Best of 2016: When your child wants nothing to do with you

It was my youngest son’s 25th birthday. Twenty-five years ago my doctor smiled at me and told me he had never seen

It was my youngest son’s 25th birthday. Twenty-five years ago my doctor smiled at me and told me he had never seen anyone as excited as I was, as the nurse placed my tiny little man in my arms. He had big blue eyes and a mop of black hair. This in itself was unusual. We were mostly redheads in our family and I don’t ever remember a blue-eyed child. As with my other children, I fell instantly in love.

We were always very close. He was my baby. It had been seven years since I had given birth to his brother and back then I was considered an “older” mother. I loved my son so much and through the years we became as close as mother and son could get. Then something changed: my son stopped talking to me and I have no idea why.

I packed up and moved across the state after working 10 years in a stressful thankless job at the suggestion of my son. He said he thought I would love living here in Hobart and I would be able to see more of him. I had been divorced a couple of years by this time. It had been a very painful breakup and divorce for me and I had also lost my home and my financial circumstances were at their worst. I welcomed the change and was excited to be living closer to my boy.

At first it was great. I loved Kingston, the little seaside town just outside Hobart. My son and his flatmate came over every couple of weeks for dinner. I was even invited out for the occasional meal with “the boys”. I had known most of my son’s friends for over 10 years. I settled into life in Hobart and was content and happy. Then it happened.

I was booked in for hip replacement surgery and asked my son if he would be able to do the odd thing for me when I came home from hospital. His answer was “Of course Mum. Me and the boys will help.” I was pretty organised and wouldn’t much help, just the odd visit to the doctor’s surgery or a couple of items picked up from the supermarket. Before I even had the operation, my son had words with me over his girlfriend of a few months. I won’t go into details, but despite my efforts I hadn’t been given much of a chance to get to know her. Then I commented on something one day that was absolutely in no way anything to do with my son’s girlfriend. We talked about this and I thought nothing of it. Things changed though and my boy just stopped having anything to do with me.

During my time in hospital, when I came home and later when I became seriously ill from complications, my son refused to come near me. I tried to talk to him, I tried everything. It’s been nine months now and apart from some very hurtful things my son has said to me via text when I have tried to talk to him, he has not contacted me. I sent him a birthday present but don’t expect him to acknowledge it. My marriage breakup from the love of my life was the most painful thing I have ever gone through, but nothing like this.

I don’t honestly know why this has happened. I keep trying to make sense of it and try to move on and live with it. It’s not like a divorce where you grieve and move on. This is my son, my child, part of me. I wonder does he realise the pain and heartache I feel? I wonder if I did something I don’t even know I did? I wonder will that heaviness I feel in my heart every day ever disappear? I love you, son. Happy birthday.

Do you know how Fran feels?

This piece was originally published on Starts at 60 as ‘When your child wants nothing to do with you’. It was one of our most popular contributions by the Starts at 60 community in 2016.

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  1. Diana swift  

    Fran – I wish I could reach out and give you a hug. You are not alone this scenario is so often repeated and often the reasons for it are trivial comments made that are greeted with vast overreactions that seem never to be healed. Or they can stem from reasons so buried that nobody can figure out how it went so wrong. We give everything to our families but it seems to go unnoticed and regrettably unvalued. We think we have raised our children to be different people from this. So we are left dismayed when they seem to turn on us and exclude them from their lives. It’s almost like they weren’t there for the journey we shared with them. I find these days that I have to be aware of everyone’s feelings , akin to treading on ice trying not to say or do something to upset them. But no one seems to give a dam about how my feelings are hurt. I especially think about all the birthdays and Christmases that were made special. Something that my family would treasure as they looked back. Just as I did at my own childhood. Now I have to be grateful if I get a text message on Christmas Day . Birthdays are remembered weeks after . I can offer you no explanation as to why so many mothers or patents seem to have become if not invisible but dispensable. But when women get together we help to heal each other just a bit. So best wishes sister. Sending you good vibes (((((()))))))

    • Frank Schwebel  

      I used to get a text message on Christmas day ……

  2. Maria Hansen  

    I’m. Sorry for your heartache. I have it too. My partner and I did every thing for our kids. We still worked when they had their children . The best time of our lives. We would baby sit, take kids on holidays with us. One 16 year old granddaughter, told massive lies. Not one of my children spoke to us about it. It was proven she lied to get herself out of trouble and her father, who had 12 girlfriends in 12 years. The last one was a drug addict. I’d love the others to know our side, the hurt and heart break is a nightmare .

  3. Val Callaghan  

    What an interesting story.
    I relocated to the Gold Coast (Australia) from Melbourne in November 2016 after a marriage break down (38 years) and my youngest son (24) made it clear that he was never going to come visit me. I did nothing wrong, I have always been there for him, I thought we were close. It devastated me. After 8 weeks he has never answered any of my messages. He lives with the ex but the ex has assured me that he tells my son to get in touch with me. The ex and I get on ok as we have a lot of history together. I wish my son would talk to me and Tell me how he feels. I cry every day thinking about it.

