Friday, April 21, 2006

Parents. Guilt. It never ends.

Argh. It's hard to believe, but I am 35 years old and still susceptible to guilt from my parents. My father just called. He just wanted to say he's praying for me and my children. Why? Who knows. He didn't have much else to say, just that he's praying for us. (Not for Hubby, you notice. Just me and my children. Hubby is beyond hope, I guess.)
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the thought, and all. It's just that I know the hidden message. I can hear what he isn't saying, and that's where the guilt kicks in.
I was raised in a very strict, religious home. My father used to be a minister, and I was expected to grow up and marry a minister. I was a good little girl, and did all the right things. I played the piano at church. I taught the children's classes. I did volunteer work. Then I went to a church run college, left the church, and met and married an agnostic. My parents know all that, but they still hope I will see the light and come back. Especially now that I have kids.
I don't think my mother has ever seen me with jewelry on. They've never heard me curse, have no idea I've tasted the evils of alcohol, and my second year of college will always remain shrouded in mystery. I don't tell them if I'm going shopping on the Sabbath.
So far, because we live so far apart, I haven't had to defend my choices to them. They don't see my children eating pork. They haven't seen our bookshelves, which are filled with Hubby's sci-fi and fantasy books instead of Ellen White. They don't hear my husband and I discussing evolution vs creationism.
Yet I still feel guilt. I know that if they were part of my life, I would be hiding things. I would be justifying choices that are really no one else's business. I'm an adult, but still, they are my parents.
What religion were you raised? Are you still there? Do your parents give you guilt? Over what? And most importantly, when do I get to be a grown-up?


Anonymous said...

Oh my God.

We were raised the same way and girl, I totally understand.

There are a lot of things that I still hold back from doing because of guilt and worrying about what they'll say.

We should talk sometime.

Mary P. said...

My story is yours, backward. I was raised in an agnostic household - my grandfather believed in God, but didn't think a whole lot of him - but I started to take the whole thing seriously in my teens. (My mother told me not to tell my grandfather; it would only upset him. He found out: he was livid. Absolutely livid.) Lived as a born-again for most of my teens and twenties, then outgrew that manifestation of Christianity.

I still call myself a Christian, though I'm sure anyone from the churches I attended back then wouldn't. I'm way, way more liberal, much less intense about it.

Your parents will always be your parents, and their opinion of you will always matter. This doesn't mean you're not an adult, because your choices are your own, no matter what they might think of them. I'm sure it's easier that they're so far away, though! It sounds like it would be wise to do what you can to keep it that way.

utenzi said...

hey Tammy. Michele sent me.

My boss is like Mary P above but my story is quite different. My parents are religious but not overwhelmingly so but I rejected Church and organized religion when I was still in Sunday school classes and they just never quite knew how to react.

You'll probably never get to be a grown-up, Tammy in the sense you mean it. It's not in your personality and that's not a bad thing. You're no doubt sensitive to others and thus you feel guilt when you know you disappoint your parents. However I'd say that you are an adult in the real sense because you're making your own choices despite that guilt.

Reading between the lines it sounds to me like you still have a sense of religion and that between you and your husband your children should get a very balanced upbringing. Good luck, Tammy!

Lisa said...

Seventh Day Adventist ideals, I know them well. I know the Mormon ideals well too. I've studied both rather extensively. Not because I was "searching," but because I worked with an SDA & one of my best friends is LDS.

I was raised to believe in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, & the Father & Son. I still do, but I no longer attend church.

(My husband says that I'm one of those "Crazy Christians" - he was raised Catholic.)

I've seen too much hypocracy (sp?)within "the church" throughout my life, which is why I no longer go.

Today, it's just me, the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, & the Bible - my own church, I guess.


Anonymous said...

Hi~ You know me, but I'm gonna remain anonymous for this post, as I want to maintain total deniability!

My story is your story, almost exactly, and includes some of the same players. My father still has the power to guilt the crap out of me, though he hasn't done it for quit a while. If he had any idea what this stranger in a strange land was actually doing, maybe he would!

I still go to church on occasion, and would go more often, but just can't bring myself to go to church smelling of alcohol from the night before. I have no problem falling back into the SDA lifestyle for a week or two when I visit, but I'd also probably be hiding things if there longer. In the conversations we have, especially if I've recently attended church, I'll casually drop in a comment about the service, or something like that, just because I know it'll make him happy. Sometimes I wonder if I'm not giving him enough credit, as he has dealt with some things better than I ever would have believed. As the oldest though, I feel some responsibility to not be the "prodigal son", to let him feel that at least one of his children came out "right". Still, he has to know that I'm not totally naïve about the "world", but maybe we both just have come to an understanding; I won't be blatant in my non-religious lifestyle, and he won't question me about it. Seems to be working so far~

Dawn said...

I think that we are all there with you girl.....looks like you started something here... ;)

Here via Michele

srp said...

