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Carolyn Hax: 21-year-old studying abroad finds the folks just won’t let go

Published: Sunday, May. 4, 2014 - 12:00 am

DEAR CAROLYN: I’m a 21-year-old currently studying abroad at a great distance from my parents. I love my parents very much, and, as a result, we communicate frequently. During college, I would call my mother four or so times a week, but with the time difference, communication here is limited to email.

The problem is the distance has not decreased their protectiveness.

Recently, I had a cold, and I mentioned it to justify my decision to stay inside and watch movies with a small group of friends. Every email since then has ignored anything else I’ve wished to say and demanded to know why I haven’t seen the doctor, what the doctor has to say, why I’m not taking care of myself.

By this point, the cold has passed. But I cannot persuade them that I don’t need to be rushed to the hospital. As a result, I’m tempted to stop emailing entirely. This move seems far too passive-aggressive, yet I feel that after months of this, it’s long past the time where I should say something. But what?

I don’t want to lose touch with my parents or disappoint them, and I do genuinely enjoy emailing with them. How do I get them to trust that, as I’m old enough to live abroad for a year, I know what I need, and that if I don’t, figuring it out alone might be good for me?

– G.

DEAR G.: Might?

So, the term “helicopter parent” enters the lexicon; it becomes fashionable to tsk-tsk an entire generation of parents for stunting their precious spawn through an excess of fuss and control; the idea of “free-range” child-rearing erupts as an exasperated counterpoint; a gusher of research and analysis hits the media to confirm that, yes, bubble-wrapping children does deny them the opportunity to develop resourcefulness, coping skills and “grit” – and yet there are still parents so stunningly un-self-aware that they can, in all earnestness, harangue their 21-year-old offspring from a continent away over a head cold?

And there are kids questioning their right to grab the reins of their own lives from their parents.

Jiminy.

Choosing not to email your parents anymore – or to selectively ignore anything that intrudes on your business – is not “passive-aggressive” (bzzzzzzz) if you send them this first: “Dear Mom and Dad. I am 21. You raised me well, and it’s time to trust that. I respect your opinion and advice – when I ask for it, not whenever you think I need it.

“To that end, I am through discussing my sniffles, justifying my choices for evening entertainment, or otherwise running my daily life by you for approval.

“I’m doing this because I love you, and this is what I need to keep our connection strong.

“Yours in competence, I swear,

“Pookie.”

Good luck.


Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax.



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