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A shift in American family values is fueling estrangement (theatlantic.com)
412 points by yamrzou 65 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 665 comments



When I was around twenty my Mom used to call me every other day or so just to have a chat. One day, after she asked me how my day was, I shot back something along the lines of: "I don't have anything to tell you, really. You're calling so often that nothing new manages to happen in between the calls." So, she stopped calling. I would go home every other week as usual and everything seemed fine. It was only much later that I found out that she basically cried for three days straight after that call.

Some time later there was a period when I would contact my parents every few months or so. Not really on purpose. Simply because other things simply took more of my time and attention, and calling my parents wasn't really high on my list of priorities.

Only when my son was born I started to realize what someone goes through as an individual and as a couple once a child comes into their lives. How it changes things. That not being thrown out of the window at 2 a.m. as an infant is already a blessing. I'm sure that thought has crossed the mind of many a young parent with a screeching infant on their hands in the middle of night. So, I felt ashamed of myself, and grateful to my parents for being there in the first place, and being decent at being parents as well.

Now I've made a point to myself to call them up at least once a week. As in, I have set up a reminder for that. I now know how much they value this. But it's not only for them. I realize very well that one day I will wake up and wish to call my parents to have a chat about something. But there simply won't be anyone to call anymore.

I'm not passing any judgement at all on people who have abusive parents. I have no idea how that feels like. I'm just happy that I didn't end up accidentally getting estranged to the decent parents that I have. At some point it really was going that way.


When I went to university, my parents simply asked me to call them once a week on Sunday at around 10am, which I did pretyt much every week and carried on doing for the rest of their lives until they died a couple of years ago in their 90s.

The calls were pretty consequential and really not verty long, quite often just 20 minutes but over the years they morphed from the being worried about me, to me being worried about them. My eldest daughter goes to Uni this summer. Despite mobile phones, I might see if she would consider doing the same.


Do it. All the anxieties "Should I call?", "Am I a nuissance", "Am I a burden?" matter not.

I am genuinely curious why "memento mori" never seems to stick. Maybe thats part of it's power.


I'm beginning to think that mobile phones and technology for young people is a horrible experience of being answerable without notice to unlimited opportunities for more powerful people to impose themselves on still incredibly experienced just lately still minors.

because simultaneously adults have been inundated with the news of the world and it isn't good, and as a result we're probably genuinely more anxious about our kids than for several generations (my father would be 114 this year, if he could be alive, and his stories of growing up pre Depression in London still make my hair stand on end and thank god for the mercies we do have. Age has made me sentimental and actually interested in what religion is about. But I also recognised both developments as being a deliberate blurring without any definite refocus, of all the accumulated worries into a indefinite emotional haze. If this is necessary for forbearance when my grandchildren err stupidly yet repairably, I'll take it, religion and all. But I don't remember my father in his nineties getting any fuzzier, only sharper. So I hope to overcome the apparent overload.

Still, whatever the reasons, I think we're letting our children's intelligence become too thinly spread across distractions when we are suffering from similar confusion, and I believe it's our job to clear more of the post modern clutter.


When I left for college, we did a weekly Sunday 30 min Skype call.

I'm the oldest of five. This pattern then continued and now my parents and my siblings and their families have that group call with everyone every week.

It's really helped us stay connected. You can't stay close to someone if you never talk to them. And a live interaction is superior to Facebook, etc


It's much better to communicate that you'd like a routine like this than to try to have irregular contact that you'll both have to think about and plan for. I have a weekly video call for my mom and it's very good for us.


Speak for yourself. My family is busy, and we don't like to plan -- we just decide to do something and do it. So a scheduled routine would feel like a horrible anchor to us.


While I'm definitely not going to say that it would benefit everyone, I think it's almost everyone while the relevant kid is in college. It's a lot easier to plan for a slot in your calendar as "Dad time" than to constantly reevaluate whether Dad is more important than XYZ random thing you have on the docket.