  4. Maria  

    My son divorced and had a new girlfriend when everything just went pear shaped. We were not invited to their wedding, later they had a son, my friends used to see them and secretly take pictures of the baby to show me. When their son was a year old my son contacted me cried and said how sorry he was, he knew how hurt we both were and I believed him. Another baby came along I saw her for two years, not much but at least I could call in. For absolutely no reason they cut off the phone moved and have not contacted us for five years now. He doesn’t even call his sister, the cousins have found each other on facebook and hangout but they have been blocked for more than a year now. We just have to cope, our daughter also lives 3 kms away she shops 2 minutes from the house but never has time to call in only calls when she wants us to help her I know I should say no but I can’t it’s the only opportunity I get to see the family. We travelled around Australia with the caravan for a while it’s full of grey nomads whose kids have just abandoned them.

  5. Pradap  

    ๐–๐จ๐ซ๐ค ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐Ÿ-๐Ÿ‘ ๐ก๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ฌ ๐ข๐ง ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐ฌ๐ฉ๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐ญ๐ข๐ฆ๐ž ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ ๐ž๐ญ ๐ฉ๐š๐ข๐ $๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ๐ŸŽ๐ŸŽ ๐จ๐ง ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐›๐š๐ง๐ค ๐š๐œ๐œ๐จ๐ฎ๐ง๐ญ ๐ž๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ๐ฒ ๐ฐ๐ž๐ž๐ค… ๐†๐ž๐ญ ๐ฆ๐จ๐ซ๐ž ๐ข๐ง๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ๐ฆ๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง ๐จ๐ง ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ฅ๐ฅ๐จ๐ฐ๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ฌ๐ข๐ญ๐ž =====๐–๐š๐ ๐ž๐ง๐ž๐ญ๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ.๐œ๐จ๐ฆ

  6. Elise  

    Perhaps I should get some comfort from hearing stories of rejection, similar to my own. Sadly, they are cold comfort. Having my son turn away from me without any kind of explanation, is a pain that does not diminish with time but keeps increasing. It is death by a thousand cuts. Not even a phone call for my 70th birthday, let alone for Christmas or New Year! I don’t know what I have done, or not done as the case may be, to deserve to be treated in this way. I was always there for him and his family. My daughter-in-law was like a daughter to me and my granddaughters have been the centre of my life from the moment they were born. It is not the first time that he has shunned me but this time has been the longest. I know he has gone through turbulent times in those four years since he started to pretend I don’t exist. He has had three different jobs, with two of them overseas. His marriage went into a tail spin when his wife refused to come overseas with him. She had enough of having to give up, yet again, her career and, this time around, also her university studies. Once again, all without advance notice. There was also the factor that their daughters were at a crucial time in their high school education and they had already had too many changes of school. I fear I have become the proverbial elephant in the room as far as my granddaughters are concerned. I make allowances for them not calling me this past Christmas/New Year. They spent the time with their father, and their grandfather and his wife (my ex husband), and I expect they felt torn in loyalties. If my son does change his mind and get in touch one day, I will be at a loss for words. So much to say and yet I fear there is so little I can say without inviting a tongue-lashing. Any questions as to why he turned away without a word would only bring up his favourite accusation: “stop playing the martyr”. My health is not great and time is fleeting. Will I die without a reconciliation with him?

  7. I know how she feels , my Daughter stopped speaking to me two years ago. All because I asked my Son to take me to the A&E, as my doctor thought I had I stroke and he didn’t want to wait around for an ambulance. She wanted to take me but had no car, so she got all upset and hasn’t spoken seen. She has stopped my 4 grandsons visiting me as well. It’s so stupid a row over nothing. Lucky it wasn’t a stroke I spent 4 days in hospital having all sorts of tests. When I got home I did something very silly I claimed up a stepladder to put a curtain rail up and fell, upshot of that was a broken ankle and heel. Still no word from my daughter. I’ve just give up now, am 69 this year so I’m getting on and I so understand how you feel.

  8. ireneking11  

    8 Jan

    Yแดแดœ สœแด€แด แด‡ แด€ แดฉแด€y~แดฉแด€สŸ แด€แด„แด„แดแดœษดแด›. ษชษด แด„แด€๊œฑแด‡ yแดแดœ แด…แด yแดแดœ แด„แด€ษด ษชษดแด„สŸแดœแด…แด‡ แด€ษด แด€แด…แด…ษชแด›ษชแดษดแด€สŸ 1600 แด€ แดกแด‡แด‡แด‹ ษชษด yแดแดœส€ แด„สœแด‡แด„แด‹ แดŠแดœ๊œฑแด› แดกแดส€แด‹ษชษดษข ๊œฐส€แดแด สœแดแดแด‡ ๊œฐแดส€ แด€ ๊œฐแด‡แดก สœแดแดœส€๊œฑ แด€ แด…แด€y, ๊œฑแด‡แด‡ แด›สœษช๊œฑ สŸษชษดแด‹

    • Maureem  

      I must be thick Lan but are you referring to inheritance

  9. Francine Gipson  

    Sadly, I know exactly how you feel. Only for me, it’s been 17 years since I last saw my son. I Have no idea why he does not want to have a relationship with me, although the one he has with his sister is crappy, at best.
    I spent the first 10 years of tis journey blaming myself, before I finally had a “light bulb moment.” Though I still do not understand why it happened, I finally get that you can’t make someone love you, even if it’s your own flesh and blood.
    We only have one life to live, and I’ll be damned if I let my son control it by not staying in touch!
    Yes, we belong to the same “club” but we don’t have to succumb to the after math of ending up emotionally broken.

