The problem is that my parents want us to travel south, a 3-hour drive away, to see them, which we do sometimes, but they never come up to us for a visit in return — it’s always one-sided and we’ve tried talking to them but it falls on deaf ears. I’m also gluten-free because of thyroid disease, but it seems that my parents don’t even believe us in what we’re saying. I know that my mother (as a little girl) had to travel here, there, and everywhere to see family and now she’s like, “You are my daughter and you’ll be doing the same as I did when I was little.” It’s like they don’t care if my relationship goes different ways with the pressure they put us under sometimes. My mother can be very manipulative at times to get what she wants from people but doesn’t care if she’s hurting anyone. I’m 38 years old now. The only option I can see is to wipe them away for a good few years, but I don’t want to because of our daughter. Please help me? — Gluten-Free Daughter From 3 Hours North
Dude, WTF? Seriously?! You want to “wipe your family away for a good few years” because they’d like you to make a three-hour drive to come see them occasionally?! Do you know how many people would KILL to only have to drive three hours to see their parents? Do you know how many people would be thrilled just to have parents around to still visit? I used to travel halfway across the world twice a year to see my parents (during the nearly-20 years we lived on different continents), and even now my husband and son and I take two flights each way and spend most of our vacation budget to go see my parents 2-3 times a year, without demanding that they reciprocate because we know visiting us in NYC can be challenging (we don’t have a guest room, and getting around is difficult for my mother, who is physically disabled). Do we bitch and moan? No. We happily go see my parents, just as millions of other young families travel to see their parents, because we CAN. And because the alternative — not seeing them, depriving them of seeing their grandson (and soon, a granddaughter) and vice-versa — because traveling isn’t always convenient for us is just…sad and cruel. And here you are complaining about a measly 3-hour drive?
I mean, sure it would be nice if your parents made the trek to you once in a while, but maybe they have good reasons why they don’t. Do they have a car that’s in good shape for long-distance driving? Do you have a comfortable place to put them up when they visit? Do they have pets they have to leave behind? Are they afraid, perhaps, of being too far away from their doctors? Do they have other family near them that they’re responsible for and don’t feel comfortable leaving? Have you ever ASKED why they don’t come?
And I don’t even know what to say about the whole gluten-free thing. So what if your parents don’t believe gluten affects your thyroid? Are they forcing you to eat gluten? Are they not providing anything in their house that you can eat? There’s no fruit? No protein? NOTHING? If that’s the case, bring some food you can eat while you’re at their place. Or go out to eat. And if they start giving you grief about your dietary restrictions, ignore them.
Honestly, unless there are issues in your relationship with your parents that you didn’t mention in your letter, it just sounds like you’re someone who can’t deal with stepping outside your comfort zone and doing anything that may be slightly inconvenient for you for the benefit of someone else. You mention how you lead your own life as you please, and that’s wonderful, but that kind of comfort and luxury should make you more willing to make a few sacrifices, not less.
But, yeah, if visiting your parents is causing you so much grief, then just stop, I guess. Wipe them from your life because the 3-hour drive to see them is too much of a burden and the resentment you feel that they don’t reciprocate is eating away at you. Just know that doing so would be depriving your daughter of a relationship with her grandparents. And you’re also setting an example that aging parents, or parents who don’t do exactly what you want them to do, are emotionally disposable and not worth your time, effort, or love. That kind of lesson may come back to bite you in the ass one day.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.