In answer to a reader's complaint that her daughter won't take her phone calls, discourages her from visiting (even though she's now vaccinated) and otherwise is putting a lot of distance between mother and daughter, Carolyn Hax addressed the estrangement issue. The thrust of her advice for mending a rift, be it between mother and daughter or any other meaningful relationship, is to become a good listener.
If I start listing reasons grown children estrange themselves from their parents, I’ll still be typing when the next pandemic hits.
What matters is that you become a better listener, stat: “You’ve been saying no [to phone calls and visits], and I’ve been so caught up in changing your mind that I forgot to listen. I’m sorry. I will take no for an answer and stop pushing. I’m here when you’re ready. And, if I haven’t said so already or enough, thank you for being so good about putting the kids on FaceTime with us.”
This might leave you feeling resentful, as if you’re the one doing all the sacrificing here. That’s a common complaint when I recommend a full retreat — but it’s also a trap. It tempts you into looking for fairness when fairness doesn’t apply; reality is in control. And reality says you can’t make your daughter do anything (in fact, it’s probably tired of repeating itself), whether fairness demands it or not. You can work only on your side of the problem.
So, you offer her respect, space, grace — and give yourself the best chance of mending the breach.
painting: Rebecca Lemov