Once it’s a routine you don’t have to plan. And being busy is a good reason to have it as part of your routine.


My son went off to college a few years ago and we've established a pattern of having him call us every Sunday. TBH I don't have a ton to talk about (and am not really a talker), I just want to make sure he's ok and everything else is pretty inconsequential.

I would recommend setting expectations early around weekly calls so they become a habit. Even if you have nothing to talk about you can small talk for a few minutes. I suspect you will have a lot to talk about if your child is starting university.


I had a strange relationship with the keeping-in-touch thing. When I was a kid my parents' generation was scattered all over the world, and long-distance calls were expensive. Plus there were a lot of them, and a lot of kids. So they developed a no-news-is-good-news attitude. You'd get the occasional call for life events, or you'd phone them if you heard there was an earthquake where they lived.

When I moved away from home I kinda thought it would be the same with me. After all, not that much happens during the average working week. I worked, I ate with friends. So why call all the time?

Turns out I think they just missed me. To a degree parents live through their kids. Are you enjoying your work? Have you found a girlfriend? It's like living through that age again.

Technology really helped. The last few years before they died they'd call weekly to check on their grandchildren. Often short calls, but still pretty good. In fact my last contact with my mom was via a video chat.


> To a degree parents live through their kids. Are you enjoying your work? Have you found a girlfriend? It's like living through that age again.

Or maybe they just...you know...cared.


Isn't that the same thing? When you care about someone, don't you put yourself in their shoes?


I imagine most would agree that the phrase "live through their kids" has a negative connotation and "caring about someone" does not.


Fair enough, I'm probably in minority. I don't see anything wrong with living through the kids, for me it's just one way to explore the world.


Imo there is nothing wrong with it, but only if you are truly "exploring the world" in a sense of being an observer and trying to take in what your kid is experiencing, while providing advice and guidance if needed.

Where it starts being wrong is when people take "living through my kids" as "controlling and demanding my kids live the way I imagine I would have wanted to live, if I was in their shoes now".

Note: when I say "kids", I mean someone's children who are already adults and have their own life to live. I am not trying to say that kindergarten-aged children should be given full freedom to make their own life decisions and that any attempt to infringe on that is wrong.


I think a lot of the negative connotation comes from the type of parent that's trying to live out old glory years or missed opportunities through their child by forcing them into a particular sport or activity instead of allowing their child to grow as an individual.


I think that's a very smart way to explore the world, but I think with the premise of "living through your kids", you're forgetting to live yourself.


This is the actual definition of empathy, yes, not the currently trendy use which is much closer to sympathy in the way it is used.


Every once in a while I read something the so obviously resonates with me as how things should be with me, but not how things are, that it's depressing and humbling. That's good though, because that's how change happens. Excuse me, I need to go make some calls and set some alarms now.


Do it. I lost both my parents in my late 20s. I didn't have the level of contact with them the last few years that I wish I had, partially because I assumed I've have time for that when they retired. They didn't make it.


Already did! :) Yeah, way past my 20's, which is all the more reason to make sure I keep in touch. They're both getting up there in age (although admittedly my dad is probably in better shape than me...)

Sorry for your loss. I'm at the age where I've lost a few of my good friends now, and it never feels like you had enough time.


Both of you have me tearing up while reading this. Probably the most humbling feelings I've had in a while.


The love for a child will always be more than the love for a parent. From the day of birth the child detaches himself from the parent. Every day a little more than the day before. This is a good thing and makes live bearable.


> Only when my son was born I started to realize what someone goes through as an individual and as a couple once a child comes into their lives. How it changes things.

Having gone through the same experience, I have to wonder if the simplest explanation for increased estrangement is that people are waiting longer to have children, and having fewer of them, than ever before.


"It was only much later that I found out that she basically cried for three days straight after that call."

That got me crying.


Many people cry, shout or even try to manipulate you when you tell them their behavior (based on excessive attachment or dependency of some kind) is an issue for you. Many of the same people's loved ones realize that and are in a clinch: do I distance myself, hurting them? do I not distance myself, hurting self? It's not something you can just ask about: "I'm not as attached to you as you are to me, what do we do?"


