Dear Amy: My adult middle child and I struggled during my parenting years.
I always connected with her older brother and younger sister more easily than with her.
I had no idea how much this hurt her until she moved out. Once during a conversation, she shared many, many incidents showing a lack of affection during her childhood that hurt her. There is truth to this; however, at the time I did not see it. Now that she is an adult, I have tried to “make up” for the pain that I caused her. I have been there for her. She still (subconsciously) punishes me.
She is now a doctor, and all through medical school she wrote me loving cards of kindness and appreciation, thanking me for my support and love.
Yet we can hardly be around each other for two days without her picking apart everything that I say or do.
I am always on eggshells around her. She is very beautiful and professionally driven. I know that I annoy her. I can’t figure out if she still has resentments from her childhood. She is currently distancing herself from me. This happened after she and I drove several hundreds of miles together to the location of her medical residency. Even though she lived with me pretty happily for a month beforehand, the trip itself didn’t go well.
She says that she doesn’t like the person that I am. This came out of left field.
I don’t know how to react. She ignores my texts.
Should I just give her space?
Dear Dumbfounded: First this: You cannot “make up” for a lack of affection, neglect, or imbalanced treatment during your daughter’s earlier years. You can only do your best to acknowledge the validity of your daughter’s experience, apologize, ask for forgiveness and try to start fresh — as two adults who share a complicated history.
Your daughter is a medical resident, and so she is probably not going to have the extra emotional bandwidth to work on your relationship. During a very high stress situation (headed to a new place with an extremely challenging job), she said something harsh and unkind. I think you should try to let this incident go, give your daughter space to succeed and heal, and emphasize to her that you are working hard to become the mother she deserves to have.
Dear Amy: I am a class of 2020 high school graduate.
While the last couple of months of my high school experience were marred by awkward Zoom goodbyes and anticlimactic endings, I kept myself going through it all with the thought that in a few short months, I would be flying off to my dream college.
As this summer came to an end, on the very same day all my friends left for college, my university announced the cancelation of all in-person classes and on-campus housing for the entire year.
While my friends all text me about the wonders of college life: the freedom, excitement and new friends that they are making, I sit at home and contemplate the year ahead.
In one moment, I lost my friends from high school, and also the opportunity to meet any new friends at my college for at least a year.
How can I make the most of this situation and not feel too envious of my friends — off enjoying their lives in college?
— A Sad 18-year-old
Dear Sad: I can only imagine what this must feel like. I could point out how much worse things could be, or point to your own privileges, but — don’t you hate it when people do that?
Envy is a natural, human emotion. I hope you can turn your envy into action by using this pause to fulfill a personal goal: To run a 5K or write a screenplay, and, in short, to use some of the time you will someday spend socializing to continue to develop personally.
Given how rocky the start of the university year seems to be so far, unfortunately, there is a possibility that your friends will be bouncing back home, due to a COVID-19 outbreak on their campus.
Dear Amy: Responding to your comment that you playing “Cowboys and Indians” in childhood was “despicable,” parents would make corrections if they were concerned. Few were.
We played “cops and robbers,” and it was very similar.
Dear C: Exactly. That’s my point. Casting Indians always as the “robbers,” when they actually had been robbed, is what bothers me so much.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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