I love my parents but [cliche]
February 10, 2009 11:13 PM   Subscribe

My parents say I'll "always be their baby" and treat me accordingly (I'm turning 26 this year). This can be annoying at times. What are some workarounds?

I'd like to think of myself as a "big picture" person. I'm thankful I have caring parents who are still alive. I also know they mean well and my life is better because they are around.

However, I find myself resenting them to some degree. This is largely a result of them trying to influence decisions I make.

It's fairly petty things that boil down to a matter of priorities and personal preferences. For example, my dad believes I need to use Ajax dishwashing soap. I bought some Dawn dishwashing soap that was on sale, because I like Dawn soap. When he found I had another dishwashing soap in my apartment, I was lectured.

Normally I communicate in disagreements. I explained why I bought the Dawn soap (it was less expensive, it works better in my opinion, I just needed some kind of soap).

But I then got another lecture on disregarding parental experiences and being young and foolish. Then he bought the Ajax soap. The next day I found my bottle of Dawn soap missing and in it's place a bottle of Ajax. I use Ajax to wash my dishes now.

"How boring and petty!" I think to myself as I write this.

If I had a boss do something like this at work, like question why I ordered a box of pens from brand x instead of brand y, I would not care because I have no real emotional connection with that person. But I don't know why this bothers me when a parent asks me to do the same.

Maybe in time, I will see their wisdom in these kinds of matters, but in the meantime it's damaging the relationship. I feel less interested in engaging with them because it feels like there is less to gain and more to lose (ex. getting lectured). In other words, I found myself being more passive-aggressive and communicating less around them.

People judge me all the time and it rolls right off me, but I can't seem to get past this. I don't like to resent people, especially close family. It would be a real shame to look back on these years wondering why I couldn't be a bigger person and put this aside.

How do I get around this?
posted by abdulf to Human Relations (37 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The next day I found my bottle of Dawn soap missing and in it's place a bottle of Ajax.

you're 26 AND a lawyer and your father pulls this kind of passive-aggressive shit on you? about something as stupid as dishwashing soap? and you let him? you need to learn to draw boundaries and learn how to stand up for yourself, son. what's gonna happen when you meet someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, or have a child—are your parents going to decide whether or not you can get married? whether your child is breast-fed?
posted by lia at 11:21 PM on February 10, 2009 [18 favorites]

What lia said. This is not normal parental caring, this is control-freakyness and you need to make a stand or they will never stop. And take your keys back from them. Sheesh.
posted by fshgrl at 11:39 PM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm a parent and hope if I ever pulled anything remotely similar, I would fiercly cussed out.

Set boundaries.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:52 PM on February 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

My father used to be like this. He might still be, I'm not sure: mostly I've switched it off. But what I thought I found that worked, when I still was bothered by it: laugh at him. Not unkindly -- but, y'know, he's being ridiculous. A smile and a, "Dude, for real, it *matters* to you what soap I use?" seems, thus, entirely warranted. Offer to let him use whatever he wants if he wants to come 'round and do your dishes for you every night*. Light-hearted is the thing to aim for. Water off a duck's back. He's gotta know that normal people are gonna think this is sorta silly behaviour, and that his odd little views just don't matter beside your own priorities.

If he goes on the attack with the usual diatribe following your attempts to be light-hearted about it, look tired and sad and say, "Dad, do you really want to fight about such a silly thing as soap?" C'mon, let's just accept we've got different priorities, and let it go for the sake of getting along, huh?"

* Unless this seems actually likely!
posted by springbound at 11:57 PM on February 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

You've lost your sense of self-respect for the price of a bottle of dishwashing liquid. You can buy it back for the price of a terse phone call to your dad and a visit to the locksmith.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:01 AM on February 11, 2009 [10 favorites]

Dude. I totally feel for you. My parents are similar - my mum can be control-freaky on clothes, but they're usually control-freaky over my future - school, work, which country I'll be in, etc. What complicates things for me is that I'm still financially dependent on them to a degree so I run the major risk of being cut off in a foreign country without anywhere to go to.

I can appreciate that setting boundaries with them can backfire. My sister and I have tried this millions and zillions of times, only to get more passive aggression and despair and "don't be surprised if I am in hospital with a real heart attack because of what you wrote!!". It can really get to you.

