. I would feel so guilty for breaking their heart that way. I'm not saying it's wrong to cut someone out of your life without telling them why so that they can understand, but I know I would personally would feel helplessly guilty, and I don't need that guilt in my life. And I could never tell them why I was cutting them out of my life because having to describe what they did to me, which was profound, and its affect on me to them would be too much for me to handle. It's unspeakably painful to unearth and share even pieces of it with someone I love and trust, let alone the idea of discussing the specifics with my abuser. And let alone having to deal with their disbelief, and guilt, and denial, and attempts to make it all about their good intentions as a parent and hurt feelings that would inevitably follow.

Anyway, I'm still dealing with the implications of the idea that people can be horrific abusers without knowing it. And figuring out what to do with the idea that my dilemma isn't so unusual.
posted by wrabbit at 1:48 PM on January 14, 2015 [32 favorites]


As someone said above, the other huge red flag for me apart from the fact that both children have totally cut her off is the careful vagueness. Their explanation 'doesn't make sense' to her? In this kind of family argument, the complaints are pretty much always furious and simple. They may seem unfair, but they are not couched in a foreign language. "You make me feel like shit every time I talk to you" "You make racist remarks about my spouse" "You tried to cheat us out of the money dad left us" What she's really saying is that she doesn't accept that they are allowed to have a different point of view.
posted by tavella at 1:51 PM on January 14, 2015 [36 favorites]


At the same time, 76 percent of the adult children say that being estranged has affected their well-being (even though it appears to have been their choice).

Hell yes, being estranged has affected my well-being. It saved my life!

After years of estrangement, my mother continued to stalk me online until she found my current address on Intelius or Spokeo or whatever, then showed up on my doorstep to demand a reason why I wouldn't speak to her anymore -- a good reason, she said, not the stupid bullshit reasons I had already given her. I had always tried to take it easy on her when it came to explaining my estrangement because she's always been really into threatening to kill herself and blaming me for her death in the suicide note, but I knew I had to bring out the big guns (NO PUN INTENDED) if I had any hope of getting her to leave me alone, so as a last-ditch effort, I reminded her of something I don't ever talk about with anyone, because living through it fucked me up so much for so long that even the memory still leaves me reeling in its wake.

I reminded her of the time she called 911, told the operator to send an ambulance because I had overdosed on sleeping pills, and watched as a gaggle of paramedics surprise-ambushed me in my bedroom, pulled me out of bed, and carted me off to the ER so I could get my stomach pumped as I struggled and cried and told them she was making it all up. She and I were the only two people who knew that she really was making it all up. We were the only two people who knew I hadn't taken anything, and that I was in my bed sound asleep not because I was in a post-OD coma but because it was the middle of the night and I had been at work slinging burgers for 10 hours that day. I don't even remember why she ultimately made the call, we hadn't been fighting or anything. Honestly, she was probably just bored. She always got up to crazy shit when she was bored! You know moms! She couldn't ride along in the ambulance because the rest of her kids were still asleep inside, so she just gave me a little wave as they handcuffed me to a stretcher and took me away.

A few hours later, the paramedics called to request her presence anyway, because they wanted to ask her why she told them I had overdosed even though they pumped my stomach and made me drink like a half-gallon of charcoal and gave me a zillion blood tests and found absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. And she hung up on them! Repeatedly! After the first handful of calls, she just let all the rest ring through to the answering machine (yeah, answering machine! it was the '90s, man). And after the gastric lavage was done, my stomach contents were bagged up and duly observed, all the charcoal had been chugged, and the IV was pulled out of my arm, I ended up having to ask a friend's parents to come sign me out of the hospital and take me to their house at like 2 AM because even though my mom was pretty legitimately insane ~90% of the time, she apparently still had it together enough to realize that she had just stepped in it big time, and she didn't want to deal with the consequences. So she didn't! And the paramedics and police didn't push it because, as one LEO told me, "We don't like to get involved in family drama." I didn't go home for a week, until the day she called my friend's parents and told them she was going to report them to the police for harboring a runaway.

And yet! For all of the years I knew her after that night, she referred to the entire ordeal not as "the time I called 911 and lied to the paramedics so they would pump your stomach and teach you a lesson about what happens to shitty teenagers," but as "your overdose." I reminded her of this as she stood on my doorstep, to try to explain why I couldn't know her anymore, and she just stared me down like I was a thing to be pitied, shook her head sadly, and said, "Oh, honey. You know none of that ever happened." Then she started to cry and asked me for a hug because I had hurt her feelings with my ridiculous lies.

I'm not recounting this embarrassing tale in an embarrassingly public forum because I want to overshare or extract sympathy, but because I'm absolutely fucking sick and tired of hearing that there is basically no legitimate reason for a child to ever estrange themselves from a parent, and that to cut off a parent for good is an immeasurable cruelty. For so many people, parents and children alike, no reason is ever good enough. I spent years convinced of that much myself, and it almost killed me, very literally. This is a woman who hauled me into court and tried to have me declared a ward of the state not once, not twice, but multiple times. For years. In part because she was convinced that I had been seducing her 40-year-old boyfriend starting when I was 11. For most of my life, I blamed myself and wished I had been a better daughter. It was AskMe that convinced me that estrangement-worthy parents really do exist, and that I really did have them. Not one, but two!

So if you've never been abused that way, if you can't even imagine it? Man, there's no need to work yourself into a lather trying to figure out how on earth any thinking, feeling human being could ever choose to estrange themselves from their own flesh and blood. Just sit tight, hush up, and count yourself incredibly fucking lucky.
posted by divined by radio at 1:56 PM on January 14, 2015 [314 favorites]


The author of this piece has been going off on the same topic for years now (search for her name in there).

Don't ignore the possibility that this is some sort of long term mind-fuck aimed directly at her sons: "If I complain loudly enough, and long enough, to enough people, about just how hurt I am by our estrangement, then eventually our mutual acquaintances will notice and harass my sons for me about what bad people they are. Then they will surely realize how wrong they are and come back to me."
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:00 PM on January 14, 2015 [37 favorites]


I so deeply hope my generation has learned from this and that we don't raise our kids with the belief that it is their responsibility to provide us emotional support and fulfillment. Or the belief that it's our responsibility to do everything in our power to protect them (and if they somehow actually manage to be self-sufficient and make decisions for themselves that's just them being rebellious). Or the belief that they are perfect and special and can succeed at everything they dream of (and if they don't it's a sign they weren't trying hard enough because they're ungrateful and don't appreciate the opportunities we gave them, not a sign that they should try again because failure is a normal part of life).

I don't know if we have. It scares me.
posted by capricorn at 2:03 PM on January 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yeah, if you search for her name, you´ll discover she´s been banging this particular drum for years. Banned from Estranged Stories is a particularly interesting blog post from someone that was banned from her website for the terrible crime of wondering if she might have had something to do with the situation.
posted by pharm at 2:05 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't think we have enough information to make any kind of meaningful judgement.
posted by harrietthespy at 2:12 PM on January 14, 2015


Her website is a 501(C)3, apparently. That's... yeah, the messed up culture surrounding charity in the US is a whole kettle of fish on it's own, but that's just fucked up. I mean, I don't know, this seems like half a hobby and half a personal grudge, but regardless, I really don't think the money she spends on it and the donations she solicits to keep it running deserve to to count the same for tax purposes as donations to Oxfam, Red Cross, etc. Seriously, that is messed up and a big red flag to me. There's having a martyr complex, and then there's starting a bullshit charity for your martyr complex.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:12 PM on January 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


Intra-Estrangement Community internet drama in the Estrangement Communities is the most depressing rabbit hole that I have ever had enough self-concern to not keep going deeply into.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:13 PM on January 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


I don't think it's her place to air out her family's dirty laundry in public, knowing that stories like this are stimulants to the busybody gland, and that personally identifying information is trivial for nosy strangers to uncover. She's provided plenty of fodder for people who are motivated to stick their noses into her family's lives, and her critics are only helping by posting other personal details.

I'd be uncomfortable with strangers speculating about my personal life, even if they were putatively taking my side, so I'm not comfortable with people playing Exquisite Corpse with stories about what her sons have gone through.

