Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

Mom can't stop babying 55-year-old daughter

Carolyn Hax on

Tell her less. Expect less. React less. That's what you control.

You know the ridiculous advice and invasive questions and "Good girl!" condescension are all coming -- so, adapt accordingly. Either:

-- Ignore. "So, Mom, how are you?" Don't underestimate the power of a non-answer.

-- Rise above. "Ah, Mom. You taught me well, remember?"

-- Hold firm. "Nope, not answering that."

-- Disengage. "Thanks!"

-- State the obvious. "Mom, I'm 55! years! old!"

-- Get silly. "I used baby oil." "Yes, I wore sunscreen. Did you floss?"

But do not engage anymore.

 

Deflections can be mean if not said in good cheer, so here's where to find some: People tend to smother and control out of anxiety, not contempt, your mother likely included. Such worrying says she doubts her ability to handle risk.

That certainly explains her methods. She fusses over and drill-sergeants the people she cares about; because she (fancifully, mistakenly) thinks her fussing helps keep them safe; so she feels better for fussing; which is why she does it ... and why anybody does anything, right?

It also means you can expect her to resist your efforts to deflect her, but stand firmly -- and, again, try more smile, less exasperation. Make this your new way to assure Mom you can manage: quietly managing, versus discussing whether you can.

Don't just do this out of kindness, either. To take her seriously is to question yourself, and that's the crux of it. Self-doubt is the example she set and you now unwittingly live by. If seeing this pattern isn't enough for you to break it, then good therapy might bring relief.

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Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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