Just live your life. Bugger the soap. Buy your own things. Let them lecture but don't bother listening. Nod and smile, and then do your own thing. My mother kicked up a fuss over stuff I wrote on my blog, which cross-posts to Facebook. I removed her from my Facebook friends list. She got upset, cried for days - "why are you cutting me out of your life?". I added her again, but I'm not changing what I write. If she wants to keep stalking me she'll have to deal with what she sees. Heart attack? Her bad. I've already told her I'm not responsible for her reactions.

*hugs* and feel free to message me if you need to rant. I've totally been there. It SUCKS.
posted by divabat at 12:11 AM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

If he goes on the attack with the usual diatribe following your attempts to be light-hearted about it, look tired and sad and say, "Dad, do you really want to fight about such a silly thing as soap?" C'mon, let's just accept we've got different priorities, and let it go for the sake of getting along, huh?"

Tried this on my mum. Response? "I wasn't fighting!! Why are we always fighting?! I just want to talk and make sure you're ok!!" Methinks there's a lot going on that simple sentences won't fix.
posted by divabat at 12:13 AM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

They're not respecting you as they would other adults. It's time to teach them that they are incorrect.

Tell your dad that you're pissed off that he hid/threw away something you bought, that it was disrespectful to you, and that if he does that again, insert consequence here that you are willing to go through with.

It's tough, and it may mean a somewhat more distant relationship with your parents, but then again, that's the point.
posted by zippy at 1:11 AM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

For God's sake, change your locks.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:16 AM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

1. Change your locks
2. Give Dad back his Ajax
3. Buy another bottle of Dawn
4. Let your parents know that if this behavior continues they are not welcome in your home/life.
posted by missmagenta at 2:47 AM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh and if your Dad complains you're overreacting over a bottle of dish soap, remind him that he snook into your home while you were out to steal the dish soap that your bought and replace it with his favorite brand.
posted by missmagenta at 2:49 AM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

Do your parents interfere with the daily personal decisions of other adults they know, or is it just you? If they're able to be reasonable with others, maybe you need to start responding to their lectures with a degree of... professional detachment.

Sure, you might defer to your boss about which brand of pens to buy, but what if a really whiny, annoying co-worker started challenging minor decisions? A fair response would be to give a brief, well-justified explanation for your choice and refuse to discuss it further.

That's harder to do with parents - their interference touches all sorts of painful buttons that make you want to be decidedly unprofessional towards them. But really, if you defer to them over something as small as dishwashing liquid (or if you do what I'd be tempted to do, and have an angry, emotional argument about it) you're actually making it easier for them to disrespect you.

Be assertively detached when they lecture you about petty stuff (and refuse to be drawn into an emotional argument about why you're acting like that) and be a kind, loving son/daughter the rest of the time. They'll soon get the message.
posted by embrangled at 3:22 AM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 1. Change your locks
2. Give Dad back his Ajax
3. Buy another bottle of Dawn
4. Let your parents know that if this behavior continues they are not welcome in your home/life.

Oh dear.

The respondents in this thread seem to be divided into two camps: those who have been in this situation and comprehend the tangle of love and respect and obligations and loyalties involved, and those who imagine that the way to deal with family is to treat them like vaguely unwelcome door-to-door salespeople.
("All right, I'll let you in as far as the living room, but one false move and you're OUT!")

You love your parents. They know that, and on some level (almost certainly subconscious, because I'll bet that they are genuinely indignant or bewildered when you call them on it) they choose to take advantage of that.
If rationalized gestures were going to work in this situation, you wouldn't need them in the first place. This whole situation is predicated on a power imbalance, remember?
As for the more dramatic ultimatims presented, these are only useful if you desire ruction, pain on all sides and redoubled passive-agression; If you wanted to shut your parents out of your life, you wouldn't have written this post.

The only thing you can control in this situation is how you react to their provocations. Being an adult is not something that is given to you, even when it is most deserved. You claim it for yourself - and being maneuvered into a position where the instinctive response is a screaming tantrum makes it bloody hard to do.
Part of being an adult is doing exactly what you have been doing, looking at the situation from a variety of perspectives and weighing priorities. Showy confrontation will allow them to reinforce their perception of you as a child. Divabat has nailed it. Listen to Divabat.
You want them to step back from the minutia of your life? The larger issues of your life? Go slow, set incremental boundaries, laugh it off, a la springbound, and make points delicately. And repeatedly. Because they won't be taken the first twenty times. Sometimes creating distance is useful, but only you can be the judge of how much it will help vs. erode your relationship. You seem to have pretty good instincts. Trust them!
And have good friends who will be there when you need to pound on their door, or slink in, sideways, demoralized, through the cat flap.

