Our First Separation: 8-20-11

A Weekend Away: We left the area for the first time since our daughter took residence in her adult independent living abode. Yesterday afternoon my husband and I headed for his home state of Maine. Our daughter had virtually no reaction, certainly no concern. Her only request was that we purchase a stuffed chocolate lab from The Black Dog store in Portland, the one with the bandana. I complied, but with a nagging concern that this was the usual compensatory payment for our freedom.

How To Say No: Whenever our daughter asks for something material, my unfortunate knee jerk reaction is “sure.” Frankly I think this is not only wrong but also weird. This unfortunate habit began many years ago as a product of desperation. Attempts to get her to cooperate with even mundane requests involved humoring or seducing her. Consequences and veiled threats had little impact. Convincing her to go to an activity such as swimming or dance, the doctor’s or a friend’s, often meant agreeing to take her to the mall afterwards. She loved to shop, which got her out of the house. This method of extracting her from isolation from society was costly on many levels. But the price of allowing her to cut herself, and indirectly us, off from the larger world was astronomical.

NO Works: It is my weakness now. I can say no to requests and our daughter no longer throws tantrums or refuses to cooperate with life’s simple chores. She grasps the general notions of “money is tight.” Her school trained her in saving for outings and distinguishing between needs and wants. Mom seems to be the slow learner. Some guilt/love instinct blots out my rational brain with the milk of motherly excess. Does the little mermaid guess that or is she just knee jerking too? With that chocolate lab episode I projected that she would feel abandoned, left out of our journey north. Pure projection. She had no interest in coming with us and had made that clear to me earlier in the week.

Budget With Love: New Rules for mom. Now that we are neighbors with regular contact, I need boundaries regarding gifting our gal. Boundaries that will curtail the knee jerk to gratify. Rule Number One: Pause Before You Project.

©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011

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