Mother seeks cure for daughter's affluenza
Dear Amy: My adopted adult daughter is an only child who, because of her wealthy grandfather, was given too much: private tennis lessons, piano and flute lessons, private school, music camp, car, college, a gift of a grand piano, etc. Her father and I were teachers who believed in hard work, commitment to ideals and responsibility to others.
My daughter is married with no children. She does not believe in acknowledging other peoples' special events (birthdays, holidays), and brushes off not doing so by saying, "We don't celebrate birthdays, etc., anymore."
She and her husband enjoy receiving gifts and accolades, but are not forthcoming to other people. Their free time is spent exercising, gorging and spending weekends at wineries.
I know it sounds judgmental, but I find her lack of reciprocity, her insensitivity and her self-centered and self-obsessed attitude appalling. I am embarrassed by her behavior.
How do I find peace of mind and accept her for the person she has chosen to be?
-- Upset Mother
Dear Upset: First comes acceptance, and then comes peace of mind.
As challenging as a purpose-driven life can be to actually live, a life of direction, generosity, reciprocation and meaningful relationships is rewarding. One of my favorite quotes (from Ralph Waldo Emerson) relates to this: "The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived, and lived well." You may be living this life; your daughter is not. All the same, you did raise her. Why didn't you teach her differently?
Your daughter's lifestyle will not protect her from the slings and arrows of life. Nor will it prepare her for dealing with loss, loneliness, illness or the abundant joy of earning achievements. Her grandfather's spoiling wealth might have set her up for this, but just as adults can rise above childhood deprivation, so too can they recover from a nasty case of affluenza.
You mention that she is adopted. If you think that she is struggling with issues related to identity or abandonment, you should offer to help her to explore these questions.