Spoiled! That’s the usual, flippant conclusion. Pissed off adult children of “wonderful” parents who tried their damnedest to be perfect parents are simply butt-hurt spoiled brats.
Here is the crux of the anger of adult children of narcissists, perfectionists, engulfing parents, helicopter parents, lawnmower parents, paranoiac parents, tiger moms and dads. This is why we are pissed off as Hell. It’s incredibly simple.
Our parents made one thing very clear:
They weren’t perfect, but pretty damn close.
They worked incredibly hard at child-raising so we would be
the best possible person and have a wonderful life. Or pretty close anyway.
But it was all a self-defeating lie.
By engaging in such extreme, abnormal even abusive parenting,
they ensured our unhappiness, poor mental health,
unfortunate relationship choices and general misery.
It was a shell-game. The old bait-and-switch.
Instead of growing up to be a wonderfully happy and health person,
we have agonizing years of narcissistic abuse to unlearn, unravel and grieve.
Instead of just living, we have to invest thousands
of hours and dollars into the hard work of recovery
before we can just live, just be simply happy.
The worst part is how much we loathe ourselves
for, apparently, failing to live up to the “excellent” parenting we received
because we’ve NOT perfect, NOT confident and NOT happy.
If you expect your child to submit to years of your Extreme Parenting — pressure, misery, isolation, punishments and pain — then it had better be worth it. You’d better damn well figure out how to launch then into adulthood as happy, well-adjusted people anyways. If you are going to be the “perfect parent,” and say or imply that to your children their upbringing is better-than-average “for their own good,” then you’d better damn well deliver. (Spoiler Alert: It can’t be done.)
Adult Children of parents like these knew from little on that we were destined to grow up to be a “perfect” adult because our parents claimed to care so much, love us so much, work so hard on our upbringing – much more than “those” parents who obviously didn’t love their kids enough to swamp, engulf, hover and generally make a “big deal” out of every moment of their childrens’ lives.
Engulfing, helicopter, lawnmower and narcissistic parents who lectured, taught, punished, corrected, yelled, forbade and went above-and-beyond to be the perfect parents supposedly did it all for our good or so we were told. Our parents denied themselves and worked supposedly “unselfishly” towards their goal of raising us perfectly for decades. Three decades, in my case.
But it was all worth it because, supposedly, we would end up being a wonderful person living a wonderful life.
And we are good people. We are incredibly blessed. We have wonderful lives…on paper.
But we’re not happy. In fact, if we’re honest, we’re bloody miserable (pre-recovery.)
Because that “over-and-above” our parents devoted on us is exactly what screwed up our heads so much. The narcissistic abuse. The constant invalidation. The codependent rescuing and meddling. The confusion. The false guilt. The wrong beliefs about ourselves. The blind belief and hero worship of our parents. The self blame.
The worst part is that we carried all the pressure, negative self-talk, blame and shame into our adult years to keep their agenda going. We became complicit in our own abuse and for the same reason: to keep ourselves on the straight and narrow. To keep being “a good person.”
We memorized everything they said and, unconsciously, keep repeating it to ourselves. We goad ourselves, just as they did, so we don’t let the side down. So we keep trying for perfection. So we live the “good life.” So we don’t make our parents self-sacrificing efforts a waste by slipping into relaxed, complacent normalcy.
If we are unhappy, and we are deeply unhappy (pre-recovery), then the fault must be ours — or so we wrongly think. If only we’d been more submissive, more hard-working, more obedient to our parents’ agenda, surely we would have become that perfect person with the perfect life our parents envisioned and thus be happy!
That’s exactly what’s ruining everything: Our mental health, relationships and lives.
That’s why we’re angry. A sparkly dream was twirled before our eyes as a child. If only we would acquiesce and go along with the program, we’d be one of the “good people” living a happy life. It was implied, if not actually said.
So we did acquiesce. We went along with the program. Played the game. Bought into the lie. Swallowed it lock, stock and barrel. Tried anyways…but let’s face it. We were never good enough.
And we got screwed. Baited-and-switched. We played the game but, as they say, “the house always wins.” The harder we tried to be perfect, the further from “perfection” we went.
That’s why we’re pissed. Fundamentally, organically, deeply pissed. It has nothing to do with being spoiled. It has to do with believing and investing in a lie from birth and getting royally screwed.
So I ask myself: What would prick the bubble of your and my anger for all-of-the-above?
A shred of normalcy, a soupçon of humanity, a huge dose of humility from our parents. Even, gasp! an apology.
“Sorry, I screwed up. My ego was monstrous.” we would like to hear our parents say. “My parenting style was about me, not my child(ren). I wanted to prove I was a wonderful person and used my parenting and my kids to prove it. I’m sorry I screwed up on raising you. I don’t blame your for being angry and miserable. Your upbringing was anything but perfect. I’m sorry I failed to deliver. Sorry you got baited-and-switched. I’m sorry.” Something like that.
Will it happen? Never…especially if your parents are narcissists although I nearly got an apology once when I was nineteen and sobbing about all the pain my father’s rages caused me. Very upset my mother said, “When I see you like this, I wonder if we should’ve just adopted you out.” She meant I might’ve had better parenting elsewhere. On the other hand, “you may go further and fair worse.”
I suppose most “perfect” parents cling to the belief that they were nearly-perfect. They’re still buying into their own lie, their own shell game. Since blame must be assigned, I’m sure its assigned to us. Perhaps they believe it is we who failed to respond to their excellent parenting. What do they call us? Demanding? Rebellious? Unforgiving? Stubborn? Spoiled? If only we’d gone along with their program more whole-heartedly, all would be well. Um, no. It wouldn’t.
Hopefully now we understand why we’re pissed off Adult Children. We’re still mad, but understanding why takes some of the sting out of it.