…on Disagreeing with a Grown Child

(NOTE:  This is a re-post due to popular demand. This is one of a series of requested letters that will be posted under “Form Letters” for those of you who would like an idea or a template for a letter of your own. )

Dear Son/Daughter:

This is a strange subject for us, isn’t it.  But I’d really like to get the elephant out of the living room.

For all of your growing years, you have looked to me for my opinion on your decisions whether you liked it or not.   I’ve had a lot of influence and valuable judgement on whether you were making the right choices for yourself.  We’re both pretty much used to this.

And it’s just not working for us anymore.  Through the years as we handed over more power to you I held onto my “parent” position much longer than necessary.  I just haven’t known how to let go of the perceived necessity of my running interference and protecting you.  I know you want to make up your own mind on what goes on in your life.  And you should be.

But we’re still holding on to an old pattern.  You decide what you want to do.  You tell me.  I disagree (maybe not verbally).  You become defensive.  I either begin battering you with my arguments or get silent.  You angrily tell me that I have no right to tell you what to do.  Or you get silent.  Either way, you do what you want to do and we are both gritchy about the situation.

Let’s not make this an issue between us.

I am hoping that you will always feel free to come to me for my input.  I am also hoping that you weigh what I have to say and become more and more confident with your own ability to decide for yourself and  that I’ll become more and more confident in you.  This is going to be a learning process for both of us.

Nothing good can happen if either of us give my opinion undue weight.  So I’m just laying it out here.

Even should you choose to accept my ideas, they won’t always be right for you.  No one can ever be sure what is exactly right for another person.  I have tried to make good decisions for you in your childhood and we both know that even then, I made mistakes.  The older you get, the more you evolve into your own person and the more separately we live.  You will have infinitely more knowledge of the workings of your life than I will.  At the same time, I have infinitely more life experience.  This could be a conflict if we allow it.  Let’s not!

I’m not always going to agree with you.  This won’t mean that I am mad at you.  I won’t be waiting for you to be wrong and me to be right.  I will always want every decision you make to work for you.  Even though my life experience may cause my expectations to be different, I will want the best possible outcome for you.

If I’m quiet, it won’t mean that I am angry.  It may mean that I am holding my tongue.  It may mean that I don’t know what to say.  I may mean that if I can’t say anything nice, I’ll say nothing at all.  And it may mean that I am processing.  If you really want to know what I’m thinking at the time, just ask me.  I’ll try to be open.

We can move on.  Breaking away from each other is a normal part of life.  If we can accomplish this with mutual respect we will have accomplished something wonderful.  We will have saved ourselves years of discord and animosity.  I hope we will still share our insights with each other.  Sometimes  you are “spot on” with me and perhaps my wisdom will help you along the way, too.

What I don’t want is for you to be looking over your shoulder for my disapproval.  I’m not expecting you to consider me in your life decisions.  Just be assured that I am always on your side.  My love for you does not require you to do what I say or agree with what I believe.

Right? Wrong?  Who knows? There are so many times in my life I thought I had made the wrong decision and it turned into a perfect lesson for me or it sent me down a better path than I might have chosen had I gotten it “right”.  Even with hindsight I can only see one or two choices that gave immediate gratification.

Okay, okay, I’m working it to death, I know.  But here’s the deal.

I may hate your decision.  I may not financially support your decision.  I may rail against it publicly and privately.  I am still your greatest fan. And I always love YOU.  Nothing changes that.

I don’t need to love what you do to love who you are.



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