When adult children ignore you:
Recognizing changes in yourself
By Sheri McGregor, M.A.
I frequently hear from parents who have spent years of trying, wishing, hoping, and experiencing the same old rejection, abuse, manipulation, disregard, neglect, or … fill in the blanks. So, when they receive some invitation, gift, text, or other overture, they are surprised by their feelings.
Even after adult children ignore you for years, the old hopes might spring to mind. The lure of seeing grandchildren who were ripped away in the early years and are now teens is powerful with curiosity and the old gnawing of what it once meant to be a family.
Has the son or daughter come to their senses? Do they want to make things right? Often, the intention is uncertain and unclear. What seems like an opportunity might arrive in an email where the parent is copied in with other relatives about a visit through town. Perhaps a gift arrives, after years of silence, that contains a printed card and a phone number. Or a graduation announcement arrives in the post, and includes generic instructions on how to attend.
The parent may feel a mix of emotions: longing, fear, resentment, hope, trepidation, or perhaps resolve. Frequently, when they sit with their feelings and weigh history with their past efforts, they conclude that the possibility of a meaningful connection is slim. If the son or daughter wanted to reconcile, the intention would be spelled out and clear.
Deep in their core, many of these parents know their energy stores have grown thin. They just aren’t up for more dashed hopes, abuse, or indifference. They have no will to bow to the pressure of others. Yet, they still may struggle. This is for those parents.
When adult children ignore you: Your “sweet tooth” can change
You once had a sweet tooth. Gosh, you loved those sweets. Then one day, those goodies changed. You bit into chocolate and hit a nut that was hard as a stone. The next time, you found a doughy, undone, sticky part that turned your stomach. Another day, there were worms in the candy box.
You realized someone was sabotaging this thing you loved. Or your standards had changed. The sweets just weren’t the same.
You fasted off sweets for a bit, but then the longing took hold. You imagined the sweetness and satisfaction. You couldn’t resist.
But when you ventured a taste, you broke a tooth. Again, you resisted and craved and fasted. Other people said to go ahead, give in, and that things might have changed.
You hoped and longed. You sought out the sweets, but this time, the doughy middle turned your own vulnerable center inside out.
Even so, you eventually took another taste. You were cautious and aware. You prepared for and identified the worms. You worked to clear them, and you thought that you did … but the sweets just weren’t the same. You were always double checking: Is that another worm?
The pattern continued. You fasted. You craved. You went to great lengths to find the old sweets you loved. Nothing was as good as you remembered. And it was just as well. The sweets had grown sparse, unavailable, and pricey.
Finally, you recognized that life without the sweets was pretty good. You missed them now and again but even when you knew where to find them, you realized you couldn’t afford to break another tooth or expose yourself to possibly getting sick. You couldn’t chance worms.
Life went on. You grew a little leaner and stronger. You developed a taste for what is better for you. Peas and carrots … or peace & [self]care ruts! You took kind care of yourself.
You also learned about life, people, families, society, the soul/spirituality/God. You listened to your inner voice. You found meaning and joy. The sweets no longer had a hold on you.
Then one day, an invitation arrived. You closed your eyes and imagined the taste, the texture, the decadent satisfaction you used to feel at indulging in the confectionery buffet of sweets. Funny, your mouth didn’t water.
You opened your eyes and realized the old cravings had diminished. The thought, “empty calories,” came to mind. Even if the sweets had changed and were good again, you couldn’t enjoy them. They’d forever been spoiled for you by the years of hard parts, the sticky doughy bits, and the worms.
Your tastes had changed. You now craved peace & care ruts.
When adult children ignore you over time: Your turn
Can you relate? When you’re ignored by adult children (or abused, accused, and rejected), you may come to a point where your patience wanes and you see them differently. I hope you will share your thoughts. What did you crave in the early daze of estrangement? How did your feelings change over time, and why? Feel free to leave a comment and talk with other parents.
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