Families just ARE. Some more than others.
posted by tabubilgirl at 3:42 AM on February 11, 2009 [10 favorites]

On preview, what embrangled said.
posted by tabubilgirl at 3:55 AM on February 11, 2009

For what it's worth, in the carwash industry, Dawn is the *only* thing you can use to get hydraulic oil out of the cleaning brushes. No other soap will do the job.

But yeah, that's passive-agressive to a level that is frankly insane.
posted by notsnot at 4:11 AM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ugh, divabat, really? I guess then I'd be inclined to say, "It *feels* like we're fighting. There's so many important things we could be talking about and we're stuck on soap, which just doesn't matter to me. If we're not, good! No more talk about our contradictory views on soap -- thank christ!" :)

This is all assuming I was managing to keep it calm, of course. ;)

I suppose the more worthwhile thing to take from my own experience - which I only realised after posting that, and went to write in a PS but got busy - is that when I had laughingly let it fall off my back, I actually seem to have stopped caring whether Dad was still behaving the same way or not. I said my piece: I got up the confidence to do it, and do it without being invested in the situation any more, and just for having done it, felt even more confident, such that similar incidents didn't matter as much to me.

YM of course MV - as always. :)
posted by springbound at 4:13 AM on February 11, 2009

Changing the locks is for pussies. It's like rushing to your bedroom and slamming the door.

Sneak into your parents' home and replace their Ajax with Dawn.

Or: let your father wake up and find on the pillow next to him the head of an empty bottle of Ajax!

Seriously, my suggestion is to try not to let this bother you too much, and to enjoy yourself, even if it takes a little irrational behavior. You won't cure them easily; you can't cut them off without too much cost; try to change your own resentment.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 4:14 AM on February 11, 2009 [7 favorites]

The first thing you need to do is to stand up for yourself. Your parents will try to paint you as selfish or uncaring, but you know it's not true, and once they accept it, so will they. If you want to try the diplomatic route, bring the Ajax back to your dad and say something like, "Dad, I tried the Ajax you dropped off at my place (while I wasn't home) and I think I preferred the Dawn. Maybe it has to do with the water in my apartment (or some other bullshit). Here, you like Ajax, I'd hate to see it wasted."

What you are aiming to do is to train (yes, train) your parents into learning and respecting boundaries. You must be firm and not waver, don't give them mixed signals. "I am 26 years old, I can handle this myself," is a perfectly fine answer.

Which isn't to say that they'll ever really stop. You are their baby, and they spend 18 26 years thinking of you not as a person, but as their possession, and they'll always think they have authority over you. However, if you set up firm boundaries about what your parents are, and are not allowed to do for/to you, consistently enforce the boundaries, and do it politely, they'll learn.

Out of curiosity, are your parents bad at respecting other people's privacy too, or just yours? If it's just yours, I think you'll have a better go at it, because you just have to reclassify yourself as "other people" in their mind, rather than having to teach them the concept of "privacy."
posted by explosion at 4:33 AM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a year older than you and my father is similar. Or WAS similar. He liked to continue to manage me and whatnot, despite the fact that I was fully capable of making my own decisions. I think a lot of it is due to the fact that I am the youngest and my sisters pointedly keep him at arms length.

I found that what he really wanted wasn't to control my life, rather to feel like he still was able to give input, that I still valued his opinions. He didn't want his little girl to get to a point where he was totally unneeded.(Which is why your albeit natural reaction of pulling away from him and communicating less is only going to make him worse.) What I did was make a point of telling him all about the things going on in my life and ask for his perspective and opinion on it. He knows that I may or may not take his advice, but being able to put his two cents makes him happy. When he pushes me too far or gets too intrusive I will usually say "I'm not willing to have this conversation right now" and then actually refuse to have the conversation. For a while he would sometimes keep pushing and try to keep talking about it but I'll just keep changing the subject or, if he won't let it go, leave/hang up.

the other thing I do is concede some things, just for the sake of peace. Yes, the dish soap is annoying, and you are most definitely old enough to choose your own dish soap, but is it worth the argument? So you use the Ajax for a while, and then once it is empty you go back to your Dawn. If he harps at you for using Dawn again you have a much more pursuasive argument ("I tried it the bottle you traded my Dawn for, I didn't like it. I'm going to stick with Dawn."). And if he keeps buying it for you, well, free dish soap. I know that the dish soap is probably one of a long line of little things that he has been doing, but you gotta let this one go. In the grand scheme of things, does it matter that your dad wants you to use a certain dish soap?
posted by gwenlister at 4:43 AM on February 11, 2009 [8 favorites]

"I am 26 years old, I can handle this myself"

This will just get you: "But you obviously can't. If you can't even figure out what dish soap to use, you must be completely lost with the bigger issues!"