The topic is interesting in a generic sense, but lurid stories and speculation aren't exactly conducive to nuanced discussion of the issues.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:14 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think we have enough information to make any kind of meaningful judgement.

but meaningless judgement is okay right cause i like that so much
posted by poffin boffin at 2:14 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


In my experience, those who say, "This family member/friend cut me off, and I can't imagine why!" are usually mostly to blame for the estrangement and are in complete denial about it. I've had a few people turn their backs on me and I always had at least some idea as to why. I may have thought the reason was rather petty or have felt they were being unfair or resented that they didn't try to work things out with me, but I could at least see why they'd be bothered by something I'd done, and I could live with their decision even if I felt hurt about it, because I know they don't owe it to me to let me be part of their lives.

By contrast, the narcissists/abusers I've known who had someone cut them off are completely dismissive of that person's entire viewpoint and in high dudgeon about the estrangement. One person I knew used to send me emails ranting about how a former friend of hers wouldn't talk to her anymore (for years after the break had been made) and would claim she couldn't understand why. I could think of plenty of reasons why, such as that the two of them had always fought constantly, and my email correspondent had always criticized and ridiculed her friend's entire life (everything from her relationships with men to the number of children she had to her taste in music to how she supposedly "spends all her money on bingo") and blabbed very sensitive personal information to everyone would listen to the point that it got back to the friend on one occasion, and that's just what I know about as a third party who has only heard one side of the story. I cut the person off myself, eventually, for much the same reasons as her friend had, and of course she couldn't imagine why I would!

So yes, we don't know what the whole story here is, but yeah. Big red flags.
posted by orange swan at 2:19 PM on January 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


I somehow missed this from her bio in the article:

Elizabeth Vagnoni's career in advertising let her work on campaigns like AT&T's Reach Out and Touch Someone and DeBeers' Diamonds Are Forever

I've got to say that choosing those particular campaigns as examples are some A+++ trolling, even if it was her choice.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:19 PM on January 14, 2015 [27 favorites]


Her website is a 501(C)3, apparently.

The organization, rather: "Estranged Stories Inc," is registered with the IRS as a counseling support group.
posted by cjelli at 2:24 PM on January 14, 2015


Holy shit I thought my mom wrote this. I checked the name several times. Thought about googling to make sure it wasn't a fake name, and then thought I'd rather not know.

I'm in my late 30s, my brother is a few years older than me. We've cut off our mother. It sucks. I have daily pains about it. We did it for our kids. She is a toxic person. A racist, narcissistic, horribly irresponsible person. Skipping the horrendous stuff from my childhood and going with only recent issues: That time she gave my nephews tums to snack on because they are "basically candy." That time she told my nephew that he had to protect himself from the bad people that were going to come get him in the middle of the night (he started sleeping with a butcher knife under his bed when he was eight from this one). That time she told the other nephew that "depression runs in our family so someday you might be as crazy as me." Every time she told my daughter she could come over and play with her "little n-word baby" dolls. That time she disappeared for three days when my other daughter was born. Yeah. I'm the horrible person for abandoning you. Uh huh.

I wish there was a path forward, but we've never found one that would work. The intervention didn't work. The 5150s had no effect. You've lied to us repeatedly about the substance addiction.
posted by BStrummin at 2:38 PM on January 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


Wow that felt good. I don't think I've ever put all that together.
posted by BStrummin at 2:39 PM on January 14, 2015 [55 favorites]


I don't have parents. I sprang into existence the day I walked onto my college campus.

Or so I tell myself, so I won't have to think about how I was treated. At least, not very often.
posted by Dreidl at 2:43 PM on January 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


I don't have parents.

Me either! I just tell everyone that I sprung fully formed from the earth. WHICH I DID.

*solidarity fist bump*
posted by divined by radio at 2:47 PM on January 14, 2015 [22 favorites]


As the child of a narcissistic parent (her whole family is narcissistic as well), I would like to kick these people in their nether regions.
posted by dry white toast at 2:47 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Eerie, isn't it? The resemblence is so uncanny, I had to doublecheck the article to make sure she said "two sons" and not "my son and two daughters". Same sense of borderless entitlement, same feigned ignorance, even some of the same phraseology.

Me three. I haven't spoken to my mother since December 2000, and despite trying a couple times in conversations before then and in the final one, she does not understand why. My younger sister hasn't spoken to her since the mid-90's, and my older sister only talks to her once every year or two, and then grudgingly.

But it's all our fault, y'see.

Banned from Estranged Stories is a particularly interesting blog post from someone that was banned from her website for the terrible crime of wondering if she might have had something to do with the situation.

Assuming the other person is a relatively reliable narrator--and given that she isn't 100% blaming the kids, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt--the big red flags from this article have turned into flashing neon signs.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:53 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Poffin Boffin: no, meaningless judgement is not good either, but one can analyze a situation to a degree if both sides have a say, which is not the case here. My point was that we shouldn't be making any kind of judgement at all.
posted by harrietthespy at 2:56 PM on January 14, 2015


Talking about any articles on Metafilter involves making judgements, so I guess we better close up shop!
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:59 PM on January 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


The idea that she wants to heal her estrangement from her sons is wholly inconsistent with the actions of starting a support community for parent "victims" of estrangement, and broadcasting her condemnation of the entire generation of which her sons are members. Her thinking is grandiose and self-centered, which is enough for me to make a meaningful judgment.
And this is beside michaelh's main point, but I take issue with the notion that relationships between parents and kids end with the death of the parent. Parents shape who we are. They often stay in our heads for life, which can be a comfort to those who are grieving - there's even a cliché about it, "As long as we live in the hearts of those who love us, we never really die." Moreover, children raised by narcissistic parents are trained from birth to consider the parent's needs first, and their own needs as a selfish threat to what's really important. That mindset doesn't just shake off when the funeral meats are cold (and estrangement doesn't magically eradicate it either.)
posted by gingerest at 3:22 PM on January 14, 2015 [38 favorites]


Both my parents have been dead for nearly 20 years (holy shit) and yet they are still very much with me. I'm lucky I had just ordinary fucked-uped-ness with them, resulting only in temporary periods of estrangement. So lucky.
posted by rtha at 3:26 PM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm remembering and laughing over something a friend of mine said to me about the person I wrote about in my above comment. He said he knew a whole circle of people who'd gotten to the point that they couldn't take this person's terrible behaviour anymore and had cut her off, and added, "Whenever someone else reaches that point, the rest of us are all, 'Welcome to your Carlsberg years!'"

Decisions such as those are never exactly pleasant to make, but damn can they be freeing and feel right.
posted by orange swan at 3:32 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you did not have a parent like this yourself you cannot imagine how clear the alarm bells are in this article. I have no doubt at all that she is the cause and, like my parents and several others mentioned in comments here, she has completely reframed or forgotten her own behavior so that nothing is ever her fault.

I finally did reconnect with my parents but only after 17 years and when I was very sure they no longer posed a threat to me. And I've spent much of the 20 years since hearing laments about the "lost years" and that we've never been as close as we were when I was a teenager.

Of course they don't even remember the most important incidents that made my escape necessary, and others they remember completely differently.

So to those who say you should always be open to reconnection -- it hasn't been a bad thing, but it hasn't been especially good either. There are certain topics we mutually agree not to discuss. Once or twice a month Dad and I meet and he buys me lunch or a movie ticket, and I pass by the house when work takes me in that direction. But I can't say I'd be poorer for it if I'd never run into them again, and despite all the words I'm not really sure they would have been all that poorer for it if they'd just lived on with their personal narrative about surviving the terrible rejection of their ungrateful and uncaring son.
posted by localroger at 3:42 PM on January 14, 2015 [30 favorites]


I don't now, gingerest. People who can't find answers to their problems will often turn to others for support and to see whether others' lives yield any potential solutions. I think that is the foundation for a lot of support groups. I know that I have done that at least once in my life. It certainly could be a sign that she is not truly interested in healing the estrangement, but it might not.
posted by harrietthespy at 3:44 PM on January 14, 2015


My point was that we shouldn't be making any kind of judgement at all.

Yes, we should. Because we're never going to get to hear her children's side of the story, because they want nothing to do with her. We may never know exactly how much blame this woman deserves for her adult children not wanting their own mother in their lives, but we can know exactly how much effort this mother is putting into mending the broken relationship with her kids. It's really clear that she thinks she hasn't done enough to warrant being estranged from her children. As an adult man who's been estranged from his father for 17 years, if I found my dad was writing crap like this on the internet, I'd be screaming at my computer screen "This is exactly why I want nothing to do with you." It's not rocket science: if you want your estranged adult kids back in your life, the bare minimum requirements should be: 1) being able to repeat your kids' reasons for not wanting you in their lives, and 2) being sorry for the things you did that made your kids want to remove your from their lives. They may not want to be in your life after that, but shit, at least you can tell people that you gave it a decent shot.