There was no attempt to manipulate here - as the author stated, they didn't find out about the mother's crying for a long time. It was never made known.


I wasn't suggesting OP's mother wanted to manipulate. I wanted to express that it's a very common situation in relationships of all kinds that there's assymetry in desired closeness and it's difficult / non obvious what to do there (i.e. no easy solution).


Yeah it does seem like many of the "no contact" people are themselves childless. I doubt this is a coincidence.


It's definitely not a coincidence, but it is certainly complicated.

Damaged kids become damaged adults, and if they realize it, they may decide that they wouldn't be good parents and rightly opt-out of it.

Children that didn't have the right opportunities, whether that's their parent's fault or not may not have enough achievement as an adult to take on the burden of being a parent. One can argue whether it is harder being young today than it was 20-30 years ago, but you can't argue that being a parent requires lots of resources in both time and money, and if you don't have both, it's the right choice to not be a parent.

Another layer is that the parents often want grandkids and will use them as an excuse or as leverage to maintain contact despite lack of respect for boundaries or even outright abuse. So there is an element of spite in denying them grandkids, and an element of self-protection in the same.


Long story short, I don’t call my parents precisely because I’m childless. Failing my love life has everything to do with them.

It’s not like I were divorced. I’m precisely never married, never had a long girlfriend, despite not being ugly nor totally stupid, and my loneliness drove me crazy (in the literal sense – since Covid I’ve honestly snapped a few neurons, so it’s quite over for me). But before that, I used to be a fine person, but they didn’t give me any lead on the love life. EVERY father would be happy if the kid plays with girls at school, just not mine because they don’t want me to pump-and-dump - well they don’t have to worry about this for sure. I really don’t get how people succeed at the love life, it’s totally not working for me.

I’m now workaholic and if I stop working, I’ll go insane with ruminations in a few hours only. I’m quite fortunate my worklife offers me the opportunity of working more, I’m a programmer-entrepreneur.

Anyway, if I were successful at life, I’d certainly be happy to call my parents more. It’s just that their opinion led me to a general failure, so I can’t hear more.


At some point, we have to stop looking to our parents, and take responsibility for our own lives.

Until we can do that, we aren't really adults. That's what sets adults and children apart: responsibility. Children are not responsible for their own lives; rather, they live under the guardianship of adults.

Adults are responsible.

And it is a hate crime that we have probably two generations in the West that have been raised to be actively irresponsible: to reject the mantle of responsibility, and instead spend their time loudly blaming... everybody but themselves.

It doesn't matter how well-deserved that blame might be! Blame itself is toxic.

Look, I get it. My parents did a number on me, too. But I also recognize that they too were broken in many ways, and that they did the best they could with what they had.

Yes, that means they gave me a lot of shitty advice. But it was good advice to their younger selves.

That's why I'm not angry with them anymore. Not for the cheating, or the divorce, or any of the rest. Because I am adult enough to take ownership over my own life.


These children, now adults, have stopped looking to their parents. They've estranged them. I'd say in many cases, that's the responsible thing to do.

If a close friend told you that their BF/GF abused them and asked you what was the responsible thing to do, would you not tell them that they should first remove themselves from their abuser? Is it not precisely the responsible and independent choice for a victim to leave their abuser behind and move on?

Blame isn't necessary for estrangement. I broadly agree, blame is often toxic, and it's healthy to have a sense of cosmic empathy towards even people who have wronged you. It's not really clear to me who's ultimately "in the wrong" here, but the person you replied to is clearly taking the reins on their life: evidently, they're now dealing with life without their parents' help.


I agree with you. Abuse is a serious allegation and a traumatic experience.

And yet there are so many levels and shades to abuse. Just like the errors we see in the products and programs we build. We have to ask if it was malicious, neglect or ignorance. The longer we live the more I ask myself whether large swaths of that low level trauma I endured was malicious or their own timeline to grow up, be better, realize their mistakes. Not fair, but also true.