Don't change your locks. Ask them to give you the key back. Make a point of it. Your parents don't need to get into your house when you're not there.
posted by kindall at 5:05 AM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

The respondents in this thread seem to be divided into two camps: those who have been in this situation and comprehend the tangle of love and respect and obligations and loyalties involved, and those who imagine that the way to deal with family is to treat them like vaguely unwelcome door-to-door salespeople.

Yes, door-to-door salespeople is it exactly. Thank you for putting into such succinct and accurate words the strategy that works, even if you seem to believe its success is merely imaginary. I am sure that many door-to-door salespeople really believe that they are selling is a benefit to their customers. It does not make them any less annoying.

Remember, the so-called "tangle" is all in your mind -- and therefore completely within your power to untangle. Those feelings of love and respect and obligation and loyalty toward your parents? You weren't born with them. Your parents instilled them in you, for their own reasons, some of which, people being people and your parents being no less people than anyone else, are mostly selfish. I'm not saying that they didn't have your best interests in mind, or that they don't love you with all their hearts -- just that they are hardly unbiased, and they had a major hand in forming your attitudes toward them, so of course you feel obligated toward them. They made you that way!

As an adult, however, you have the perfect right to make decisions for yourself, including the boundaries you will draw in your relationships with others. Your parents don't get an exemption from this just because they are your genetic precursors.

It's not easy. Merely necessary.
posted by kindall at 5:28 AM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I was just having this conversation with my 23-yr old son yesterday. My kids, however, seemed to have gotten to the "mom you're so cute but you do realize you have absolutely no control, right?" stage when they were about 11. Over the next decade they slowly disabused me of my illusion of control to the point that now, as young adults, they actually listen to me and sometimes even take my advice. And yes, I have been petty enough to question their choice of soap (toothpaste in my case). My daughter's general response is a text message-- "mom, wtf?"

It is terrifying to send your child into the world. The world is a scary place, which parents know because we went out into it and we were waaaay smarter than you at your age. Or so we believe, because you are our precious child and we just can't get rid of that image of you at 7 crossing the street on your own for the first time. We still can't believe you didn't die from it. I am constantly having to remind myself that I was completely on my own at 23-- no parental safety net. If I could handle it, my kids can handle it.

OP, don't engage your father on this bullshit. You just say "thanks, dad" and take the soap. You do need to change the locks, but tell them first. And the reason you give them is that you are very uncomfortable with the idea of them coming into your house when you are not there to mess with your stuff. If they give you drama, tell them you love them and they can call and come over when you're there, but this is your home and they can't have free run of it. Tell them the internets told you so. Give an extra key to your landlord or a neighbor you trust, for emergencies, like everyone else does.
posted by nax at 5:36 AM on February 11, 2009 [5 favorites]

"Thanks for the advice, Dad - I'll look into that." End of story.
Getting into a debate over your choices legitimizes his behavior, but worse, changes to the focus from boundaries to soap. To paraphrase Lance, "It isn't about the soap." Keep it not about the soap.
All of you need to let the relationship morph from parent/child to peer/peer. It's likely going to be a lot harder for them than it will be for you, as you're finding out (and even then, we all regress into old habits once in a while, even after establishing the new ones). It sounds like you need to help/persaude/insist (subtly, of course) they start letting go of the old ones. It's your call how heavy a hand you need or want to use - you know your parents and the established family dynamics; we can only guess.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 6:14 AM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am throwing in with nax on this one.

I'm not a parent, but I see my parents in that comment.
posted by KAS at 6:47 AM on February 11, 2009

I moved across the country. Now they don't know what type of dish soap* I use.

*Code for "everything."
posted by greekphilosophy at 7:03 AM on February 11, 2009

My folks do stuff like that to me as well, and I'm 34. Now, granted they don't come into my house because I live 170 miles away from them, but they have in the past felt free to offer me advice and get a little miffed when I didn't take it.

