Adult Children and the Skewed Definition of RespectBy
Why do adult children find it so hard to ignore the opinion of a parent?
When I was pregnant with my third child, my husband and I went over to his parents to tell them our exciting news but my father in law was not excited for us. He was angry. He didn’t say anything positive; in fact he stayed strangely quiet. My mother in law didn’t say too much either but I got the feeling that it had something to do with her husband’s reaction.
The next day, my father in law dropped by to see us and said that his wife had told him that his reaction to our news was not fair to us and that he should apologize. He launched into his “I’m sorry but it’s just that …” and then he proceeded to tell us all his judgements about us having a third child, and why this was such a terrible idea. He didn’t bother to hide his opinion that it was my fault and entirely my decision; as though my husband was a victim of a surprise pregnancy or as though he was not a participant in the event that got me pregnant! Even though I was 36 years old at the time and both my husband and I were excited about this new child coming and we had never made the decision to stop at two children, we didn’t stand up to my father in law. We pretty much both just sat there and took it. We didn’t say that it was none of his business. It didn’t occur to us that he was actually insinuating that we were not smart enough, mature enough or responsible enough to decide on our own how many children we could or should have and that as always, he was reminding my husband that he should never make a decision without his father’s approval.
The bottom line is that it was not his decision, nor was it his place to give his opinion of why we should stop having children, but at some level we thought it would be disrespectful to go against him. The thing is though, what was our alternative? I was pregnant. We were in a no win situation. We were having a baby with or without his approval. The whole thing just hurt.
So again, why do adult children find it so hard to ignore the opinion of a parent? Why didn’t my husband tell his father to mind his own business about how many babies we were going to have? Why did we just sit there and listen to him go on and on? Why did we let him communicate to us that we were not smart enough to decide on our own how many kids we could or should have? Well for one thing our definition of respect was skewed.
The only reason he didn’t want us to have any more kids was because it interfered with his plans for my husband. My husband was his father’s hired man even though we had our own farm. Having children interfered with my husband’s work hours. So who was it really “best” for if we didn’t have any more kids? It had nothing to do with my husband and I. Growing up, our parents had not empowered us to transition from child to independent adult. We had rarely been validated in our decisions. We were never approved of and were caught in the spin of always seeking approval; always trying to please. Therefore when we got a lecture about why we should not have another baby, we were well conditioned to accept judgement and reprimand. We have a different definition of respect today and we strive not to pass the old family systems on to our children.
Just another truth I discovered along the journey.