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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 02-Jun-06


Friday 02-Jun-06

Boyfriends and parents

One of the most difficult things to do as a parent is to loosen the ties and let your children go. This was a lesson I learned at an early age.  I remember listening to the arguments between my mother and my elder sister and wishing it would stop. In the generational gaps that occur, my mother came from a generation where parents closely monitored and controlled their children, and it must have been frustrating to lose that unquestioning obedience in the freewheeling second half of the twentieth century.

It didn't end well, and my sister married the first boyfriend who stood up to my mother. And then he turned out to be a domineering philanderer and it all ended in an acrimonious divorce.

My younger sister also went out with some right turkeys but by then my parents had learned a lesson and they bit their tongue. Eventually she married the boy next door who became a much-approved-of dentist (they are still together).

I watched all this and wondered long. And so, when my daughter in turn brought home her turkeys, I smiled and welcomed them and waited for her to wake up, which she eventually did. Her boyfriend now is intelligent and handsome and I hope they last.

So: did I stand dumbly by when the turkey parade passed through? Partly yes and partly no. First, I was careful never to criticize them directly, though perhaps I occasionally damned them with faint praise. Importantly, I never stopped talking with my daughter, and nor did my wife. Pushing her away would have been something akin to cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. The one direction that we encouraged her most was in education, though this also had its dark moments. Whilst going out with the biggest turkey of them all, she quit university and took a job in a local store. And still we supported her. I frequently drove her ten miles to her boyfriend's house. Even though he had a car, he seldom came to us, and when he did, he hardly acknowledged us. But those journeys were diamond opportunities to listen and talk. Eventually she went back to university where she found her present boyfriend. At last her future now looks rosy. She is completing a master's degree and has a good job waiting for her.

All done and dusted? Not quite. She is on the high road but no doubt there will be more twists and turns. And then there is her brother, who is seventeen and still on the starting blocks. Here we go again! It will be a different journey, but I hope we navigate this as well.

Your comments

I wish my parents could be like u

-- Amanda C

 I love this article i wish my parents think like that i had a boyfriend but we broke up and now am going out with another person but they don't want me to have boyfriend now so is difficult.

-- bekii

Dave replies:
Hi Bekii. Parents can be a problem, but it does seem that at least you parents care about you. Nobody teaches you to be a parent and you often just have to guess and hope you're doing the right thing. Nobody really teaches you to be a daughter either, for that matter, and you have to figure that out too. This can make for an interesting and helpful discussion, if you and your parents can be open with one another.

 My parents recently found out i have a boyfriend and they despise him. He has tried talking to them but they refuse to have a word with him. My parents are disappointed in me, even though im going to college and working. They have made it hard on me since they took my car away like i were a child. I'm an adult and wish they would treat me like one and understand i that i can make my own decisions. I don't know what to do though.

-- Lulu

Dave replies:
Growing up is hard for everyone. It's hard also for parents to accept that their children are now adult. I don't know the details of your situation, Lulu, but it sounds like there's a disconnect between you and your parents. If your parents seem to be disappointed, that generally means they love you and want you to do well. And sometimes they try to take too much control to achieve this. When you are an adult indeed you can make decisions -- and you also have responsibilities and must live with the consequences of you decisions, even if they turn out to be unwise. There's a good place with parents where you consult them about decisions, although you still decide yourself. It's hard as a parent to see a child make what you think is an unwise decision, but I believe parents have to let their children learn, even if they may get hurt some along the way.

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