General Question

zensky's avatar

Do we have to love/care for/cherish our grown-up children unconditionally regardless of their behaviour or attitude towards us?

Asked by zensky (13357points) January 14th, 2013

Remember I said: grown up children.

Even if they call you a son of a bitch and say they hate you?

Even if they want nothing to do with you?

Even if they take what they can and suck you dry, both physically, emotionally and financially?

This, fortunately, has nothing to do with me. I was watching a documentary about a famous film star/director who is the son of an equally famous (in another field, though – maybe it is relevant – the military) father. He begins the three part documentary by saying: Father, you’re long since dead and gone, however, you should know: you’re an sob and I hate you.

I am both a son and a father. The more I write the details, the more complicated the question has become for me to answer. Let’s see what the jellies think and I shall perhaps be inspired by your insight. Rock n’ Roll.

To whom I am referring:

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26 Answers

bookish1's avatar

I don’t know why people would. I’m not a parent, but I think they should be able to erect boundaries just as offspring sometimes must, especially when there is no economic dependency anymore.

It’s a common idea that parents should unconditionally love their dependent children, but that is not always true.

burntbonez's avatar

You don’t have to do anything, of course. But most people feel that blood is thicker than water, and since parental support helps survivability, one would think that unconditional love of children, no matter what age, is something that would be reinforced by evolutionary advantage over the generations.

Bellatrix's avatar

I would hope that I would always love my children but as is often said, I don’t have to like them. I also don’t believe I should continue to care for them in a practical sense. I would always care about them from an emotional perspective. Once our children become adults they are responsible for their actions and attitudes and I feel I have the right to disagree with them both verbally and through my actions. Doesn’t mean I don’t love or care for them, but it might mean I don’t support their actions.

Coloma's avatar

No, not anymore than children “have to” love, care for and cherish their dysfunctional parents.
These items are earned in all relationships not just a given, and especially not if one is dealing with mental health issues or other addictive or abusive behaviors combined to make the person an impossible person. If somebody is a seriously difficult or damaging personality it doesn’t matter what the relation.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Love them: Yes. You don’t have to like someone to love them. And some people it is easier to love from a distance. Love doesn’t make you their punching bag, emotionally or physically. It doesn’t make you their bank either. It is proper to say no to your kids.

Cherish them: Only if they have earned it.

Care for, only until they graduate college or find a job, then they should be able to care for themselves.

YARNLADY's avatar

I can’t imagine not loving my own children, but I certainly don’t have to approve of or accept any bad behavior from them.

hearkat's avatar

Loving some one does not automatically obligate you to take care of them. I am a tough-love person, because I’ve learned that most people resent being coddled and placated, even if your intention is to do them a favor.

I have a strained relationship with my mother, and I didn’t talk to my father for a few years prior to his death. I know in my mind that they love me emotionally, but that didn’t make them good parents, and I never felt loved. My mother helped my son and I by allowing us to live there after my divorce. I resented needing her help, but I am grateful that she gave it to us. I knew full well that it was her choice, and I did not feel entitled to it.

My son will be 22 soon, and he lives with my fiancĂ© and I. We are close, and my two men are friendly with each other. We’re in a good place. I did a lot during my sin’s adolescence to amend the harm I’d done in his earlier childhood. We still talk about it, and I apologize from time to time, even though he assures me that it’s all bygones… so I am hopeful that there is no unresolved anger that things would turn ugly between us.

However, there is a lot of emotional instability on both sides of the family, so he is at-risk for mental health problems in the future, and we have already dealt with issues in the past. I know that I would stand by him through a lot, but I also know that there would be a point where I could let go if I had to in order to save my own well-being—as I had with his father and an ex-bf whom my son regards as his step-father.

zenvelo's avatar

Love them, yes.
Care for, cherish, it all depends.

Once you’re grown your relationship with your parents takes as much work as any other relationship, and your parents can hold you accountable like they do other friends. And you get to hold them accountable.

obsidianowl's avatar

Ugh. I have a child who has drawn the “addiction” card. Not only is she addicted to any drug that comes along, but she is also addicted to drama and sharing it with whomever will listen. Nothing is ever her fault, her children (being raised by her aunt) are being lied to, she sobs abjectly to anyone who will disagree with her. Love her? Yes. Enable her? Never again.

kitszu's avatar

@zensky I don’t mean this to be disrespectful. Your question is obviously a valid one but I have always thought unconditional devotion to someone because they are related to you was ridiculous.

We walk away from all manner of relationships with other people and for a multitude of reasons (some good, some not). No one would think twice about ending an abusive relationship with a friend or a lover. No one would think twice about telling a cheating spouse and the best friend “to go F*** themselves”.

So why will we tolerate unhealthy relationships with our grandparents, mothers, fathers, siblings, etc?

Don’t get me wrong, blood is absolutely thicker than water but I didn’t get to choose the literal blood running through my veins. I think I have every right to choose how thick that blood deserves to be and who I call ‘blood’.

To add perspective to my thinking, I’m adopted (I was 18 months old) so I don’t have the blood of the people who raised me.

They were still the only family I’ve ever known. To this day, I know nothing about my birth mother. Does she deserve more devotion from me than they do? Incidentally, I never gave the situation a thought. My family is comprised of the people who raised me and I have walked away without looking back from one of them. Given the same situation, I’m confident I’d do the same thing even if that person had been a literal blood relative.