Throughout my 20s they would attempt to impose their view of what I should be doing on me and I constantly just said, "Thanks, that could be a neat idea." and then did what I wanted. Sometimes I was right, sometimes I wasn't but gradually they quit pushing. Finally, when I bought my first house, it was like a switch was flipped and I became a grown up.

It's kinda funny now because my younger cousin is going through the same thing with her dad, and the advice my mom gave her was "Just do what Teleri did, ignore your father and do what you want. Eventually he'll give up and realize you're a grown up. That's what we had to do with Teleri and she turned out fine." She admits that they tried to micromanage my life, and that it didn't work because I'm just as stubborn as they are.
posted by teleri025 at 7:13 AM on February 11, 2009

It's easy (if annoying) to let your boss's arbitrary rules about pen brands slide because you know that that is entirely about your boss. The only real impact your boss has on your life is to teach you how to do the job your boss wants you to do. You don't need to see the logic of choosing Brand X over Brand Y of pens in order to comply, and in fact, it's easy to see that there is no logic, but you do it anyway because that's your job. It's much harder to get over your dad switching your dish soap (or similar) because he's the person who taught you how to be, well, a person. All of the (good) emotional history and feelings of trusting that your parents know better (which they frequently did, when you were a child) have you trained to look for the logic in your parents' controlling behavior.

I think if you want to "get around this" without either acquiescing to all of your parents' preferences or cutting them off, you need to sit down and talk to them about what their controlling behavior is doing to your relationship with them. Obviously I don't know your parents, and I don't know what words will work. Because I like to be a cliche, I'd suggest talking to a therapist about how to have this conversation with them. But mostly, my point is just that this problem won't go away on its own, and it will drive you crazy if you just keep trying to hard to find the logic in your parents' actions: you need to be able to talk to them openly about this.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:28 AM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Parent-child relationships are strange, complicated and frought with emotional issues on both sides. How can you relate as an adult with someone who wiped your bottom and told you which pair of shoes you could wear? How can you recognize someone as a full adult when you have been spending their whole life making decisions for them and worrying about them? When do you cut the cords and are they ever cut completely? It differs so much from family to family and even differs within the family depending on whether the child is a boy or girl and oldest or youngest.

If you can put your self in their shoes and see what they see, maybe it will help you to cope. The best way to "handle" them is with love, understanding, and humor. Make a joke of it. Tell your dad, "I told some people at work about the great Dish Soap War of '08 and wow! You should have heard the laughter! Someone even suggested that I sneak into your house and leave a bottle of Ajax on your pillow." If you can react with calmness and patience to these little confrontations while remaining stubbornly independent, I believe your parents will come to see you as a grown-up and a grown-up they can be proud of raising.

The main thing to remember is that your parents are not the worst parents in the world or the craziest and they only have as much power over you as you let them have.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:43 AM on February 11, 2009

Best answer: Based on my observations, old guys (especially retired ones) spend waaaay too much time and energy "optimizing" their daily lives. This includes researching various dish liquids, lawn mowing patterns, bird feeders, etc etc. So, it's perfectly possible that your father has some elaborately constructed reason for the dish liquid you use. That said, you don't have to tolerate some crackpot old man interfering with your household habits.
posted by electroboy at 8:08 AM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

Not as bad as what you have, but my parents, to varying degrees, still like to treat me like I'm 12. And I have a marriage, a child, and a mortgage.

I've explained to both of them, with varying degrees of passion and possibly a little anger, that while I am their son, I am not their child. If they can't live with that, they can't be involved in my life. That worked for me. Once in a while, I need to remind my mom of it, but otherwise, that's been successful.
posted by PsuDab93 at 8:09 AM on February 11, 2009

Yeah, you can't just start treating your parents like everyone else treats their's. But get new keys made.

My wife's advice is to tease them about their behavior. If you make light of it, you disarm their anger and other feelings during conversations and will make your relationship better. She uses this tactic on me when I'm pissed off to great effect. I like it because it reminds me to stop being pissed off.
posted by cellphone at 8:54 AM on February 11, 2009

I'm in my forties and my father still wants to treat me in a similar fashion. I've tried many of the strategies that others have suggested, but when the core feelings of your parents are, "I just know better than you do," there is very little you can do to break their behavior. In fact, changing locks, limiting access to you, or giving them the you're grown up speech might in fact further embolden suffocating parents.."Why would he/she object to such criticism/input so fiercely?...she must know we're right!"

