View Full Version : Is it normal for parents to fear that their children will put somone else before them?
08-31-2009, 04:50 PM
This is something that has been going on since kindergarten or first grade. They've (grandma too, before she developed dementia) always feared that I would love, obey, respect someone else more than them. Or, that I would seek guidance from someone else. That person could be a significant other, teacher, friend, cousin...or whatever.
I'm not asking for a problem to solve, I think I am handling things appropriately. I just need some perspective.
The thing is their fear isn't exactly baseless. There are times when I don't put my parents completely first in my life. What's throwing me off, is why would such a thing bother them so much? I am an adult now and I have a life. Number two, what would make them fear something like this in the first place? Again, this began early in my childhood...back when I put my parents first in everything and was completely dependent on them. This fear have to come from somewhere.
Is this a common experience?
08-31-2009, 04:55 PM
I don't know whether it's a common experience, but my experience is that I have not felt that fear from my parents, and I -- as a parent -- do not fear this regarding my children. Quite the opposite, I think it'd be unhealthy if my kids wouldn't one day find other "father figures" besides me. That's crucial part of personal developement IMHO.
Never Say Dice
08-31-2009, 05:00 PM
I was bothered a lot when I thought my daughter was listening to a religious sect. But it turned out they simply let her edit their magazine and she saw it as a journalism job and soon left for the next writing job. Had me and my ex worried enough to meet together to discuss it, the only time we ever discussed anything after the split.
08-31-2009, 05:00 PM
It isn't common in my experience, at all.
Uncommon. And I agree with Wakinyan that it's unhealthy for parents to think this way, especially with respect to adult children.
The Devil's Grandmother
08-31-2009, 05:58 PM
It seems like characters in movies will sigh and say "my little boy is growing up" when the kid takes coach's advice over dad's.
The extremes of the OP's parents are outside of my expereince, and seem a little odd.
08-31-2009, 06:51 PM
My great-grandmother hated my grandmother because of her "influence" over my grandfather. She also warned my mother that some girl would someday come along and "steal" my brother from her, too. It's a more common attitude than some people may think.
08-31-2009, 07:09 PM
Certainly unhealthy, but it's my case - especially with my mother. She absolutely adores my boyfriend - and I think subconsciously knows that "this is the one", as he and I have known for quite some time -but always calls me out on not putting her or my immediate family first, spending "too much" time with him, and so on. I attribute it to two things - one, she is a Cuban emigre, so she has a general fear of the "outside world", law enforcement, and so on. She even trusts her immediate family (her siblings, mother, father when he was alive) than her own husband, my father. Secondly, all of her siblings have divorced, and she and my father don't have a great marriage, so she feels your "immediate family" is more important. She puts a lot of emphasis on being a blood relative.
08-31-2009, 07:31 PM
My parents thought this way a little -- with them it was a cultural thing; they came from a culture where it was basically you-and-your-family against the world. So they always were really uptight about things like us confiding in friends or boyfriends about family foibles, or trusting/taking the advice of friends/boyfriends/teachers/what-have-you above that of family/parents, because those people OBVIOUSLY didn't have our best interests at heart 100% the way they did. (They were right about that sometimes, but clearly wrong at other times.)
Once my sister and I got married they backed off, though, because when we got married the husbands became part of the family and then it was okay. But until we got engaged/married... those poor boyfriends! They were definitely second-class citizens until then in my parents' minds.
But at least they had a cultural excuse. I think for an American family to think that way is a little weird, honestly. Are you an only child?
08-31-2009, 07:50 PM
As a teacher, I've had parents who were clearly a bit jealous of me: I think it's a normal part of raising teenagers--mom and dad become the last person you want to talk to, both because having part of your life away from them is really novel and empowering, and, also, because they still sorta think of their parents as omnicient, and so just assume that they know things. Parents of teens are often frustrated by how little they know: they suddenly feel like they are competing for the attention of the kid that, just a few years ago, wouldn't leave them alone. And I am sure it is frustrating to have your kid come home and say "Ms MandaJo says . . ." only to repeat more or less the same thing you've been telling them for years. Anyway, I've learned that when a parent says "I think you know him/her better than I do these days" that they are really asking for comfort and reassurance: I tell them that while I may know one small slice of their child, they know the whole process.
I've only had one parent (that I know of) who actually took it to a crazy degree, where she actually thought I was Not To Be Trusted, or that I somehow had an outside agenda. That was an odd case because I got very involved, very fast (good kid, arrested/expelled over something stupid, mom was very ill and completely incapable of acting as an advocate) and in that case the parent was not from the US, if we are keeping score. But I really think it was more "crazy and sick" than cultural.
08-31-2009, 08:33 PM
I always knew that my boys would someday. It is called growing up. If my boys do not put their wifes first they will hear from me!
I use to work with kids. And a lot of them called me Dad. I could give them advice and they could hear me, where they could not hear their parents. Remember the parents are involved more deeply and emotionally. If the child makes a bad mistake then the parents "failed". If they did not listen to my advice and made a mistake then it sadden me, but I did not fill like I failed.
I use to pray that someone else would be there for my boys like I was for many other kids.
08-31-2009, 09:38 PM
My own mother was like this, to an almost pathological degree. She kept accusing me of putting friends first, and talked as if it were a bad thing that I loved my wife as much as her, just in a different way. She energetically tried to undermine every close friendship, and especially the romantic relationships, including my engagement & marriage, that I had after I became a teenager. I was only able to see how bad this was in retrospect, as an adult, and looking at the whole pattern.