I guess I’m trying to say that I think family is a concept in which DNA isn’t a determining factor. We choose our real family members and they choose us.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

No, we don’t have to love, care for, or cherish our grown children regardless of their behavior towards us parents. Breaking such a bond would be more than heart wrenching, but there are circumstances in which I can imagine it happening. Those are all extreme and remote circumstances, but they nevertheless lie in the realm of possibility.

kitszu's avatar

@obsidianowl Good for you.

My best friend from high school was bi-polar and every couple of weeks something would set her off and she would call me because she got drunk and slit her wrists again. Scared the crap out of me the first couple of times because I knew she really was hurting.

Eventually, I wised up though and realized that her addiction was the drama and that there was nothing I could do for her until she was willing to stand on her own two feet first.

After a while I just stopped answering/returning her calls and I felt felt like an a**hole for doing it but I was spending so much time taking care of her, I’d stopped taking care of myself at all.

I’m not religious but I do believe in the idea that ‘god’ helps those who help themselves (meaning you are more likely to get the help you need if you start taking steps to help yourself first).

CWOTUS's avatar

I think that I’ve been incredibly lucky – and I know it, believe me I do know it! – in my choice of parents and offspring.

My parents were loving and supportive for their entire lives. Even when, as a stupid and immature child, I would occasionally have one of those meltdowns where I’d stomp off to my room shouting for all the world to hear, “I hope you die!” they never stopped loving me. (And the next day they would not have to discuss that or punish me for the outburst. It was just part of growing up for me. And dammit, that one-time wish has come true now, to my great regret.)

I suppose that my kids might have said that to me a time or two, but I honestly can’t recall it now if it did happen. And they’ve given me nothing to be less than proud of them for.

So I have no frame of reference for those who continue to harbor a lifelong bitterness and enmity toward a parent. Sure, we all have disagreements and upsets to one degree or another as children, and our children in turn – even near-perfect ones like my own – can occasionally disappoint or fail to live up to an expectation or two. But when we grow up and raise near-perfect children, however we manage to do that, because we all have different methods, and we retain and cherish the love of our own parents and earn the love of our children as they age, then it seems that life can hardly be better.

The reverse, though… I’ve read about it in books, and maybe later tonight I’ll look at the OP’s link, but if the parents aren’t absolute shits to begin with – and I also know that a lot are – then I really have to question “who is the bad guy?” when I hear of some of these dysfunctional families. Who failed whom?

Shippy's avatar

Interesting question. My son and I have been through a lot, when I say a lot I don’t want to talk too much about it. But for e.g. one thing was paying of drugs lords that threatened his life. This was in the past. His father and I loved him through it all. One day on the phone he called me a bitch. In anger. That for me was the bottom line, for some reason that, I would not put up with. I disowned him. And was happy if I never saw him again. Some six months later he crept back into my life. I guess I do have conditions. Name calling and swearing was it. So odd, when I had accepted him through so many other more __important difficult_ issues.

Pandora's avatar

Do you have too, no. But love is a fickle master. Parent and child relationships are complicated and I think way more complicated than any other relationship. There is no way you can hit it all with the broad stroke of a pen.

There is no bond stronger than the bond between parent and child. A parent develops a need to protect its child and most good ones will do all they can to ensure their safety, even if it means saving the child from itself. But it gets murky when you start to mix those feelings with self preservation.

I think as the child gets older, you think you must preserve your life and your child does the same as an adult. Then this is where like, respect and shared values either strengthen the bond in a different way or weakens it. But even when you are most angry at your child, you can’t seem to hate them. I can’t say that goes the other way. But I think its because we see any rejection from our child as something we did wrong in rearing. Where, we think if we are being mistreated by our parents it is because they did something wrong.

As a parent you think it is your job to repair a broken relationship with a child, but as an adult child you feel your parents should be the ones to mend the relationship.

kitszu's avatar

@CWOTUS That was a great answer.

Hate, bitterness, anger; these are very poisionous things to have inside you. Very dangerous things to allow to get ahold of you. They will eat you from the inside out and if you allow them, they will destroy even the things you love.

That’s why I phrase it as “walking away”, because it means you deal with it, make your peace and move forward.

mattbrowne's avatar

Recently, I read a very interesting book by Paul Pearsall. Here’s a thought-provoking excerpt available at Google books:"paul+pearsall"+"enduring+love+is+conditional"

and he argues against unconditional love.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Absolutely NOT! I know many older people that say their kids treat them horribly and bilk them for every dime they can. It’s so sad we don’t show respect and deference to the people who deserve it.

kitszu's avatar

@KNOWITALL Yeah, I like to think about ”respect” as something that should apply to all living things, not just the elderly humans.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@kitszu Agreed but I would think humans treating other humans respectfully should have a higher priority in the grand scheme of things.

kitszu's avatar

@KNOWITALL And that is were we can agree to disagree.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@kitszu Please explain, you mean I should treat a flower better than I treat my granny? Odd.

kitszu's avatar

@KNOWITALL You have taken what I said not only out of context but you’ve twisted the meaning.

If you’re grandmother is worthy of respect then by all means, she should be respected. If however, she is not worthy of respect, then I will not grant any special treatment based soley on the fact that she is older than me.

Regardless, I still wouldn’t treat her with any less respect than the leaf that provides me with oxygen or the chicken that provides me with protein.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@kitszu Thus the ‘please explain’ request. Peace.

wolfy1's avatar

No .. do what you think is the right thing to do.

zensky's avatar

@wolfy1 Best answer. Welcome to Fluther.

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