Unintentionally, I moved across the country, and geographical separation has been the biggest help.
posted by teg4rvn at 9:04 AM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

While this particular incident may be relatively petty, the pattern is not. You are justified in feeling that boundaries are being violated (or outright ignored), or perhaps some of the other commenters (coming on a little strong, people!) are correct and those boundaries were never established. If you're a laywer at 26, that suggests you went straight though undergrad and law school. If so, you were probably rather dependant upon your parents right up to age 24/25 and perhaps still are to a certain extent. In such a scenario it becomes easier to understand why boundaries haven't been fully established.

That said, the others are right: you ought not allow this pattern to continue. Your resentment is justified and will worsen over time. My paternal grandparents were never really called on this kind of stuff early on by my father even though it drove him nuts, and it led to problems later on when he grew older, more confident and became less tolerant of their interference--especially in relationships and later on marriage and parenting.

Deal with this now while it's still about something as 'petty' as dish soap. That will take the sting out of it. It'll be worse if you let it go until he tries to tell you who to marry.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:30 AM on February 11, 2009

Best answer: I explained why I bought the Dawn soap (it was less expensive, it works better in my opinion, I just needed some kind of soap).

This strikes me as unnecessary. You're an adult on your own now. Your parents aren't treating you like one, and consequently you're not acting like one. You don't need to defend or justify your actions to them.

I'm assuming, though it's never stated, that you're living in your own place. You need to have a very clear "my home, my rules" boundary set up, and don't waiver. If anyone questions your dish soap purchase, you don't need to say "Oh, let me convince you that I can make a good purchase", just "Yes, that's what I got." Don't seek their approval.

Or, I suppose you can just constantly question and nit-pick their every decision.
posted by losvedir at 9:44 AM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

My parents are like this. I'm 35. They don't get keys to my house. We've had "the key argument" many times, but I've remained firm and simply refused to argue. Slowly, the number of occasions of key arguments have dwindled. (Buying a house with my partner helped.)

In response to attempts to advise and guide me on completely petty matters to a crazy degree of micromanagement, I've tried everything. Laughed it off, teased, disagreed respectfully, given in, tried to explain why this "help" is sometimes condescending, gotten furious, ignored them completely, changed the subject, etc. Slowly, very slowly, they've gotten used to the idea that I feel strongly about making my own decisions. (Even if they don't always understand why.)

Sometimes if I can spout LOTS of information in response, they back off and acknowledge that I have done my homework on a subject. This is especially useful when they are waaaay out of their league, regarding issues with which they have actually no experience. (Does this sound bitchy? Sorry, I'll have my dad call you when he wants to lecture for an hour in the middle of your work day on the best times to buy heating oil, even though he has never had oil heat and his advice is completely erroneous, not that, even in retrospect, he would admit this.)

I've also made sure to give them credit for good advice, made sure they are aware that they do have a place in my life even though I'm all grown up and live a couple of hours away, that I love them. I've actively solicited advice on topics about which they actually have firsthand knowledge. I've let them know that if they just want to chat, I can chat, they don't need to come up with a supposedly urgent bit of advice.

I've been subjected to some really unfair guilt-trip stuff, and I'm sure you have too. They've copped to anxiety if they can use it as a reason why I should agree with them and never criticize...I've calmly pointed out that if they are this anxious, it's unhealthy and worrisome, and they need to talk to a doc or therapist about it, because if they're truly living their lives in terror that their 35-year-old daughter will forget to put gas in her car and ???!?!?!!???!?!?!?!?!? if not reminded...this is not rational.
posted by desuetude at 9:50 AM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Do you live with your parents? Your parents should not be coming & going in your home. You need to establish better boundaries.

Maybe your Dad is bored senseless and you can help him find a new hobby. You can redirect his attention from petty details "Hey Dad, you're a good woodworker, want to help me install a new closet system?" and praise him for the things he does that you like. Gentle humor can be very effective.
posted by theora55 at 3:56 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

The respondents in this thread seem to be divided into two camps: those who have been in this situation and comprehend the tangle of love and respect and obligations and loyalties involved, and those who imagine that the way to deal with family is to treat them like vaguely unwelcome door-to-door salespeople

Interesting. If your hypothesis is true, and if there's a causation at work, then which direction does it run in?

1. People who don't get abused by their family are likely to develop the same reaction to the same hypothetical situation.

2. People who set clear boundaries for their family are less likely to get abused.

I'm not sure my second explanation is correct, but surely it was at least worth considering?
posted by roystgnr at 10:06 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

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