There is no way to be politically correct about religious beliefs. ALL "denominations" and "religions" have hypocrites because we are all human. Even the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others were really a mess at times. I have a personal relationship with God, I'm not perfect and never expect to be. I'm just glad God loves me anyway. It's really not about "religion", it is a one on one relationship that gives me the hope and encouragement to live life in a world spiraling out of control. Christ instructed us to show His love to others through our own lives. Christ lived love, He never beat anyone over the head with words or guilt. His message was simple.
Here from Michele.
My dad is a retired minister. PK's really get a bad rap sometimes. ;)

Drama Mama said...

I am not sure we ever GROW UP as you mean it.

Our parents will always see us how they want to. I don't have the most ordinary lifestyle but it's not something I include my parents or grandparents in either.

My dad still refers to me by my maiden name... he can't even remember what my married name is.

Rootietoot said...

I was raised strict Presbyterian. My family acted as tho I was marrying a Muslim when I married a Baptist. My parents still treat me like I'm 12 (I'm 40, have 4 kids). I have learned to let them, to smile and nod alot, and use the back 40 to blow the hell out of targets when it gets too tense. They call it target practice, I call it self defense.

I don't know if you ever get away from the parent-child dynamic. My hope is that I can treat my children with more respect than my parents treat me.

I am still a believer, just not the one I was raised to be. They still hope I'll come back to the Real Church, but that's between God and me, and none of their business.

Beth said...

I was raised Anglican in small town Nova grandmother was the church organist, my mother was the Sunday School superintendant, I taught Sunday School classes to the pre-schoolers and sang in the choir, my brothers were alter boys.....the whole nine yards!! I started questioning religion in my teens, but continued to go to church while I lived at home - it simply wasn't a choice back then. Stopped going once I left - but still felt some connection.
Then I got pregnant and had my first daughter "out of wedlock" as they used to say. I moved back home and went to the minister to see about having her baptized. He informed me that 'he didn't baptize bastards'. I haven't been in a church since.
Fortunately I ended up with a man who felt the same way - born in Ireland, and has seen his country torn apart and people die in the name of religion.
My Mom never once questioned my decision - she was the type who figured she raised us as she saw fit at the time and whatever we decided to do as adults was our own business. A rare woman!! Hubby's mother (a staunch Irish Catholic) is a different matter - but I figure that's his problem, not mine.
What am I now?? Agnostic or Atheist? I don't believe in a God as such. I believe in the Golden Rule, I believe in Good vs Evil, I believe in the inate goodness of mankind..........I kind of believe in the theory of 'collective consciousness'. I just don't think about it much.
Tammy, as to feeling like an adult around your parents - don't wish too hard for it. My Dad died when I was nine, my Mom has been gone for 17 years....even at 56 years old, sometimes I feel like an orphan and would give anything to have a parent to go to. For what it's worth, I think of you as an adult ( since that's pretty much the only way I've known you)

Panthergirl said...

You get to be an adult when you choose to.

I went through a period of doing things I KNEW would upset my parents, to settling into a life that is truly my own. I do what I want, what I believe, not to piss them off... but because I'm being true to myself. If my mother doesn't agree with my choices, that's really her problem to sort out. She does not control me anymore.

I was raised Catholic but do not practice religion now. I did not baptize either of my children which flipped my parents out big time... but they lived. I teach my kids the Golden Rule and that's about it.

You can choose to be a child to your parents until you are quite old. But I think it's limiting for you, and maybe it underestimates them. If they can understand that your choices have nothing to do with spiting them, or rejecting them, they just might surprise you.

Here via michele!

Unknown said...

I was raised in a modern Orthodox Jewish family. My family were not black hat Jews, but they were very strict and followed halacha (Jewish law) to the letter.

I was a rebel from my early childhood. I wanted to do things that my parents didn't understand and didn't want, like go swimming in a public pool. We had a pool, we didn't coed swim, so why would I want to go to the JCC and swim with my friends. With BOYS.

My upbringing was probably very similar to yours, Kosher home, rules about clothing and appearance and dating, etc. But because I was a rebel from early on, I learned to stand up and fight my battles and not aquiesce to my parents rigid demands.

Now I'm grown up, and I am still involved in our religion, but in a much less strict way. We are Conservative, we do keep a Kosher home, but not one that my parents would eat in. We don't go to shul anymore due to some issues with my children and the rabbi (a bad mix) and because being Jewish is extrememly expensive and I just can't afford it. I know that sounds weird, but that's just how it is within Judaism. We PAY to belong to a synagogue, dues of like $1200/year, and I can't swing that. Plus that's just the baseline, everything costs a fortune.

What I did differently from you is that I cut my parents out of my life because they were too toxic for me, not religiously, but mentally and emotionally. They just had no love or support for me, and it was easier for me to get rid of the guilt this way instead of allowing them to continue to manipulate me passive aggressively. It wasn't worth it to me.