My mother is not the same person she was when I was 12/16/22 and I'm glad we had space, but never truly cut ties despite how painful it was for so many years.

We aren't all afforded the same time, space, community to mature.


- So you are telling me I should take responsibility because no-one in society should have responsibility ;) (half-badly rephrasing with humor). On one side, it burns the claim that it’s a society, it means we’re just independent units with no love for each other; On the other it’s assuming that I didn’t try everything first. I’ve lived in 4 countries, went across the world, participated to a dozen charities (>200hrs each), took my friends out regularly, did sports, I mean I did go around the block and tried everything I knew how to try and took my fair share of ownership.

- But my mother hates dogs because they’re competing with her in terms of affection (or total lack thereof), and relationships don’t click with me, because most parents develop their child’s socialization and mine acted as if socialization wasn’t a subject. In some sense, their education taught me to rely on my skills, not on socialization (independence as a principle, which became loneliness). I have no example in my 38 years where I could rely on others when I was in need.

- It seems I have the face of someone to be stepped upon (I don’t know, some people have a face you want to slap, perhaps I look weak and people instinctively profit from it).

- In any case, they pushed feminism and helped my sisters more, and either you admit that feminism has an impact and gives women a better life than men, especially in terms of confidence in society, either you admit it doesn’t, in which case why doing it. But as it stands, given women’s experience and expectations, it is not possible anymore for me as a beginner to start a relationship. They do expect a set of societal conventions that I don’t know about (from not-breaking-up-by-sms to saying the right thing when it’s time to split or not split the bill, not even talking about in bed).

I’ll just take a dog, but I’m enraged that people talk so much about helping others and can let people down just next to them when they’re were 99% decent humans before. I mean I’ve donated dozens of thousands to charities in the past, and none of them is able to pay it back to lonely men. I was a decent being until I became insane under the lockdowns.


Its a bad look to blame feminism honestly, women are just looking out for themselves and its just healthy in a way. If you're irretrievably redpilled on this then not much I can say there.

2020's pandemic and the associated mess with society is a thing. Just look out for yourself. Therapy is fine, you don't have to broadcast to everyone that you've chatted about issues. I've had a few sessions and to be honest, even those few sessions have given me ways to have internal conversations with myself by just imagining what a therapist would say. Just thought I'd offer that.

Still, take care of yourself, we only have one life here on the planet, plus you can't depend on 100 percent of the folks you run into to be on your side, most of us can be pretty self centered but don't let external insanities live in your head rent free. Humans are just not perfect beings.

Look forward to the future, surprises can and do happen. Cultivate friendships where you can.


I won’t claim to understand your situation but as someone whose parents both died before I hit puberty, I can assure you it’s possible to find love on your own — I say this as someone currently happily married and expecting a child. I wish you the best of luck, you have the power to change your own life :)


It's very possible. You probably won't see how it's possible until you've been to therapy. But you should 100% seek therapy. Your first and last paragraphs imply being a success at life means having children, which points to self-worth issues that HN commenters aren't qualified to address.


I would avoid going straight to damage as a source. I personally am very uncomfortable with some kinds of emotional expression and as a result it's difficult for me to reach out to make small talk. I wouldn't say my upbringing was in any way abusive either - I've lived a quite privileged life. Neurodiversity is I think also a thing you need to take into consideration on this topic.

(this isn't meant to attack you for misclassification - but rather widen the pool of people who fall into this complicated class)


> but you can't argue that being a parent requires lots of resources in both time and money

I know enough parents doing fine for their kids without much money and even less time that I’ll have to contradict you. It’s infinitely better to be alive than have stuff or even ample parent time. I can attest to that from personal experience. In the short term it’s certainly convenient to avoid having kids as having kids is hard and requires sacrifices. However, it’s a commonly held myth that for many kids are beyond them due to time and money, presumably as a justification for precluding or severely limiting children. One has the ability to make that decision but one shouldn’t lie about the motivation because for many the choice is made to put themselves first and reject the sacrifices of being parents.