This woman wants to pretend she can't understand the reasons her children have given her for the estrangement, and then she wants to pin the blame for the whole thing on her kids. That's reallyreallyreally shitty, and I think people should totally judge her for that.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:47 PM on January 14, 2015 [51 favorites]


I find it hilarious that the generation of "Don't trust anyone over 30" and "I hope I die before I get old" is now being held up as full of paragons of filial piety, unlike the disrespectful youth of today.
posted by firechicago at 3:59 PM on January 14, 2015 [28 favorites]


Treading carefully, or trying to... it seems that mental illness is part of the picture, in so many stories of estrangement. If it is, and it seems possible, given the adverse childhood experiences many of these parents went through themselves, as Wolfster pointed out above, it just - I don't know. Sad and painful all around.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:00 PM on January 14, 2015


Man, I hate that I'm working late, I need to hug my kid right now. I'm so sorry some of you guys have had such holy-shit-awful parents. And yet, you are here being awesome, which is the only worthwhile revenge. Still: hugs to all of you.
posted by emjaybee at 4:05 PM on January 14, 2015 [29 favorites]


Holy shit. My father could have written this. Er...if he wasn't dead and knew what the internet was. He liked to bang on about how my brother and I lacked "personal loyalty" whenever we didn't go along with his bullshit manipulations and abuse. I was never sure what "personal loyalty" was but it never applied to his behavior towards us, just our willingness to agree with whatever insulting thing he said about our mother, or whatever inappropriate interpretation of a situation he wanted us to sign off on. I stopped speaking to him when I was 17 and he would tell people that I didn't see him anymore because it was "fashionable for daughters not to talk to their fathers." Right.
posted by Aquifer at 4:15 PM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


"I think this is all just a big misunderstanding, the therapists have put you on this wrong track that I'm the central trauma of your life."

(I actually have restored contact for now.)
posted by PMdixon at 4:15 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]



A common story among parents who have estranged adult children is how much they had focused on their children, how much they did to make sure their children had all the best advantages, made them the center of the family universe — and often how they treated them more like an equal or an adult than a child.


what could possibly go wrong
posted by bq at 4:35 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


holy shit, divined by radio. If I did one tenth -- one one HUNDREDTH -- of that to either of my children, I fucking HOPE they would cut me off, because I love them and I want them to be happy. Jesus fuck.
posted by KathrynT at 4:40 PM on January 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Sarah Koenig needs to investigate what was in this email.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 20:43 on January 14


Since the mother basically aired this dirty laundry for the whole world, it's not unthinkable that one or both of her sons will write an article explaining exactly why they don't want contact with her anymore.
posted by ymgve at 4:41 PM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


WHO WAS EMAIL.

Seriously, I need to know what was in the email. It's like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:41 PM on January 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


Oh my god that survey for children!

Seriously! "I mean, we totally fed you, so why do you think a little thing like physical or emotional abuse should stop you from providing for us forever?"

I also love how it refuses to let you continue unless you say what kind of help you sought for feels about the estrangement - and family/friends/loved ones are not an option. But hey, clergy! And helpline! WTF, over.
posted by corb at 4:55 PM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Another description that leaves me wanting more:
I am estranged from both of my sons..

It has driven me crazy to figure out what in the world went wrong.. how did this happen.. I never saw any issues coming.. we were very close and a really silly incident grew out of control and there was no discussion.. just "done"...

In an effort to understand, I am working on a documentary on the issues, and I have created a short, completely confidential survey. I have been accepted to present at a conference on emerging adults this month in atlanta.. and I want to show these survey results, so if you haven't seen it and have any desire to help.. I would appreciate it ... just go to: www.estrangedstories.ning.com and the surveys are on the top left of the page...

Thank you so much..

Lost 2
posted by prefpara at 4:56 PM on January 14, 2015


Since the mother basically aired this dirty laundry for the whole world, it's not unthinkable that one or both of her sons will write an article explaining exactly why they don't want contact with her anymore.

That's opening a door, even if they're not directly writing to her, because it's giving her an excuse to defend the accusations and be all "Nuh-uh, that never happened" or "That's being blown way out of proportion", and then you have to respond to her response, and then BOOM, you've basically let that person back into your life by having this lateral dialogue with them.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:57 PM on January 14, 2015 [29 favorites]


From: Naricissistic Mom
To: Everybody but my kids
Subject: How awful my kids are for not knuckling under properly.

MacGuffin maguffin mcguffin maguffin, maguffin MacGuffin? McGuffin McGuffin! Maguffin maguffin in the maguffin maguffins. Totally maguffin to the maguffin.
Seriously though, without the 20 years of baggage would you get how awful this woman was from the email?
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:58 PM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yeah, it's a very subtle and very--albeit perhaps unconsciously--clever power play.

She wants back into their lives by hook or by crook. As it stands, her sons now have to let her spout this WOE IS INNOCENT ME garbage, or they have to engage. Lose-lose.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:59 PM on January 14, 2015 [23 favorites]


As many above have written: if you have experienced this, you can immediately see through her lies and BS. Who does she think she is fooling?

Divined by radio: WTF?!?!? I though my mum was crazy, but yours takes the prize. Unfortunately, I know a 15yo with a mum like yours.

It is a good point that probably the email in this story wasn't really interesting - it was just the last drop.

I can't even begin to list all the crazy lies and stories my mother has treated us to through the years. And maybe the specific things that hurt me the most, over time, don't seem that bad to people with caring parents. Because obviously, everyone makes a big mistake during a lifetime, and we all forgive each other. Probably, my mother has done things you would find much more offensive, but which were so common in our lives that we saw them more as a fact of life than as abuse. For instance, my siblings claim that our mother oftentimes chased me around the house with a hairbrush, trying to beat me. I don't remember it at all. I do remember her trying to convince me that the strange guy sleeping naked in her bed who wasn't my stepfather was just a young man who had missed the train. Several weeks in a row. (Actually that young man, who was not a lot older than me, ended up calling her out on the Cinderella-style arrangements she had set up for me, and bought me furniture and lighting for my room. And then got back to being a normal young man with girlfriends his own age).

For me, the big ones were:
#1: the time she suddenly found her bio-dad (she was adopted), dying, and woke me up in the middle of the night to take me to meet him at the hospital, leaving my younger siblings alone in our home. (My stepfather was traveling at the time). I was saved by a nurse who straight-out told my mother she was crazy.

#2: the time she was in a hospital for months, and I visited her every day after school. But she claimed I had never visited her. Much later on, I found out that in her view, I had really never visited her because at 2:30 PM, there was no audience to admire how her daughter came with flowers and chocolate. I might as well never have been there.

#3 the time she let my stepfather throw me out of our home over something I don't even remember, but I can safely say that at the time, I did all my homework, sports, and choir, and abstained from drinking, drugs and sex. I was also extremely shy and polite, and never contradicted authority. I goddam cleaned the bathroom every week and the kitchen every day. Maybe I was thrown out because I had read a book. Seriously.

#4: when she came an hour late to my 18th birthday, hosted by me in my new home, and she was drunk and had a black eye from being beaten up by the stepfather over a drunk drama.

After #3 I took a time-out for a year or so. Then I saw her - regularly but with a healthy distance - for several years until she came to babysit my babies so drunk that she fell over while entering my home. Then we had another time-out for ten years. I'm seeing her now, since I am her primary care-giver concerning all medical issues and she is old. I don't want to be caught up in all her drama, but I also don't want her lying on the street with no help. Today, I am tough and unsentimental and she is not happy with it, but she understands I can get her some better treatment than she would get otherwise.
posted by mumimor at 5:01 PM on January 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


I just hope no one tracks them down to intrude on them by proxy out of the intense curiosity her article encourages.
posted by prefpara at 5:02 PM on January 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


She's been at this horseshit for five+ years per a comment upthread; I'm assuming/hoping curiosity has come and gone.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:04 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Divined by radio: reminds me so much of my ex's mother. Even with documented abuse, she would claim no memory of it and that surely it was exaggerated or made up just to hurt her.

And yeah, before her I couldn't really understand/imagine such things. Having close secondhand experience, while still nothing like firsthand experience, I immediately got that kind of vibe from this article, and get why many in this thread make similar assumptions about the author.
posted by thefoxgod at 5:16 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even with documented abuse, she would claim no memory of it and that surely it was exaggerated or made up just to hurt her.

