Though I regularly find useful and supportive advice and information in The Phoenix Spirit, I was shocked by the tone of John Driggs’ latest column, which, in defending parents, came across as very blaming and shaming of (adult) children.
Here are a couple quotes that were especially troubling: “… no matter how problematic our childrens’ childhoods were there is absolutely no justification for their rejecting us today from their lives. If they do so, they are doing so out of their own spite and cluelessness, not because they were harmed in childhood. ”
“All of us are obliged today to forgive our parents.”
I have never heard forgiveness characterized as an “obligation,” nor have I heard such blanket judgments about family circumstances, circumstances that John Driggs does not know. He seems to be siding with one person’s recollection of events (the parent’s), without even hearing the other side, or offering understanding for the feelings and need for healing on all sides. He certainly has no crystal ball to know the mix of emotions and pain that undergird anyone’s behavior.
Here’s one more quote that is very troubling: “As long as they are not currently being abused, adult children do in fact have a natural drive and responsibility to acknowledge parents no matter how imperfect their childhood may have been.”
This does not account for the fact that once abused, children may take years to recover, in fact, they may never fully heal from that experience. My question for John Driggs would be, “When, in his estimation, does the abuse ‘end’?” When the adult child is able to trust another person enough to be in a safe, healthy intimate relationship? When the adult child stops having flashbacks and nightmares? Some abused children never reach this happy ending, even with therapy.
Some adult children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and being around their abuser triggers symptoms. But Driggs makes such universal statements as, it is “reasonable for parents to expect calls from kids on holidays, birthdays and uneventful days throughout the year.” What if an adult child is not in a place to carry on casual conversation when their emotional burden is so great? What if the parent has never expressed remorse?
No, unfortunately Driggs has tried to create one-size-fits-all advice for family dynamics that are very complex and unique to each situation and circumstance. People heal in their own time in their own way. No one has a right to tell someone what they should or should not be ready to do, or when…show up for a family event, make a phone call, forgive, what-have-you.