My first thought was to disagree and push the small datapoint thing - but I suppose it varies greatly based upon location in the world, and what the definition of 'fine (for their kids)' is.

In some places kids can play outside and have a village of school connected people / things to get through just fine.

I guess it's also easier to do fine if you have church groups to help, and some places have other community that can help I am guessing. Perhaps that mall in Beverly Hills is a fine babysitter and teacher of life lessons - the malls around other parts of the country stopped being good for that some years ago.

I also feel that fine is also a gamble.

You might get affordable child care that does not abuse your kids and you might get a school system that teaches them life fine.. but you may not, and if you don't have the time to find out, or the money to change things drastically - you are essentially gambling with an innocent's life.

Again I feel this varies quite a bit from location to location and situation to situation. But I don't feel it is right to suggest the choice is putting themselves first - at least not in all circumstances, and I'd guess it's not the main factor in most of these conscious choices.


> You might get affordable child care that does not abuse your kids and you might get a school system that teaches them life fine.. but you may not

If your response to child abuse, a lack of affordable childcare, and ok schooling is that the children shouldn't exist, you've lost me.

> you are essentially gambling with an innocent's life.

You lose all bets you don't make. Life is a gamble full-stop so you are always gambling when you bring a life into the world. My main point is that there is a whole lot more room to maneuver for many childless couples from a purely practical point of view before it'd be established that having children were irresponsible for them. People have way too high expectations and a lot of ulterior motives that are the real barriers. One way to look at it is, what would you do to help them if you children already existed? Would you move somewhere cheaper/safer/closer to family? Would you sacrifice your career? Would you lower your standard of living? Would you sacrifice your lifestyle? If the answer to any of those is "no" (be honest now) then you've discovered an important part of your true motivations.


> If your response to child abuse, a lack of affordable childcare, and ok schooling is that the children shouldn't exist, you've lost me.

No, the argument is that some children shouldn't exist because some parents cannot afford to be successful parents.

It's odd to see such a pro-gambling position. On any other topic, no one would encourage people to make a risky gamble with someone else's life & happiness as collateral. And by the way, the loss you incur by not making a bet is not even close to the loss you can incur by losing this gamble. Clearly, you've never witnessed fates worse than death. I would never consider a life of misery & abuse preferable to non-existence.

And parental sacrifice is hardly the only factor. We know that children in lower socio-economic groups have significantly worse life outcomes on average. They have lower academic achievement, lower income, higher incarceration and crime rates. Will you pin that all on parenting? Poor parents just don't sacrifice enough? Doesn't matter how much you sacrifice when you can only afford a place in a high crime area and your child runs in with the wrong crowd and begins a generational cycle of incarceration. Doesn't matter how much you love your children when you have to spend most of your time at work away from them to afford basic necessities. Doesn't matter how much you want your child to succeed in school when you have neither the time nor education to even know how to help them. And we haven't even gotten to mental disabilities and neuroses yet. It costs money to manage those issues, more than some parents can possibly afford.

Everyone should have the right to make that choice. Reproductive rights are human rights. But if you believe you lack the basic resources to setup your child for success when the cost of failure literally isn't yours to bear, I could never accept that as an ethical choice. Bad outcomes are always possible regardless of wealth, but your wealth significantly alters risk and the whole equation to the point where one can say "that's a bad/good bet". If you knowingly make a bad bet, that's on you, except now your child has to pay the cost.


You're not exactly wrong, but accepting that some people should simply give up their claimed right to reproduce means you can easily genocide people by not paying them enough.


"that the children shouldn't exist, you've lost me." - I'm not saying children should not exist. I am saying in many locations for many people, I think it's more of a choice against putting children in harms way.

- also 'what themacguffinman said' in this portion of this thread!