One of the worst things abusers do is deny that they are or ever have been abusive. God, when the people who have hurt you won't even acknowledge that they did it, much less that they have done anything wrong.... It's crazymaking.
posted by orange swan at 5:27 PM on January 14, 2015 [25 favorites]


Her website is a 501(C)3, apparently. That's... yeah, the messed up culture surrounding charity in the US is a whole kettle of fish on it's own, but that's just fucked up. I mean, I don't know, this seems like half a hobby and half a personal grudge, but regardless, I really don't think the money she spends on it and the donations she solicits to keep it running deserve to to count the same for tax purposes as donations to Oxfam, Red Cross, etc.

501(C)3 is tax exemption designation given out by the IRS. While the corporation can't do stuff like benefit individuals or shareholders, do certain types of lobbying, etc., it doesn't mean that it exists solely for benefit of all mankind or anything.
posted by sideshow at 5:30 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: stimulants to the busybody gland
posted by Sublimity at 5:42 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Things like this are why it makes me crazy when Hollywood trots out its "family is the most important thing" bullshit.
posted by Legomancer at 6:19 PM on January 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


This, unfortunately, is also very familiar to me. It's very cathartic (and sad) to read the comments here and feel like there are others who struggled with a difficult relationship with their parents, too.

In my case, my mother and I are carrying on a family tradition. My mother's mother didn't speak to her, my father, and me, which was devastating to my mother, especially every year during the holidays. And now history is repeating itself. I can't say there was ever clearly abuse, but I did make the difficult choice to disengage in order to protect myself. Sadly, I'm better off not having contact with her or my father; the stress and depression accompanied by feelings of inadequacy every time I talk to her and the boundary issues were toxic.

I love my parents and wish them well. I did try to reconcile many times, most recently for the sake of my son not having to experience what I lived through as a child. Although I have come to appreciate what a difficult job parenthood must have been for them, there's really no excuse to perpetuate bad behaviors well into a child's adulthood.

Similar to the author of the article, it seems my mother is incapable of an open and honest dialog about our relationship. While I've been willing to own my piece for some time, she has not; as they say, it does take two to tango. But, any suggestions that we get therapy were met with "I'm not sick!" Too, the confusion in the link is strikingly familiar: They accuse me of being a terrible person, but won’t elaborate about exactly what I've done. Well, sometimes they do, but it doesn't make sense, at least to me.

I have to admit that I find some of the comments upthread about reconciliation difficult to understand. I don't think one makes the decision not to speak with their family frivolously, and then doesn't wrestle with the consequences from time to time. It may be a cultural norm for children to stay connected to their parents, but it's not always the best choice.

Sometimes we really are better off on our own.
posted by Otherwise at 6:25 PM on January 14, 2015 [16 favorites]



According to a survey of estranged people conducted through my website, out of 907 respondents, 82 percent of the adult children who are currently estranged from their parents acknowledged their parents’ past efforts to provide for them, but only 58 percent of those respondents report having any desire to have a relationship with the parent they are estranged from.


Um, no. Providing for your children's basic needs while they are children is not an argument against later estrangement; it's the bare fucking minimum of being a parent. Providing food, shelter and clothing to your kids does not entitle you to a relationship with adults who, for whatever reason, can't stand to be around you.
posted by embrangled at 6:30 PM on January 14, 2015 [36 favorites]


Wow, I wish I had read this thread 20 years ago. I don't think I would have cut off all contact but I think I would've put my foot down about stupid crap my parents did to me and my family when we visited. The assumption seemed to be that I was supposed to put up with there crap no matter what. Boy was I wrong in retrospect. As it is I did stand up for Me and my family when my sister pulled some particularly nasty stuff and we are no longer speaking. It feels like a relief so I can very much relate to the stories here. My parents were "the greatest generTion" and I am a boomer but I would never pull the kind of shit my parents did (maybe that's why) hell I'm just really happy that my kids want to visit and want us to visit them!
posted by bluesky43 at 6:36 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


For those that are conflicted about their parental estrangement:

As the daughter of 1 and 3/4 truly, truly *not great* parents....let me assure you all that their (separate) deaths are actually a liberating (and complex, of course) and wonderful thing.

I can almost see the silhouette of what happiness looks like now that they're gone. Christmas is happy, my birthday is mine and I feel safe in the world.

I wish my sisters had estranged themselves and thusly weren't now grieving for relationships they never actually had.

The death of my mother (and in part my father) is the best thing that ever happened to me, and to the universe. She no longer suffers and can cause no other person to suffer.

That one day my kids could feel this way about me is enough to keep me trying my best... to always have empathy, boundaries and outside interests. Ding dong, the witch is dead. Tra la la la la.
posted by taff at 6:50 PM on January 14, 2015 [26 favorites]


One of the worst things abusers do is deny that they are or ever have been abusive. God, when the people who have hurt you won't even acknowledge that they did it, much less that they have done anything wrong. It's crazy-making.

One of the most infuriating things that happened when my father died was my extended family all told me that they didn't blame me for leaving and going no contact with my mother because she was abusive. What I wanted to ask them was 'why didn't you do anything to help me when it was going on, assholes?' It was almost worse getting that acknowledgement of her abuse because it made it clear that I hadn't been wrong to think that she was cruel and abusive; rather everyone was okay with her torturing me as long as they could pretend it wasn't happening. All those years of me crying silently in heaving breathless gulps because just being alive was painful, all those years of feeling like I was alone and helpless and that I somehow deserved that treatment, all those lonely miserable dreadful years and no one could be bothered to tell me just once anything but 'just tell her what she wants to hear and she won't be angry.'

They colluded in it. Small wonder I don't really speak to them, either.
posted by winna at 6:57 PM on January 14, 2015 [67 favorites]


I want to give so many hugs to so many people in this thread.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:14 PM on January 14, 2015 [35 favorites]


Just here to say THANK YOU to everyone posting personal stories and anecdotes. It's just totally so reassuring for me.

I was a frequent "runaway" literally starting at 3 years old. I'd flee to neighbors homes and everyone thought it was cute and I was too afraid to tell any stories or give reasons.

My parents had me evicted by police in my late teens because I didn't wake up at 7am one day...it was my ONLY day off from college and work.

Of my siblings, my baby brother died from "not exactly a suicide", my little sister won't talk to or talk about Mom at all, ever, and I being the oldest feel some obligation to maintain contact and I do occasionally.

When I DO show up to visit I risk red-faced, clenched-fisted verbal attacks about not visiting enough.

When I was at my brother's wake, all of the neighbors from the old neighborhood gave me dirty looks because of all of the shit my mom has said to them over the years about my being an unappreciative dirt-bag.

My dad even had some Cal-Vets thing that could've gotten me a full ride at UC anywhere in Ca. When I found out in my 40s (so many years too late, and I eventually quit trying) I asked why he didn't hook me up, but was somehow able to hook up (financially) my cousin...he said that I wouldn't have appreciated it.

All of that is just a little taste.

I've survived. I have a family of my own that I do keep mostly separate from my folks. I'm able to have deep and meaningful relationships...

And that is why I still keep contact even if it's strictly measured by my own comfort levels...

Because I feel very sorry for my folks, peoples parents who've been described here and the lady from the original post; none of them have the means to have real, meaningful relationships. They don't have the basic skills. I don't know why and don't need to know why, but they got cheated too somehow. They didn't get "something" that makes people fully realized humans.

Thanks for the post, prefpara. I had no idea how common this was and thought, felt, like an outlier breaking new ground. Awesome!
posted by snsranch at 7:15 PM on January 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


It's striking to me the stories too. My wife gives me a lot of flack for it and wants me to "open the door" but every time I get burned. My mom does not know how to have a normal conversation. It's always "well you know your dad and I's anniversary is coming up" with me just locking up and wanting to scream at her that they haven't been married for 20+ years! Or long diatribes about what pills shes taking for what condition, and that it's not possible for her to abuse drugs because she has a prescription! Unlike her horrible pot smoking sons (who have prescriptions for that too, FOR ANXIETY MOM!). And these aren't conversations, she just talks at you and wont look you in the eye.

