Advance and Retreat

Advance and Retreat

Many of you are in the early stages of reconciliation. Hopefully, many more estranged parents will reconcile with their adult child.

At some point, after seeing your child again, enjoying more contact, engaging in careful, mind-field avoidant conversations, your child backs away. You’re cautiously optimistic that you’re on track with your child and that life may go back to “normal again.” You’ve had more visits with them, things are good, but then they withdraw again . You may text, but the answers are brief and curt. You try calling but it goes straight to voicemail. You initiate contact by suggesting lunch together, but your child is too busy. Why does this happen?

Reconciling is a complex undertaking. All parties do their best to avoid talking about the gigantic elephant in the room because it’s too painful. The parents are heartbroken because they were treated with such unconscionable disrespect, distain and cruelty. Perhaps your adult child has a partner or spouse who insisted upon your expulsion. Maybe they’re still with this person, who continues to want you gone. Your child may feel caught in the middle, disloyal to the partner for seeing you and guilty for going against their wishes. It’s quite a conundrum, with many  scenarios, nuances and emotional pitfalls.

Unfortunately, the success of the reconciliation is largely in the hands of the parents. You’re older, wiser, and understand the importance of forgiveness. You understand that you must put the past where it belongs and stay in the present. You understand that you must welcome your adult child back on his/her own terms. A lot will go unsaid, which can be very frustrating for the parents, but it’s important to keep your objectives in mind: you want healing and you want your child back.

When you experience the advance/ retreat behavior from your child, keep in mind the progress you’ve made so far. Do your best not to get hurt or angry all over again- it will only stall the progress. Don’t lean in. Accept everything as it is and remember that your child will be back again – when he/she is ready. Be patient and take that darned high road, yet again.



1 thought on “Advance and Retreat”

  • I am touched by your post, Nancy. I assume you had some communication with your son.

    For some reason, my son is being responsive, not just once, but returning texts or a phone call. Is it because his life is going better? Timewise, it coincided with his getting a job that he really likes.

    I saw the grandchildren also once, and though acutely aware of the 3-4 year absence gap in understanding their personalities developing, you know what?

    I found myself quite unemotional, like what’s the big deal? My son is his same ornery self. One grandchild was fun to talk to, the other rather enigmatic. I know now that wanting what I couldn’t have (contact) inflated the value of my son and his kids in my life.
    .
    And that the fantasy of everyone being loving to each other (me being the center of attention!) was just that—a big fantasy. My life and their lives don’t intersect in the every day. My fantasy was that I would take care of the kids after school and get to talk to them alone. This nuclear family thing we have going leaves a loving, devoted grandmother like me out in the cold. I have so much knowledge and compassion to share with my grandchildren and it’s a shame, a shameful waste.

    Maybe I am just numb. LIke in trauma, waiting for the next time I am target practice. Or maybe, I’ve reached a reconciliation between myself and the inherent situaton: that i will never know or understand the why of it. So many factors. And if you ask my son, it will play out like the classic Japanese movie Rashomon. His view of it would be incomprehensible to me. His wife’s view, OMG, I won’ t entertain those thoughts for long.

    I am glad for the little chunk of normality. But I am not attached to it. It’s wearing, though. I may get so tired of it that I really don’t care anymore.

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