"lot more room to maneuver for many childless couples from a purely practical point" - I agree, and some may be on a path to success, for many it's you against the world and the world is really good at keeping you down/in debt / out of safer places, etc.

So I have been helping some children, a couple as official fosters for 6 months or so, and another non-official for 10 years or so. We/they have moved to cheaper which is safer in some regards (better schools) - and less safe in others.

In this process I/we have sacrificed career and portions of career (partially 'for the children') - closer to family would not make any of the things better, but that may change around age 16 - to some degrees.

We have lowered our standard of living and sacrificed a previously really fun lifestyle.

My motivations for children has always been to provide a safe environment where they can learn well. This is much easier if you make 250k / year than if you make 50k.

While I know it's possible to sacrifice and ask for help, and certainly there are safe places to raise cheaper, say some towns in Alabama - but it's hard to figure out all about the schools / towns / pollution / etc etc until you are in it.. and moving is expensive.

I was blessed to be raised in a place that had sidewalks and neighborhoods safe enough to walk / bike / bus anywhere anytime. At that time, in that place, it might have been considered abuse to keep a kid inside.

These days we have places where (I believe it's still the case) that you could be arrested for sending your kid to the park (it's not safe).

Being in a safe place is not just about affording childcare. It's about being able to afford good food, go organic as much as you can, avoid BPA, microwaving plastics and more.

It's about safe streets, safe schools, after school safety, and so much more.

Like I said my original comment - in some places for some people this is no problem, yet in many places in the US 'all the things' are less safe these days, and in many cases quite dangerous/toxic truthfully.

I've heard of some interesting safety nets for challenged children in California, and I've witnessed those heartfelt 'the village / church helped X do Y' - but we don't have the same state-paid-for child help here where I am, you even get kicked off food stamps when you get a raise to 11.30 per hour here.

If I had a new kid today I don't know what I would do. Probably look at going to portugal or something like that (much research would be needed to really pick a place). The days of assuming that staying in the US provides top notch safety and education are long gone imho.

15 - 20 years ago I was still cautious about having kids, not knowing where I could afford a safe growing-up environment. 10 years ago I still believed that the basics like safe water and good educators were guaranteed across the US.

Today I know more, and more of the things I worried about back then are less safe today, and the costs associated with escaping those things are higher than ever.

So I still feel that "I don't feel it is right to suggest the choice is putting themselves first - at least not in all circumstances, and I'd guess it's not the main factor in most of these conscious choices." is true.

Surely there is somewhere in the US where these concerns are not so paramount, and for those that have other circumstances with family/church/etc, different for sure.

I'm in a fairly modern, popular, growing city / burbs, and the basics here are not as safe as they should be - and I don't see much of that changing anytime soon - unless you can afford to get to brentwood/franklin, I think you'd be better off moving much further away for child safety.

Sure you could keep them inside 24/7 - homeschool if you have a partner and things like that, rice and beans etc, if you had to, I get it's possible, and so kids should exist.

I still feel it's easier to make that choice when you either make lots of money or have found a small safe community with options - of which I don't think there really are that many for most people here anymore.


> Damaged kids become damaged adults

I strongly disagree with this overbroad generalization.

> you can't argue that being a parent requires lots of resources in both time and money, and if you don't have both, it's the right choice to not be a parent.

I would be happy to argue this. Raising children is the most essentially human experience one can have. A society with fewer parents is a society well on its way to nihilism and extinction.


Damaged kids become damaged adults which will raise damaged kids. Of course we can add a word to express that this should not be applied to individual but only to a group: like "Majority of damaged kids become ..." and of course it really depends what people mean when they say "damaged".

If that means trauma, then there is this concept of "Transgeneration transmission of trauma" not in terms of epigenetics (as this has not been proven yet), but in terms of behaviour of adults transmits trauma verbally and non-verbally to the child. I think this also applied to a whole range of responses/believes about how we approach life in general which is transmitted from parents to child. Yes, also the child has their own personality and might not be influenced that much, but nurture is pretty powerful especially in the forming years.

