Dear Ms. Hax: 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. I have to admit, I don’t mind the added distance.
The problem is the distance has not decreased their protectiveness, which can be somewhat stifling. Everything from my choice to stay in on a certain night (reflecting my failure to take advantage of opportunities here) to why I won’t take care of myself when I’m ill becomes a subject of debate and discussion.
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.
I’m tempted to stop emailing entirely, but this move seems far too passive-aggressive. I don’t want to lose touch or disappoint them, and I do genuinely enjoy emailing with them. How do I get them to trust that I know what I need, and that if I don’t, figuring it out alone might be good for me? – G.
Choosing not to email your parents anymore – or to selectively ignore anything that intrudes on your business – is not “passive-aggressive” if you send them this first: “Dear Mom and Dad. I am 21. You raised me well (and to excess!), 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.”