Which reminds me that I think the email thing is nothing to the sons, and they probably won't even remember. She has latched onto it because it's the only thing she thinks she ever did wrong. Which means it's probably pretty bad. My mom called my wife Sybil in an email once that was addressed to several people, including her.
posted by BStrummin at 7:32 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


And she shakes her head forlornly, wondering out loud what she did wrong. She really... doesn't... know. You sense that she would LIKE to know on some level, but she doesn't know how to ask, or perhaps is too afraid of the answer to ask.

Anyway, I'm still dealing with the implications of the idea that people can be horrific abusers without knowing it.


Yeah, this rings true for me here. It sounds like her sons have certainly tried to tell her what she did and she's not listening and can't deal with listening. She probably deep down has an inkling but will never acknowledge it. I'd bet money that if they did talk to her, she'd ask them again and again to tell her whyyyyyyy and then claim that if they give an "acceptable" answer it'd be okay, except it won't, and no answer is "acceptable" and they'll just have this argument repeatedly.

It's a horrifying thing to realize how much damage you have caused to another person just by being yourself, whether you meant to or not. A lot of people just can't and won't deal with that, this lady included. But she's clearly being a deliberate blockhead about if as far as she's concerned her kids said "blah blah blah GINGER" at her on their way out the door. And there's nothing much you can do with someone like that except well, bail while she screams "whyyyyyyyy" all over the Internet.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:33 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm another person estranged from a parent - my father - and very close to my mother. I wonder sometimes what story he tells himself about it, but I think I can guess; the story he told me in a letter to me telling me he wouldn't see me unless I called him to ask him to come get me was of a girl brainwashed by my evil mother who wanted to destroy him and, by extension, me.

I don't see him anymore because when I do see him he effectively acts like I'm not there (as in, I ask a question, he answers with a single word and turns away from me) and it makes me suicidal. And I don't like being suicidal. I like thinking that the people around me want me to be there, not that they'd rather I be gone. Or something other than me. Who knows; I was never able to make him interested in me, and given I went into a field he didn't approve of, I'm not sure that would have changed.

He knows how to contact me. I'd probably call him back - for the novelty if nothing else. He has never contacted me. It's been about ten years, and I don't foresee it changing. It took my brother calling him weekly for years for them to have awkward weekend meetings that are sometimes abruptly cancelled for reasons which are never clear. That's too high a price for too damaging a result.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:59 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


About 15 years ago, Reform Judaism (the URJC) sponsored local workshops for estranged parents. At the time, I ran a Reform-affiliated LGBTQ congregation, and some bright cookie at the movement head office in NYC thought I (or someone from our shul) should be the lead person to facilitate these workshops. *Because LGBTQ Jews were more likely to have an estranged parent*. Not BE an estranged parent, HAVE estranged parents.

Facepalm. Why is there no Yiddish or Ladino word for facepalm.

It took a lot of explaining that was not good LGBTQ allyship by URJC.
posted by Dreidl at 8:07 PM on January 14, 2015 [20 favorites]


Dreidl that has to win some sort of Maximally Clueless Prize.
posted by winna at 8:09 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's some sort of epitome of "I can see where you started from but fuck me, you ended up in the wrong place, how on earth did that happen?"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:29 PM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Mods, Google indicates that this discussion is likely to draw a DMCA notice from this lady.
posted by ocschwar at 8:52 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm also thankful for the personal stories posted here. As someone adopted as an infant, my mother still tells me how she's obligated to love me even though I'm not "real." Arrrgh, like I'm some velveteen rabbit that couldn't be redeemed by her love or something. I keep in contact because I can see how isolated she is now, and it worries me to see her alone but I just can't bring myself to live near her. Like many others in this thread I doubt I'll ever have a real and equal relationship with my parent, yet I've never been able to walk away completely.
posted by biddeford at 9:01 PM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]



I don't have parents.

Me either! I just tell everyone that I sprung fully formed from the earth. WHICH I DID.


If I could draw, I would totally make fanart of this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:08 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


As someone adopted as an infant, my mother still tells me how she's obligated to love me even though I'm not "real."

What?

I don't know how to say this in a way that doesn't come across badly, so I hope you receive it the way I intend and I take all responsibility if you don't: living past that kind of bullshit from a parent deserves every medal humanity has ever devised. I am, sincerely, in awe that you moved past that. You have a strength that should humble basically everyone.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:24 PM on January 14, 2015 [21 favorites]


Most of my siblings put a lot of effort into developing solid boundaries with my bipolar alcoholic Mom. One sibling had a very close, pretty healthy relationship with Mom, another was pretty codependent. I moved 1,000 miles away and didn't have a phone for a year. Mom and I ended up with a cautious relationship that was okay. Parents can be fucked up, jerks, and/or mentally ill, overwhelmed, untaught in parenting. So can kids. Some kids are assholes. Learned behavior, innate, whatever. Asshattery exists pretty much everywhere.

Having kids doesn't obligate the kids to be there in garish sweaters for Christmas card pictures. You have kids, you do your best, and there are no guarantees. They'll probably love you and stay in touch. But they might get addicted or join a cultish group or move to Australia. For that matter, your parents might decide to sell everything and retire to Bali, which is a long flight for Thanksgiving. I'm sorry for this Mom's pain, and I hope she figures out how to be patient, and to build a healthy life with room for her kids. I hope her kids figure out that compassion is good for the heart, but who knows what the real story is.
posted by theora55 at 9:33 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


You guys should really listen to the Wyatt Cenac episode of The Champs podcast. Very, very germane.
posted by jcruelty at 9:59 PM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


And yet, you are here being awesome

We didn't all get away; I am still trapped with abusers. Not that anyone asked.
posted by byanyothername at 10:45 PM on January 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


In that case, byanyothername, we're all pulling for you and I'd be astonished if there were a Mefite who didn't have ears and arms open if you need 'em.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:54 PM on January 14, 2015 [24 favorites]


One of the best moments in my life was when I realized I did not HAVE to see family anymore if I choose not to. That seeing them, or not, was entirely my choice and that if I didn't want that stress, I didn't need to subject myself to that stress.

I am mostly estranged from my family; and completely from my father. My father was an abusive alcoholic. (The father depicted in Chronicle gave me some serious triggering and made it hard to watch.) Being estranged from him was easy and he made the choice even easier. He had me arrested on domestic abuse charges because I fought back one time, and because my boyfriend was able to extract me from the situation before he was finished pushing me around.

But it wasn't really because I fought back, or because my now husband stopped him and extracted me from the situation- it was because my mom threatened to divorce him. (which turned out to be an empty threat anyway). I was kicked out of the house. And so I said "fuck it, I don't need to go back." I don't think that was the response he expected.

I suspect many others in my situation have done the same thing. Parent tries ousting a near-adult child after years of abuse, and instead of returning and begging to be let back in; they just move on with their life. A life unexpectedly better without that parent.

Being away from my family was the best decision I ever made. I had anger issues I didn't know how to deal with. I cut myself (very briefly) when the emotional pain of being trapped was too much and I didn't know how else to release it.

At first, I tried to stay cordial with the rest of the family; and saw my father at various family events. That caused a lot of anxiety, and most of the family expected it to blow over; and expected ME to let it go back to normal. He'd pretend nothing ever happened. What made it worse was for a time my grandmother and grandfather (his parents), decided I was terrible too. But that's always the way they were - their children were never held accountable; but in-laws and grandkids were expected to do all the things their own children were never held to. My dad's father was an abusive alcoholic too, so it's not surprising that my father turned out the way he did; but it didn't make the pain any less.

The estrangement from the rest of the family is more complicated. Some are collateral damage. My other grandmother is awesome, but it's hard for me to articulate why I don't want to see her. A big part is because I can't see here in a vacuum. There is too many other parts mixed up in seeing her, and too many bad memories.

It gets trickier with other relatives because both sides of the family have some serious dysfunction. (It is dysfunction turtles all the way down.) Both my Aunt's on my mom's side are married to men who are controlling and cruel. I don't know if they're physically as abusive as my father, but they are controlling and manipulative towards their wives and kids.

This has lead me to suspect that my mother and her sisters were abused by their father, my other grandfather. It's just a hunch and he's passed now, and I never saw it, but I can't shake the feeling that's part of why they ended up with the men they ended up with.

My mother is the one I've kept in touch with the longest, but I've even begun to realize how big of a part she played in my fucked up childhood. I could never do anything right. Hell, it's not even a childhood thing; as an adult, I could never do anything right. It did not matter that I was very successful, paid well, and generally turned out alright in spite of being the black sheep of the family (I understood I was being abused and it caused a lot of rebellion and turmoil as a youngster). I could never do anything right. But I was busy working and had plenty of excuses to not see her.

