"I'm a grown woman and I can make my own decisions!"
Several years ago, when I was offering some unsolicited advice to my daughter, she firmly made the above statement. I quickly decided to hold my tongue. I knew based on years of experience that my opinion was the correct one. I also knew, after her statement of independence, that my daughter would not be able to give my opinion a fair hearing. Her mind was made up. I knew this because the same words had come out of my own mouth, when talking to my own mother, at some point in my own young adulthood. In both my and my daughter's case, we were right...we could make our own decisions. Even if we were wrong.
The right to choose our own path is something we are all very anxious to assert. Many mistakes have been made based on our need to be in charge of our own destiny. Maybe if we were better listeners in our younger years we could allow ourselves to benefit from the experience of our elders. But no, we need to be our own boss. Simply put, it is part of growing up.
Today, in my job, I am seeing the flip side of this issue. I watch and listen as adult children tell their parents what the best choices are for the future. Discussions about where the parents should live, when and how they should travel, how they should eat, what doctors to see etc. The lists can be endless. Some parents take it well. They listen then do what they would have done anyway. Some parents dig in their heels and make the same statement my daughter made. It can become quite contentious.
Don't get me wrong, I think there are times when a little (or a lot) of intervention is called for, for example, a parent is ill and not seeking treatment or is not taking care of important activities of daily living like personal hygiene. But my purpose today is to stand up for my future self and say that I wish to be treated like an adult, who has full capacity to make my own choices, for as long as I truly can.
For those of you who are parents of young adults, I ask you, do you really want your kids telling you how to live your life? If the answer is no then I ask you to contemplate how that might feel if/when you start doing it to your parents. Do not assume it is expected that you take control. Assume that they want to be treated exactly the way you will want to be treated by your own children and I'm guessing that we all want to be treated with respect and deference. Just saying...
So the other day I decided to tell my kids, in advance, how I expected them to treat me in the future. I told them to think back on several things that had happened to them after they had not followed my advice. There was some groaning followed by the admission that many times they should have listened to their Mom. I told them that even though at the time I knew they were about to make a mistake, I deferred to their adulthood and let it go. Their independence and dignity was more important than my being right. So that is my request, put my independence and dignity before your need to be right. Let me make mistakes. I will always be the Mom. When I truly need your help, I know you will include me in the decisions about my own care. We will both be good listeners - because that is what grownups do.