Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"Out of control" controlling parents...

I just read a very interesting post on RfM.  It was written by a 17 year old guy whose parents are driving him crazy with their ridiculous micromanagement of his life.   In his post, he details all the ways his parents control him.  Although he admits to doing some really dumb things, like chatting with an online predator and getting addicted to pornography, his parents really seem to be bearing down hard to keep him under their thumbs.

I'm always interested when I read about hyper-controlling parents.  My own parents were pretty hands off with me and I could have done pretty much whatever I wanted, as long as I didn't disrespect or embarrass them in a serious way.  My parents were mostly concerned about their image.  They cared about me, but by the time I came along, they weren't that interested in the parenting gig.  My mom was the kind of mom who happily passed me along to other moms.  I never had any restrictions on sleepovers, not that I had that many with people other than my ex best friend.

Of course, when we were growing up, there was no Internet, so that was a concern my parents never had.  But even if we'd had the Internet, I can promise you they wouldn't have monitored my usage very carefully.  I know this because they almost never monitored what I watched on TV.  The one exception was my dad, who would stop and lecture me if he caught me watching Richard Pryor or George Carlin on cable.  But that was not something that happened with any regularity.

By contrast, I had friends whose parents were much stricter.  My ex best friend's mom was very controlling and overprotective.  By the time she graduated high school, she'd lost her virginity and smoked pot.  I didn't lose my virginity until I was thirty and I didn't try pot until my 43rd birthday!

There were times when I wished my parents had been more involved.  I was fortunate to grow up in a town where there were a lot of good people who looked out for other peoples' kids.  Of course, I also ran into a predator myself, though what he did was relatively harmless in the grand scheme of things. It could have been much worse than it was.

Anyway, as I was reading this poor 17 year old's lament about his super controlling parents, I started wondering what it was going to be like for him when he turned 18.  It's my experience that people who are that controlling are loathe to give up being that way.  He's probably going to have to move out of his parents' house, which is not so easy to do when you're young and first trying to claim independence.  It took me until I was 27 before I was fully on my own, even though I joined the Peace Corps when I was 22.  Those two years away in Armenia, I was on my own... kind of.  But I wasn't totally on my own, because I was a Volunteer and part of a group of Americans.  I depended on my parents for some things.

When I got back from Armenia, I ended up moving back in with my parents.  It took almost two years to develop a plan and move away for good.  I guess if I'd had parents who insisted on reading all of my emails, didn't allow me any privacy whatsoever, used emotional blackmail to control me, threw away my personal property, and threatened me regularly, I might have been more proactive about leaving the nest.  I seriously feel pretty sorry for the guy on RfM.  It must be miserable to be kept on such a short leash all the time.  Not only is it hard for the person being controlled; it's also hard for the person doing the controlling.  That's a lot of energy to expend on someone else's life.  Besides, not letting a 17 year old have some power to make his or her own decisions is potentially crippling.  If kids don't learn how to handle their own business when they are still minors and have the safety net of their parents, when will they learn?  I don't think it's the best idea to force them to wait until adulthood for that.

I empathize with this poor guy, even if he does admit to making some serious mistakes.  It sounds like his parents are a nightmare.  The good thing about his situation is that he's young, hardy, and very close to being a legal adult.  I hope he manages to get out of that situation soon.  If I were him, I'd be making some serious plans.  But I also know that when you're 17, five months can seem like an eternity.  He still has five months to be a minor.  And he's already talking about suicide because his parents are driving him crazy.  I hope he finds someone trustworthy to confide in until he can make his break for freedom.

As I read this, I'm reminded of some of the videos I've seen on YouTube where young people have filmed or recorded their parents being unreasonable.  I watched one the other day that made me think that if I had to live with someone like that, I'd be tempted to throttle them.





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