Had it not been for my faith and not wanting to disobey the commandment to "Honor you father & mother" I would have cut off all contact with her in my second year of marriage, after she said some grievously hurtful (& racist) things about my wife & in-laws. As it was, it took some family counselling sessions for me, and an actual honest to goodness "intervention", complete with an ultimatum, to put an end to this.
Even to this day, as she slips further into dementia, congestive heart failure and renal failure, and I look after all her needs and medical care, I care for her out of duty and compassion, but without any real sense of affection.
08-31-2009, 09:40 PM
As a relatively new parent (my daughter is not quite two years old), I'm learning that so much about parenting is bittersweet. I know that someday my little girl is going to listen to others before she'll listen to me...whether it's her peers at school, or her teachers, boyfriends (or girlfriends, I suppose :)), husband, etc. I would be lying if I said that didn't give me a twinge of regret, discomfort, whatever.
BUT...I know that's a healthy and normal part of growing up...so it's what I want for her. I see it as my main parental duty to raise a healthy, productive, independent adult. Some of the steps to get there are going to be painful for me, but I would never try to hold her back or whatever to save myself that pain, if that makes sense. To do otherwise would be so selfish.
Years ago, I was part of a class, organized by a local union, to help job seekers. We were all women (the group wasn't restricted, it just turned out that way).
At one point, the monitor gave us these strips of paper with different values written on them: family, work, friends... Each of us had to prioritize those values.
The other women were stunned when every single one of them had put Family as the most important value, whereas I had it behind Friends, Work, Community and a couple other things. The monitor found it perfectly normal. I asked for permission to explain: "when you say Family, you mean husband and children, right?"
"Yes" (the monitor was starting to crack up)
"I mean widowed, octopus mother and two grown-up brothers, one of whom is married."
Yeah, it makes sense that your SO, your children, and even your friends, will come before your parents.
What doesn't make sense is being "afraid" that at some point your child will put other people before you. Being able to do that is part of growing up; being able to accept that your "child" isn't your toddler any more is part of parenthood.
09-01-2009, 03:45 AM
It certainly hasn't been my experience, but I do know that there are some cultures where honoring your parents is extremely important. What is your cultural background?
Crowbar of Irony +3
09-01-2009, 05:54 AM
In cultures where children are expected to take care of their parents in their old age (such as traditional Chinese culture), the 'MIL from hell' frequently happens. It was the norm for Chinese family to stay under one roof, and usually the wife is married into the husband's household. There are many stories told about the newly wedded wife who has to endure the ire of the MIL.
There are cases where the MiL of both sides don't get along with each other and much drama ensues when the son's mother accuses him of siding with his wife's mother (and the other way round too).
As for real life stories, well this is what happened to one of my relatives. He got married, and his wife for the time being, stayed with his mother (Singapore's housing laws only allow you to get your own public housing flat after marriage, and only the really wealthy can afford private housing).
One fine night, the wife made dinner and ask my relative, well, to eat. His mother immediately kicked up a fuss. 'How dare she didn't ask me first!?" she pouted, screaming and shouting. 'What does she take me for?'
Eventually when the wife apologized and invited the son's mother to dinner, the older woman was still pouting, screaming and putting on airs. The relative and his wife were planning to move out as soon as they could afford an apartment; his mother said she would chip in the money...but she must stay with them.
With many modern Chinese this is becoming less of a problem, but the meme 'now you are married you don't care about your mother anymore' is often quite prevalent within media (it's a staple of soap opera series and sensational headlines, such as 'Mother of eight children has nowhere to stay!'). Filial piety is a big thing among Chinese - after all, there's a saying among the sages that 'Children are insurance for old age" - so such a fear is commonly found among Chinese (heck, my mum said that all the time to me too!) She likes to point out that I rather talk to friends other than her. Well, there's lot of reasons for that, but somehow making me feel guilty for wanting to hang out with my peers also reduces the chances of me wanting to talk to her about anything else.
Crowbar of Irony +3
09-01-2009, 06:00 AM
Missed the edit window. Though I'm quite sure the intent of filial piety is to provide and honor your parents, but not to the extent that the parents are dependent on you. Anyway times changes.
09-01-2009, 06:08 AM
It's not healthy, but not entirely uncommon -- isn't that what half the "My mom won't let me plan my own wedding / Let me raise my own child / Support my career choices" posts are about?
Healthy separation between parent and child is tricky.
I'm willing to bet that your family legacy includes a serious betrayal or some kind of traumatic event like molestation that caused Grandma to develop a disproportionate fear of strangers. Something.
I don't think it's YOU, I think their fear is about THEM.
And I agree, parenthood is bittersweet. It's about working ourselves out of a job.
09-01-2009, 08:22 AM
It seems awfully strange to me. After, say, toddlerhood, a kid is SUPPOSED to find people they "like more" than you pretty regularly. Cool aunts, teachers, friends, pretty much everyone once they hit puberty. It doesn't mean they don't love you, it's just part of exploring the world and establishing their own identities.
If my kid reached adulthood and didn't find anyone whose company she preferred to mine, I'd be pretty sure I'd failed at the socialization thing somewhere along the line.
09-01-2009, 08:00 PM
There are parents who are raising adults. That is, they accept when their kids grow up and are proud that they have intelligent adults and peers to talk to.
Then there are parents & cultures that think kids must always be kids, and never ever respect anyone more than the parents.
Those of you in the former group are lucky.
09-01-2009, 11:20 PM
My grandmother had this issue with my mother. (American Irish-Catholic family, by the way.) She expected my mother (but not my uncle) to keep her as her number one priority for the rest of both their lives. It was okay for my uncle to get married and have children, but when my mother told my grandmother that she was engaged, my grandmother called her a whore! :eek:
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