Not sure this is a 100% proven mechanisms in psychology (replicated and understood) but I can easily identify in my kid things that I wish I fix for myself and I see this in other parents with kids too.

I also think a child is a very powerful chance to change myself as kids can really be (specially when they are young and copy their parents) mirrors of their parents thus making identifying these mechanisms easily.

I am thankful that I think there are a lot of things that I caught early on, did a lot of work to fix them and managed not to transmit to the child.


Damaged kids grow up to be adults that are fearful of failing as parents.


Though it’s unclear if they are no contact because they have no appreciation for what their parents might be going through (since they don’t yet have kids) or if their parents are just too toxic to deal with at all (perhaps contributing to their not having kids).


I disagree a bit. I trained my parents early to expect a cut, and at 19 I moved with a girlfriend and never looked back.

We have a good relationship and they re good parents but I cut all attempts at having them take more space in my life than the minimum. It's so common in France we call that killing your dad (I googled and it seems to be a Freudian expression we started using to say growing up) and is part of growing up.

I have a kid now, and I want her to get the fuck out at 19, and start a life of her own with as little need for my involvment.

The funny thing is I moved to Hong Kong eventually and couldnt convince my french gf of 7 years to follow me because she couldnt tolerate being so far from her parents. I then met my current chinese wife, born here, who is in a very fusional relationship with her mom, who talks to her for hours everyday, so much she needs to kill her phone at night to stop it. And they live an hour apart...

It s clear to me there's something in Asia that's different because they all seem just as fusional (I find it unhealthy), but it may be also a girl thing more generally ? I have a sample of 2 so it's hard to know.

In any case, my daughter will be encouraged to "kill her dad" and be on her own. Even if her mom might disagree :D


Which do you think is the causal effect: not having children causes it easier to break from the parents, or having terrible parents that cause estrangement makes people less inclined to have their own children?


Why not both? It is much easier to make a case for causation with the former though; an overwhelmingly common experience among new parents is to reconsider past resentments now that they know what their own parents actually went through.



“Why do you take us on errands like the bank if mom was home?”

“I just really enjoy your company.”

For years in my teens I was convinced that they didn’t believe my time was as valuable as theirs. Making me wait in a fucking bank.

I have two boys now and I take them shopping even when mom’s home.

I deeply deeply understand my parents so much better now. I’m so thankful for that because I think it lets me love them on a whole different level now. I now understand countless details of why they did what they did.


This made me tear up. I totally understand that sentiment on both sides.

I have a mentor who told me that he was confused when got married, that his wife didn't come with him when he went to the store, to the bank, or on whatever random errand he was going on. Why? Because his parents (both incredibly highly educated and busy doctors) did everything together. If one was going to the store, the other came along, because they just enjoyed each other's company. I thought it was a beautiful depiction of what a familial relationship could, and perhaps should be like.


I still think of calling my sister once in a while, "Oh, I should tell her that", and it's been ten years. And it still hurts.


yeah happens to me too and about 15 years for me. I also get that "but I thought you died" and "I got better" dream. I am thinking that's convenient, but still, something seems wrong.


edit: misunderstanding


From the tone in OP comment, unfortunately I think that this is not possible anymore.


I think it's implied that she passed away.


Much of what seems to have held parents and adult children together used to be grandchildren; with fewer people having children of their own, and waiting until later in life, that might be a lot of cause of the estrangement. Anecdotally, I've noticed a lot of people in their 20s or 30s get much closer to their parents when the first kid arrives.


> Some time later there was a period when I would contact my parents every few months or so.

You post almost made me cry. My father passed away a few years ago and one of the things I regretted the most was that the last time I talked to him was 'a few months ago'. It took me a long time to come to terms with that and to stop beating myself up for it. People, call your parents.



Totally agree. I didn't realize how much my parents loved me until I had kids of my own. Now I get it.