Jeannie said...

I can't say my father ever made me feel guilty - it wasn't in his nature. My mother on the other hand more than made up for it. It is very hard to not feel like a little kid around parents who manipulate. It's all part of it. My sister gets all twisted in knots over it still and she's 55 years old. I, on the other hand, ceased trying to please Mom many years ago because I finally realized that I couldn't. Her standards were impossibly high. Religion really has little to do with it. And in fact, they are twisted with guilt themselves. A few years back, my mother was harping about something and I simply said: "Mom, I'm 40 years old. I'm a grown-up now and I can do what I want." She stopped cold. Blinked. Agreed. And hasn't harped on much of anything since. She now accepts that I can live my own life.

carmilevy said...

Reading the comments illustrates a richness of experience that I can hardly hope to add to.

I've seen parents - mine and others - attempt to use guilt on their adult children, and it annoys me to no end.

The best defense: ignore 'em. You Dad can pray all he wants. Whoopee for him! If he chooses to let religious dogma rule his life, then that's his right.

It is similarly your right to follow your own path and have confidence in your own choices. Sounds like you're making the right ones.

Incidentally, my wife and I are often chastised by the older generation for not being observant enough. We laugh to each other that we'll both go to hell as a result. As long as I'm with her, it doesn't matter where I am :)

Anonymous said...

I was raised in a very strict, very conservative, very legalistic Baptist world. Boys had to have their hair a certain length,never to go below the ears (long hair is the devil's playground you know), I could not wear pants to school, and God forbid if you ever listened to rock music (we even had a man come to our school and try to prove to us how the beats in rock music were satanic).

My parents were not this type. They rarely went to church, smoked, and cursed. I saw them as hypocrits because they forced my sister and I to attend a school and church that preached rules they themselves wouldn't even live by. My mom wanted to make sure we had strong christian values instilled in us and insisted on sending us to a private christian school to get them. Whatever.

Since having gone to a strict Baptist college in the US where we couldn't wear pants to class, but could to dinner (go figure that one out) I learned the more rules you put on people the more apt they are to break them. There is something to be said about freedom. Now, that doesn't mean that I feel you can go out and do what ever the heck you want only to hide under the auspice of "I am a Christian". I strongly believe there are concrete rights and wrongs, and I hold tightly to personal responsibility. Jesus came to this world to save those who were lost, not make rules.

I have learned that there are hypocrites in every "religion" and you can't judge the "religion" by the hypocrites.

Now, I don't subscribe to a specific religion. Yes, I grew up Baptist but I found it to be legalistic and hypocritical. I knew so many pastors who preched "no sex before marriage" yet their kids were the ones getting knocked up or doing the knocking. I consider myself non-denominational although the core of my beliefs are so close to that of the Baptists. I just choose to live my life experiencing the freedom of Christ, not the rules of legalism. Jesus/God, they don't care if you have long hair, wear pants, or listen to Britney Spears (although I would consider the latter so close to a sin :) ). He cares about your heart. He cares if you believe he came to this world to save those who are lost (which are all of us). He cares if you are compassionate, reaching out to others, and desiring a relationship with him. I don't believe in religion, I belive in relationships and the most important one you can have is with God.

Northern_Girl said...

Family+Religion=Guilt. I don't know why that formula has to be, but it is.

I was raised Lutheran - and spent most of my time in confirmation questioning everything, especially my pastor. My parents gave up on getting me to church for anything but Christmas Eve service the Sunday after I was finally confirmed. (I think the pastor and church ladies pushed me through just to get me out of there!) I was married in a church, but that was because my husband demanded it so (and it was more for his mother than anything else!)

Here is the thing: You are hiding things. And to keep peace in the family and to have a relationship with your parents, you will have to keep hiding things. I don't know of anything more grown up than that.

So - Raise your Children. Love your Spouse. Accept Yourself. If your parents can't do that, then who is not grown up yet?

OldHorsetailSnake said...

You poor baby. Your parents ought to love you for some other reasons, and your hubby too. It isn't fair to expect you to be like them.

If they don't change, then I guess you only get to be a grownup when they're gone -- which would be too bad.

Just don't worry about it, Mom. Keep smiling.

Raehan said...

You are a grown-up, sweetie, and they haven't learned how to handle it yet.

I was raised Catholic, with no guilt. I've spent time in Quaker Meeting, Jewish temple, Episcopalian services, and I think I may have finally found a church that I can raise my kids in. It is not Catholic, and that is fine with my Mom.

Anonymous said...

Honor your Father and your Mother. The commandment is not limited by age. Your kids see how you respond to your parents and you're going to get it back someday. If not genuine love and appreciation for your parents did (AND its concrete expressions) at least let the knowledge of the fact that you're going to be in that place one day make you softer disposed. this is for all those who fail to appreciate all that their parents did for them like change their diapers and lie awake all night praying for them to get well...