Then I got sick, and had a torrent of pseudo-concern for my health, which was just an opening for her to criticize every part of my life. I was vulnerable in a way I hadn't been since childhood; maybe longer. My mother would offer to help, but she never actually did; choosing to take that time to either complain about how poorly my father treated her, or how it was my own fault for getting sick because I didn't take care of myself.

I don't know exactly why I let her into my life then; I sort of felt obligated at that point. And even simple requests for help were somehow never answered. Simple, like "Mom, can you please find out the medical condition that Aunt Rita (her sister) had before she passed; it might be relevant to me." and "Mom, I was in counseling when I was a little kid; do you remember why you took me to a therapist? I don't remember." These were small tasks. But I'd never get an answer. Some conspicuously so. She'd come over, offering to bring food or help clean the house. Okay, she would bring food; but usually as an excuse to get in the door. Never once did she come through on the other offers.

The last-last straw was when I called her for help with something; and she didn't even acknowledge I asked. It was a big favor. It was one that I wasn't she could help with, but I lacked other resources. But I also caveated that I knew she might not be able to help; and if she couldn't, could she at least offer some advice as it was an area of her expertise. I left a message on her voicemail, and followed up with an email. It was the first time I was able to go for months without her trying to contact me. When she did, she pretended like nothing ever happened.

These are just a few things; like many others in this type of situation, I have more stories than I could possibly tell here. I probably make it sound like my mother is the primary driver of the problem. My father was the one who hit, abused, and tormented me emotionally. He was the first person to call me a cunt. He would take my glasses away as punishment (I am very nearsighted). If he wasn't telling me and my sister how terrible we were, he was demanding we be his house maids. He treated family pets as something to lord over my sister and me as tools of punishment - if we do something wrong, sometimes something arbitrarily wrong that just bugged him that day; Mr. Fuzzy was at risk of being taken to the pound (which happened to a number of beloved pets over the years. Yeah, that's not going to scar a child.)

To be honest, I have forgotten many of the altercations with my father that used to haunt me. I take it as a sign that the mental scars are healing. I haven't had the overwhelming rage I had as a child and teen since I was out from under his thumb. Sometimes I worry it could come back. But I think it can't/won't. It was a time when I had no means to cope and no examples of how to deal with that anger in a healthy way. No outlet valve.

But I won't speak to him. My estrangement from the rest of the family is different. Part of it is just not wanting to be involved with people who have dysfunctional relationships and don't know how to treat each other like normal people. Part of it is their complicity in my abuse. With my sister, it's because she married a version of my father who's also a scam artist. With my mother, it's something else; our relationship isn't right and I just don't have the energy to constantly restate my boundaries with her. For her, reconciliation with my father is driven at least in part by the discomfort of having to admit she doesn't know what's going on in my life. It's not that she cares per say, she just doesn't want to admit the family didn't turn out so great.

One of my Mom's sister is very devote, and sends cards with long letters and various Jesus literature. I don't read them anymore, but they make my husband giggle so I let him read them. Her Christmas message asked if it wasn't time I forgive my father*? Because somehow this landed on me. Somehow, no one ever asked my father to say he was sorry for how he treated his kids. He doesn't (or didn't, who knows?!) acknowledge much of it happened.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:22 PM on January 14, 2015 [20 favorites]


"Most of the parents I talk to are boomers, who share similar values and beliefs..."

You misspelled narcissists there.
Oh, and delusions.
posted by fullerine at 11:23 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm (selfish and) running out of energy to MeMail people to cheerlead their survival and thank them for sharing.

I thought I had it bad. What so many people here have shared and lived through is unreal, in the sense that nobody wants to believe it's true. But it so obviously is.

There's nothing that I can say that could ever... no idea how to finish that.

We're in your corner is what I'm trying to get at.

And I for one am in awe at the strength of people here.

I hope this comes across the right way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:35 PM on January 14, 2015 [25 favorites]


So many people here have such overwhelming reasons to cut ties; your stories are painful to read.

I stopped speaking to one of my parents and their spouse about ten years ago. Compared to the reasons so many of you cut ties, my reasons are practically whimsical:

I did not like answering detailed questions about my life and my friends (and the notion that the questions were prying was apparently incomprehensible to them).

I always felt like they were slightly disappointed in me, mostly for having the audacity to be a young person and not agree with everything they believed about frugality and work ethic.

I hit a rough patch in my life, and cutting them out removed some stress at a time when I had plenty of stress from elsewhere.

Later, I got out of the rough patch, and never reconnected. My life is simpler and happier without them in it. Every couple of years they try to contact me (usually just through a Christmas card or a text message on my birthday). Every time I see the phone number or return address, I get a momentary jolt of anxiety -- then I remember that I can delete or trash the message, do so, and go about my life.

No one should feel guilty about getting away from abusive people in their life (please, please do not feel guilty about this!), but for anyone in a situation like mine: you don't need to have years of brutal abuse to be justified in estranging a parent.
posted by reventlov at 2:20 AM on January 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


ocschwar: Mods, Google indicates that this discussion is likely to draw a DMCA notice from this lady.

I don't think the tone-deafness of her piece and the pathological inability to see any glimmer of responsibility for her situation count as copy-protection devices under the DMCA.
posted by dr_dank at 5:04 AM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of the other communities I'm (a barely present) part of, Making Light, has had a long running series on Dysfunctional Families which may be of interest. Having followed some of the stories there made me immediately recognise what was happening in the original post.

The series functions not so much as a space to explain dysfunction and abuse or offer solutions, but as a safe space to talk and bear witness, which I think has value and, judging from some of the comments above, more people here feel that way:
One of the customs of this community that I am particularly fond of is the practice of witnessing: the acknowledgment of the experiences (and reactions) of our fellow community members, even when there’s no advice to be given.

Witnessing avoids the weird mixed message of a Facebook “like” or a Twitter “favorite” for a description of things that are neither likeable nor our favorite experiences. But for anyone who has been gaslit, who has had their memories denied and their emotions steamrollered, the affirmation that that happened and I feel this way about it are valid comments, worthy of other peoples’ attention, is huge.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:12 AM on January 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


I have various parts of the family who aren't talking to each other. In most cases, no one would be as vague as the author: the proximate causes are invariably over money, the kind held in trusts and from inheritances. All parties involved are pretty up front about this. My family ends up being the bridge between the non-speaking branches because we don't have a dog in those fights. But it did make me feel that money tears people apart.

But then there are the cases where two family members don't speak to each other and I can picture one of the people involved sounding EXACTLY like the author-- a bunch of vagueries about why someone isn't speaking to them or claiming it all happened because of some minor misunderstanding. But digging deeper it was narcissistic abuse and mockery that went on for years until someone realized that they would be much happier not putting up with the bullshit anymore. So, yeah, the author fits a pretty consistent pattern-- if her children really were the narcissists she thought they were, then THEY would be the ones demanding untold amounts of attention from their mother and the public. Instead their mother is defining narcissism as "a desire not to accept poor treatment." And the mother's reaction is along the lines of, "How DARE they?"
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 6:36 AM on January 15, 2015 [8 favorites]





ocschwar: Mods, Google indicates that this discussion is likely to draw a DMCA notice from this lady.

I don't think the tone-deafness of her piece and the pathological inability to see any glimmer of responsibility for her situation count as copy-protection devices under the DMCA.


Neither do I.
posted by ocschwar at 8:04 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd also be curious to know what kind of historical precedence for estrangement. Previous generations probably didn't have this concept to the same degree, but instead had children moving away and starting lives in places less accessible. I'm sure cheap travel and a world wide communication systems mean the old, more socially acceptable ways of escaping are gone. So estrangement is more carefully managed.

I'm sure the flip side is both that you can find other people who've gone through similar home life difficulties that can make the decision to leave behind the hurt an easier one.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:32 AM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


You guys should really listen to the Wyatt Cenac episode of The Champs podcast. Very, very germane.
posted by jcruelty at 12:59 AM on January 15 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


This is accurate go listen.
posted by edbles at 8:43 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a parent, this thread terrifies me. I'm not very close to either of my parents. They were not abusive at all, but I just don't feel close to them. But my children are so important to me, and right now, they think I'm pretty awesome. I don't have enough confidence in myself to assume that I won't manage to fuck things up enough in the next decade or so, so much that they won't want much to do with me once they have their own lives. They're healthy and cared for, they know they're loved, and they're given their space, but they're also going to remember "sad mom who was in bed a lot," and I don't know how my depression will affect their view of our family as they get older. I like to think that I am not as clueless as this woman, and I know I'm not the abusive parents so many of you (sadly) had. But my experience with my own parents has taught me that you can be uncomfortable enough around them to want significant distance, even though I know they loved and cared for me.

