*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Having a close relationship with your parents while having different skills from what they value can be difficult and will require a lot of patience.
And when they keep reminding you there's no way you can get to where they're at in life, you might be tempted to resent them.
How far is it ok for a parent to go in criticizing their kids without causing distance and avoidance? Could you still care about a parent who keeps bringing you down and doesn't celebrate any of your achievements because they're not what they expected from you?
My friend, Lia, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, is in high school in her second year. She lives with her mom and dad, Tracy and Steve, and she's been having a rough time during the last few years.
While her dad has always been understanding and supports her in anything she wants to do, her mom doesn't approve of her hobbies and would like to see her doing better with numbers and choosing to work in a bank like her.
"I'm not interested in that at all. I like to sing, and I want to have my own band. I've been singing for friends and some relatives for a few years, and I'm sure I can do better. But every time she criticizes me, I feel like what matters to me has no value to her. And she just judges me and our relationship based on her expectations," Lia said.
Tracy told her daughter while growing up in Phoenix that earning money matters a lot to be able to buy what she likes, travel, and have all the nice things she looked at in the shops. But Lia is convinced she should also like her job, and she can't make up her mind to be in a bank for several years just to see her mom pleased.
"I thought she would gradually realize that's not for me. But she keeps pushing me even now, and our relationship gets worse all the time. We argue some days, or we completely avoid each other during the weekends. And when I got to one of my friends for a sleepover in Phoenix, I finally feel the pressure is gone. I don't even miss being home. Once I'm done with high school, I will move away. I have a part-time job, and I can afford to be on my own. I'm also hoping that when we are in different places, mom will miss me and see that I just want to be happy. It's not about upsetting her, but I can't live the life she wants, not even to have a better relationship with her," Lia said.
In the meantime, Tracy is sure she still has a chance to set her daughter on the right track as long as she lives in her home in Phoenix. And she gives Lia examples from her friends who have kids choosing the kind of careers that she thinks will benefit her.
"She keeps telling me about these other kids who do what their parents tell them and go for professions that will pay a lot. That's ok if they like that kind of thing, but I don't have to be the same. And the more mom does it, the less I feel like she loves me or wants to make an effort to understand me," Lia said.
Looks are the main reason why her mom wants her to choose a different job. Unfortunately, Tracy just doesn't think her daughter is pretty enough to attract attention on the stage.
Lia, however, told her many times it's about so much more than how you look and that a great singer has more to offer than an outfit or makeup. Lia doesn't look like Tracy at all, and the mom is doubtful about her chances of doing something meaningful because of that.
"She keeps telling me I can't achieve what she's done because I don't look like her. It's not about looks, and I look ok; she's overreacting. You don't have to be a model to make it," Lia said.
Steve, her dad, won't interfere in the advice Tracy gives her daughter or in the arguments she has with Lia, but he's close to his daughter and won't hesitate to support her no matter what. To him, it doesn't matter what job she'll have as long as she's pleased with the life she has.
"I realize what my wife wants is something secure and a guaranteed income. But not everyone is the same. And if Lia wants to be a singer, I'm with her. She can change her mind later if it doesn't work for a long time, but why discourage her? She will have regrets if she doesn't try it. I say go for it, and we'll figure things out together if it turns out not to be great after all. Our relationship is more important than any job," Steve said.
Last night, Tracy and Lia had another argument, but this time, the mom warned her daughter she just had six months to change her behavior. She won't have her stay in her home anymore unless she agrees to give up singing and start thinking about a job that's more stable.
"I've spoiled her long enough. And I don't think her singing will go anywhere. It's better to understand that early on and find something that will give her an income in the long run. Chasing uncertain things is a waste of time, and she won't be doing that while living with me in Phoenix. And if she's still stubborn, she can move out and see how that goes. Our relationship may be difficult right now, but she'll thank me later," Tracy said.
Lia told her she would rent something after the six months were up, and Steve offered to lend her some money if she needed it, but without letting Tracy know.
What do you think about this situation? Is Tracy being too harsh on her daughter, or is she doing the right thing to avoid Lia spending too much time on something that won't help her at all? Should Tracy be more flexible and try and have a positive relationship with her daughter even if she's not that happy about her wanting to be a singer?