  10. Breezy  

    I will not be blamed for my son’s lack of communication. He is an adult. I have not seen or talked to hIm in about 8 years. Yes, I left your alcoholic father, so I am the bad guy? Had to work full time and late hours, maybe my communication was not the best either. So, I just don’t care anymore, live your own life and pray for him!

  11. Donna Moore  

    From the adult child of a Narcissistic parent.

    When a relationship ends there is always a “final straw”. That point in your life where you realise that its time to stop the madness. Cutting contact with a parent is a last resort and a painful decision to make. It is not necessarily a decision to stop loving the person. It is a decision to stop struggling with them and let them be who they are going to be, while not letting their behaviour hurt you any more.

    Following my mother in law’s poor behaviour during last visit here in December 2012, my husband spoke to her and created some boundaries. This behaviour had to stop, especially in from of our children. However, creating boundaries for someone who believes they have the right to say and do what they want is like waving a red flag at a bull, and as punishment she actually cut us out of her life. She refused to speak to us, or her grandchildren, on Christmas Day. We had organised a holiday in the New Year and she refused to come. The following March our eldest daughter was making her Debut and my mother in law, again, refused to come.

    Cutting us out of her life was meant to be our punishment! She was trying to hurt us for calling her out on her bad behaviour. It was painful. But what it did was it also created the distance we required to gain perspective, examine the relationship, our reactions and our feelings. Can we resolve the conflict, do we even wanted to?

    In the end, we decided that my mother in laws decision, to cut us out of her life, was in fact the right
    decision. However, unlike her, our decision was not about inflicting punishment, holding a grudge
    or seeking revenge. Our decision was about protecting ourselves from recurrent abuse, nurturing
    ourselves, and healing from past experiences. We all deserve the right NOT to be damaged by
    another person’s words, moods or actions.

    I know many people will not understand our final decision and at times will unintentionally try and
    guilt us into going back into the dysfunction. Cutting contact with a parent is a touchy subject. Most
    people don’t feel comfortable with the idea of cutting off a parent. Cultural programming makes us
    believe that you cant leave parent. They have not experienced the pain of having such a parent and
    simply cannot understand.

    Donna Moore

    • Grace  

      Oh! Donna, you certainly took the right action!
      In currently terminology, she’s ‘toxic’.
      Continue to stay away, & have no contact, & live your lives’ the way YOU want!

      I’d a m-i-l whom I believed had FAS. Her father was an alcoholic. She was certainly slightly mentally retarded. Had the mental ability of a six year old, & did NOTHING, repeat, nothing unless her husband gave the ‘OK’. She didn’t even know how to go into a Bank & withdraw funds’. She couldn’t drive, as not ‘permitted’ to learn.

      One night, they were unfortunately at our house, & as near Dinnertime, I did the ‘polite’ thing, & asked them to stay. She had to get her husband’s ‘permission’ to do so, as she wasn’t allowed to make the ‘decision’.

      Vety long story short, I eventually banned them from coming to our house, after she made rude comments’ about a beautiful Tapestry friends’ had made for our son’s birth.

      I stopped talking, & seeing her, for the last 15 years’ of her life.
      I missed her not in the slightest.

  12. Gillian Simpson  

    My eldest son’s wife and my youngest son’s partner used to be best friends, but sadly fell out over something trivial. My eldest son had words with me because I get on with the partner better than I do with his wife, who has never made me feel welcome. Now my eldest son doesn’t talk to me, and she has blocked me on FB so I don;t even get to see pictures of my granddaughters. I’;s been just nearly a year and a half now, and other family member send me some photos. It’s sad that my grandchildren are missing the time with me, but you know what, life is just too short, it’;s his decision and aI have to get on with my life.

    • Donna_Moore  

      Gillian this is your son, how can you just get on with life? You have stated that you get on better with your youngest sons partner than your eldest sons wife. Well maybe the wife sensed that. So what if she never made you welcome, we can’t like everyone we meet, just get over it and be there for your son and granddaughters. Enjoy them. Its also sad that your missing time with your granddaughters too, not just them missing time with you. They will move on especially if they think that you have upset their parents. Also have you thought about your sons relationships and the cousins and the aunts and uncles. They all suffer. Don’t involve yourself in your kids squabbles, they’re old enough to deal with that themselves. Just be there for all of them and enjoy your grandkids. If I were you Id swallow my pride and apologies to my son and his wife just so I could see them again. I find that when you get upset with someone, think about something nice they have done or said or a nice time you shared with them. Its the beginning of a new year – make amends.

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