I had no idea how much my parents loved me until I had my own children. And yet, that didn't decrease the discomfort I felt towards my parents.

This woman, though - I think I have enough self-awareness to avoid this mix of passive-aggression, cluelessness, and martyrdom.
posted by bibliowench at 8:44 AM on January 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


You guys should really listen to the Wyatt Cenac episode of The Champs podcast. Very, very germane.

I can't wait to get home and listen to this, thank you so much for the link.

On a similar note, for everyone else with the kind of parent/s who called the cops on you for no reason, please listen to the Pia Glenn episode of the Mental Illness Happy Hour. I don't even have the words to describe what it's like to hear another person describe their childhood and have it so closely resemble your own. Listening to her speak touches the core of my soul. She talks about being terrified of people not believing her, even now, because her mom spent years trying to convince everyone that her daughter was just crazy and overreacting to imaginary slights. Being raised that way makes you feel like a ghost, you're just shocked if it seems like someone else really sees or hears you plainly.

Like how I still have my hospital discharge paperwork, I still know the friend and parents who came and picked me up from the ER, I still ask them about it whenever I need to hear someone say, "Yes, that really happened, yes, it was really that bad, and we know all of that is true because we were there, too." But I still doubt my own experience sometimes. A lot of times, to be honest. How can I be sure I didn't make it all up? I look at my discharge paperwork, my medical reports, my blood test results. Yes, it was real. How can I be sure that any of this happened? I call my friend and ask him again. Yes, it was real. It's one of the most shattering feelings in the world, having your adult guardians teach and tell you over and over that you can't even trust your own eyes. Nothing else they ever said or did to me has set me back more than that. I've forgiven them for a lot but I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive them for that. It was just so fucking pointless. Everyone says that parents are all just doing the very best they can do, but if that's the best my parents could do... I already knew this, but goddamn, they really shouldn't have had children.

So, for everyone reading this with abusive parents who say they don't remember doing what they did, who tell you and everyone around you that you're making everything up: I hear you, I trust you, I believe you, I wish you love and healing and as much respite as you can find in this world. You deserve happiness and peace, you deserve to be free. And for the love of all that is good in the world -- congratulations, you made it! Even if you're still staggering and reeling inside, you're alive! Thank you for being here.
posted by divined by radio at 9:14 AM on January 15, 2015 [68 favorites]


Talk about shooting yourself in both feet. By creating a networking site like that, she not only further decreases her odds of reconciling with her kids, she also matches herself up with likeminded parents who will only serve to reinforce her delusions.

I can only imagine the conversations they have on there... "Those narcissistic jerks we spawned are 100% to blame for this!" "Yeah, I agree!" "Me too!!"

It'd be funnier if it wasn't so tragic, for both parties.
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 11:03 AM on January 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's a horrible thing to deliberately make a permanent breach in a family, one that negatively affects generations of people, and it should only be done in extreme circumstances.

Utter Bullshit.

Additionally, while I'm not estranged from anyone, [...]

Hahaha....

This is the same attitude that enables "concerned" people to treat others who do not live "standard" lives like shit. Anyone who has been, or has been raised by, a single mom will know what I mean.
posted by smidgen at 11:10 AM on January 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


I have seen some elements of this in the generations of my family, and the way it seems to have played out for many of them is this:

1920s/30s parents: horrifying, nightmarishly abusive psychopaths according to our current standards (one literally used to hurl dishes outside the house if they weren’t cleaned according to his standards, one threw acid on himself before committing suicide)
1950s/60s parents: tried very hard not to be as awful as their own parents, loved their children more as individuals than their own parents did, but unfortunately did so by relentlessly squashing any indications of difference/uniqueness/softness in their own children, taught the girls that they were only good for marrying and not great for that, taught the boys they were eternal disappointments [perceived this behavior as avoiding the much more horrific treatment of their own parents and therefore a victory, resented any implication that it was not 100x better than what they had been given]
1970s/80s parents: tried very hard not to be as awful as their own parents, loved their children even more as individuals than their parents did, but unfortunately sometimes did so by laughing off/minimizing treatment that was truly painful and mocking any sensitivity to it, because at least it wasn’t as bad as the often-explicit disgust and indifference that had been shown to them when they failed to live up to impossible standards.

I’m not saying this to excuse any of the behavior ever, ever, nor to do a Philip Larkin “they fuck you up your mum and dad” hand wave. NO EXCUSES FOR ANY OF IT, TO BE CLEAR.

But I think that some parents who refuse to acknowledge that they have done anything wrong are so reluctant to examine their own cruelties because, in their experience, those cruelties (in their opinion) are so minor (in their estimation) compared to what they were forced to endure. So the people in my family who endured physical abuse (children of 20s/30s) refuse to call emotional abuse abuse, because “I put up with so much worse, how dare you say that to me” and the ones who dealt with “you are not my son you are a [slur] and a [slur] and I am ashamed of you” emotional abuse (children of 50s/60s) refuse to call a life full of microaggressions abuse. (And current parents who grew up in that environment (children of 70s/80s) are unwilling to call helicopter parenting abuse, because they are supporting their children! Like their own parents never did!)

The determination to believe that one’s own actions should not be objectionable EVER because they are not as bad as someone else’s seems to allow a lot of people to convince themselves that they should never, ever, be forced to change or re-evaluate their behavior, and that anyone who asks it of them is Markedly Ungrateful and Cruel.

"I treated you better than I was treated," is a good intention, sure, but so many people turn that into "I treated you better than I was treated and therefore my conduct is unassailable and your criticisms are the basest form of ingratitude for my magnanimity."
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:42 AM on January 15, 2015 [42 favorites]


No one should feel guilty about getting away from abusive people in their life (please, please do not feel guilty about this!), but for anyone in a situation like mine: you don't need to have years of brutal abuse to be justified in estranging a parent.

My parents were personality disordered (both of them) and alcoholic (both of them). It was a bitter nasty divorce with kids as pawns. I am pretty much estranged from my father aside from an email or two per year and those emails are very shallow. I talk to my mom about once every two months. I speak with her since she's apologized and acknowledged that she was a shitty parent. She knows exactly why I didn't talk to her for 2 years and won't try to justify herself. Also I live far enough away and our contact is so sporadic that I mostly see the "nice" her, not the angry/witdhrawing/controlling icy her. My father still thinks it's my fault we don't get along because I didn't make it easy on him, and how can I dare say that it took me until my mid 30s to have a healthy relationship with a man because of the damage he caused. Oh and he spews lies and criticism about my sibling & her spouse but doesn't understand why I find it upsetting. (he sounds as daft as the person in the link). My sibling doesn't talk to him either.

On the other hand.... My fiance's mother reminds me of my mother - anxious, pushy, wants her way, doesn't seem to understand me. His dad is stoic, hands off, but caring. I don't know how my fiance does it, but he loves them while seeing their flaws. It is really weird. It's really not all-or-nothing with him. I would cut off his mother based on her personality but he loves her and also she drives him nuts sometimes (and he'll tell her so, although she doesn't change but doesn't hold it against him either). I think the difference is it's pretty clear that their love for their son is unconditional. Like when he does something they don't like, they voice their opinions (oh the family chorus), but there is never a withdrawal of affection and once they've said their opinion they really don't snark on his choices. (Whereas my mother would stop talking to me for weeks if she disapproved of me.)

When I was traveling in Europe a guy said to me, "You North Americans expect your family to understand you. We don't expect that. We just try to get along." It really stuck with me. We can't choose our families and as adults it can be painful to acknowledge that our parents aren't capable of giving us the connection we need. It can be hard to see their very real flaws and shortcomings. It really can hurt that they don't understand the core of us, like they do not get us not. at. all. In the ideal, there is a foundation of love to tie you through the differences of personality & opinion. But more often than not, you get who you get with your family and you try to make do.
posted by serenity soonish at 1:25 PM on January 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


That is a great point, a fiendish thingy. I can remember hearing my mother argue that way and my grandmother, too. And yeah, while generally, my kids reassure me I am not at all among the worst helicopter mums in their circles of friends, I often remember the independent things I did as a kid/teen/young adult and realize my kids have never been trusted to do that type of things on their own..
posted by mumimor at 1:29 PM on January 15, 2015


My fiance's mother reminds me of my mother - anxious, pushy, wants her way, doesn't seem to understand me. His dad is stoic, hands off, but caring. I don't know how my fiance does it, but he loves them while seeing their flaws. It is really weird. It's really not all-or-nothing with him. I would cut off his mother based on her personality . . .

