Parents in Denial

A wake-up call.

Posted Oct 19, 2020

No author listed, pxfuel, Public Domain
Source: No author listed, pxfuel, Public Domain

I’ve changed Irrelevant details to protect my client and his child’s anonymity.

A client of mine has a 29-year-old. Here’s the relevant history. Alas, it’s a syndrome I’ve seen again and again.

Quite bright, she was a good student in high school but her parents felt she was an underachiever. She hung out with what her father called, “fringey” people. In college, an expensive private college, she majored in botany. She wrote her senior project on mushrooms. After graduation, she did little for a few months and then got an internship in a New York non-profit advocacy group for legalizing hallucinogens such as LSD and psilocybin. Living far from her parents, she reported a series of “bad luck" incidents for example, getting a DUI and getting evicted from her apartment. Then, having earned no money, she returned to live with her parents. She takes courses in alternative healing. She has often spoken about what she plans to do: join a nonprofit, start a nonprofit, become a healer and yoga teacher, but her progress has been minimal. She remains reliant on her parents for housing and money.

My client is a very intelligent, successful statistician. So it was especially surprising to me that he remains optimistic about his 29-year-old’s likelihood of becoming self-sufficient and making a difference. Of course, inferences about a person’s future are subject to error but it seems reasonable to assert that he is in denial about the probabilities, something that ironically is his work life's linchpin.

The takeaway

Nearly all parents love their children and understandably view them through at least somewhat rose-colored glasses. I offer this anecdote in hopes that it may make some of you ask yourself if you’ve been clear-eyed enough in viewing your child.  

If you haven’t, an appropriate first move might be nothing radical, perhaps just an open conversation with your child that doesn’t cause undue defensiveness. In this case, I might start by asking my child, “When I was your age, I never took the time to step back and assess my life. So as your dad who loves you, I’m wondering if you have. And if you have, how are you feeling about your life?”

I read this aloud on YouTube.