This is really interesting to me. As someone in the estranged boat, I have little patience for peoples tales of manipulative or abusive family. I mean, I listen and empathize, but often wonder why they are even bothering. I'm also quick to sever ties with people who wrong me, and again, surprise by people who have friends they sound like they can't stand. Or can stand but have frequent conflicts. Why are you still talking to that person?

I don't know what to think about this. My friends are good friends, and the people that have slighted me don't get a second chance. There are whole scores of people out there that take advantage of other people that I just do not tolerate that. But I often suspect I'm too quick to just say fuck it and move on. It has it's own downside.

I've been missing a friend who did something kind of bastardly to me. She's done it to all of our mutual friends at least once, but they ended up staying friends with her. I'm fairly content in my decision, but it's the first time I've felt a twinge of regret, even though I know any reconciliation would be letting someone I know to be harmful back into my life.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:40 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would bet money that email her sons read was trashing the sons' wives/girlfriends/significant others.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:15 PM on January 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


trashing the sons' wives/girlfriends/significant others.

I'd add a side bet on career aspirations, financial acumen, or some other reason they've proven unable to survive without her wisdom to guide them.

(My parents told me to my face I'd never make it if I couldn't afford central air conditioning. And no, they didn't remember saying that years later when I had proven them wrong.)
posted by localroger at 6:06 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pfft. Another narcissist who goes around demanding things. Ugh. No one has an obligation to be around anyone who treat them like crap. People usually just don't up and cut you off for no reason. Most people don't want to be separated from a parent. I have no obligation to give my parents shit, OK? I've gone over some of the mess here in the MetaVerse. It wasn't good at all. From 0-30, it was bad, bad, bad.

I don't know who my father was, so I don't even know whether or not I should be angry with him. The woman who birthed me, whether she disliked me or not, didn't stop her husband from trying to kill me, never told anyone what led to my conception, and refused to engage with me from the time I left the courtroom after custody was transferred in 1973 to this day. I can't even remember what her voice sounds like, that's how little she spoke to me.

Her sister was forced by their father to tell the family court that she'd take me in when I was 3/4, she loathed me and let me know it from age 4 to 30. She also had other issues because she had no one in her life, so she used me for things that other adults would do if she had a friend or anyone else. But when she also demanded a relationship after I left her home and I told her my grievances, she denied that she ever touched me, beat me, abused me, made me lie about my parentage, etc., etc., etc. She called me a liar, then she said she loved me. Suffice it to say that everything she said to me for the previous 26 years, including "a", "and" and "the" was a lie.

I refuse to engage with such people. And I'm sorry that their parents were awful, and that their grandparents were awful. But that wasn't my problem. I was the child and they were the adults. My conditions at 30 to her were that she go see someone for her mental and emotional issues because how she was treating me was not healthy, and that she acknowledged that she abused me - I didn't expect an apology, just acknowledgement - and she told me I was a liar, she had no problems whatsoever, because Jesus, and that I was an awful person for not wanting a relationship with her the same as it had always been, and that she was free to do whatever she felt like to me. Again, I was 30. She actually treated anyone in my life as if they were an extension of me. She can't treat my boss like that though, so calling the office and yelling at him as if he were me? Thanks for almost getting me fired while I was at a client meeting, lady.

It was ridiculous. She expected to treat me exactly the same way she did as when I was a child. A decade after I'd estranged myself, she called another sister of hers and said if I showed up at a family funeral, "I got something waiting for that heifer if she she shows her face here!" Apparently she was going to stab me. I didn't show up. She's alone at her end of days? Welp, that's on her. She knows how to end this and it's been 15 years now. No one in that clan hasn't done a damn thing to heal their crap, they know how to get hold of me and haven't, so the hell with these people. Life is short and I'd rather be around people who actually care for me.

And when anyone has said to me that I owed these people something? If they hear the truncated version of my story, and still think I need to let bygones be bygones, then, nope, done with them, too.

Gawd, I'd love to give this wench a piece of my mind, but she would be just as willfully ignorant as my aunt and mother. So fuck all of them. No love.
posted by droplet at 9:11 PM on January 15, 2015 [20 favorites]


ymgve: "Since the mother basically aired this dirty laundry for the whole world, it's not unthinkable that one or both of her sons will write an article explaining exactly why they don't want contact with her anymore."

She has apparently been at this for several years, and from what I read deep in the like 9th page of google results, her sons refuse all interview requests about it. Can't vouch for the veracity but it seems reasonable given how long she's been beating this drum without them responding.

She also used to say in older interviews that she cut off her OWN mother for several years, but she seems to have dropped talking about that because it conflicts with her narrative and/or makes her seem less sympathetic, since she is now apparently making some money off as an "expert" on the topic of being a parent whose kids cut her off for no reason.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:56 PM on January 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


But I think that some parents who refuse to acknowledge that they have done anything wrong are so reluctant to examine their own cruelties because, in their experience, those cruelties (in their opinion) are so minor (in their estimation) compared to what they were forced to endure

Well yeah. My dad beat us with a belt or a hand instead of making us go cut our own switches off a tree, and according to him, hit us far less often than his dad hit him. Still fucked us up, though. I had startle reactions long into adulthood; still can't listen to angry men shouting on TV without feeling some apprehension.
posted by emjaybee at 8:31 PM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Cripes. I bet anything that my mother is a member of that site. That narrative-- that the problems in our (now blessedly severed) relationship are the product of my parents being too loving and too generous-- is exactly the sort of thing that would appeal deeply to both of them.

As I read that essay, I could feel the air freeze in my lungs.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 8:26 PM on January 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Here's another instant classic in a similar vein, wherein a mother has a full-blown public meltdown about how badly her 21 year old son has hurt and betrayed her by getting a tattoo she cannot see on his upper bicep.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:41 AM on January 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


wow, that tattoo article is something else.

(she didn't even look at it - I bet it says "Mom")
posted by ghostbikes at 11:07 AM on January 31, 2015


jesus christ

We sit down with cups of coffee. I open my mouth to speak and end up crying instead. I say, "You couldn't have done anything to hurt me more."

The kid's alive, he has all his limbs, he didn't murder or rape anyone. And here she is, sobbing in public over how her life has been forever ruined, how she can NEVER AGAIN look at him the same way. I hope he meets a nice partner of his choice and moves as far away as possible from this self-centered idiot asap.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:43 AM on January 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


For three days, I can't speak to my son. I can hardly bear to look at him. I decide this is rational.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:19 PM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


"But what if he wants to be a lawyer?"

Well, you've attended law school, and passed the bar, and we're very excited to have you join this firm! You seem to be one of the hardest-working, most intelligent young men we've ever seen. So now one final thing - and this is purely a formality, of course - please strip completely naked so that we may examine your skin and deem it appropriately pristine.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:22 PM on January 31, 2015 [16 favorites]


It's interesting - this last post reminded me of the summer after I first went to college. My mom and I have nearly always gotten along well - I mean, I was a bit of a snit through Junior High and High School, but we always talked, we ate together, we went places together. This summer she could not shut up about the amount of time I spent on the computer and how it was bad for me. Like every time we talked. I stopped wanting to interact with her, take meals with her, etc... I had no idea what was wrong with her.

Last couple of weeks before I went back to school, we ended up talking and she told me that she realized it was her way of trying to make herself relevant again in my life. She'd raised me to be independent (quite deliberately; I'm a pleaser by nature, and she saw how badly that affected other people with similar natures, so raised me to have the strong internal compass she was born with) but emotionally grappling with the fact that I was back and didn't need her anymore to help me in a thousand ways I don't think either of us were consciously aware of did a number on her. She's settled on the computer thing because it was new (my brother was the computer one when we were younger) and was a way to make her more important in my life again.

I think we underestimate the emotional toll of children outgrowing parents on the parents, sometimes, and so it comes out in weird ways like parents over-reacting about something.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:03 PM on January 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


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