Yea, how much of the article is basically that people are putting off having kids MUCH longer than they used to? I had one in my 40s.

Having your own kid puts into perspective all the failings you thought your parents had.

So when people were having kids at 20 (or earlier), yeah, you don't have two decades of delayed adulthood/extended teenagedom to complain about your parents.


I relate to your story, I definitely got to be that self-centered twenty-something for a good long time. Would love to be able to call my dad right now.


I realize very well that one day I will wake up and wish to call my parents to have a chat about something. But there simply won't be anyone to call anymore.

This made me tear up. My dad had a stroke a couple of years ago and my mom is taking care of him. I dont call them nearly as often as I should. Thank you for the reminder.


...I've long since retired, my son's moved away I called him up just the other day I said, I'd like to see you if you don't mind He said, I'd love to, dad, if I can find the time You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kids have the flu But it's sure nice talking to you, dad It's been sure nice talking to you And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me He'd grown up just like me My boy was just like me...

The Cat's In The Cradle Harry Chapin 1974


When my son was born I finally realized that my dad is just a bad person and he won’t change. I used to try to rationalize the things he did. My mom refuses to leave or do anything that might cause trouble. I decided to just cut the relationship to my parents off. For me, at best, family are just people I happened to know when I was younger.


Maybe its just me...I have been staying away from my parents in a different country since the last 13 years. With a wife and a toddler, I still feel uneasy if I don't speak to my parents twice a day. Even though we don't have much to talk about every day, it's just the feeling of seeing them and hearing their voice which calms me down.


Twice a day wow, I text them twice a week and I can go a month without anything.

I ve been abroad 7 years myself and I could not survive with such a need for contact. Did you follow someone ?


Not sure what you mean by follow someone. Everyone is different though. I am very close to my parents and now since they are getting old, I feel I should at least talk to them every day if not meet them.



possibly the typical reaction of the mothers I know to their son reacting defensively to their calling, would be petrified what horrors are going on bad enough to make their precious child and light of their lives not want their mother to hear.

I know that it's never anything like that, but I have really toned down my vignette of a maternal reaction. You just never know how important you are - you said this yourself I only can't emphasise it enough. Emotional telepresence as once advertising had it, belongs to a boomer utopia, in my opinion.


My parents...are a mixed bag. They weren't or aren't abusive. At least, not physically or sexually or anything like that. Emotionally...that depends on how you want to interpret events and what your perspective is.

But.... there's a gigantic cultural (rural vs suburban), generational (Xenial/Milennial vs Boomer), political (die hard Republicans vs Greenwald-esque progressives) and religious (baptist vs atheist) divide between us.

To complicate matters - they, especially my mother who's suffering depression from chronic illness, can be quite toxic and stress-inducing at times. They're judgemental, my mother can be a tad manipulative - nothing is every enough. I could call every day, i could see them once a week, they freaking moved within a 20 min jog of my house ffs. They're pushy.

To quote Kill Bill Vol 2: "Because he's a very very very old man. And like all rotten bastards, when they get old, they become lonely. Not that that has any effect on their disposition. But they do learn the value of company."

And that's the conundrum of them. They are characters and they are a lot to take in and a lot to ask my wife to habitually tolerate.

But on the flip side, they're incredibly thoughtful, giving, will stop anything at the drop of a hat to help with problems big and small, physical, financial, you name it. (though i never take them up on the $$). They... were incredibly flawed parents and i didn't walk out of childhood without issues.

But man, does being a parent change things. It makes me hypersensitive to just how i'm going to fuck up my kid, what kind of an annoyance i will be to him. The bond i have with my child is already something i can't explain to people who don't have kids and even to a few who do. And the idea that one day he'll just be too busy for me, or even being a teenager and being too cool for me.. it depresses me.

I didn't have him to burden him with me. but it's a relationship that i value higher than anything else.

i'm getting older - i've had medical ordeals, watching my mom suffer medical problems and it's just hit me how short and temporary all this is.

And i dunno. I understand a bit more now, and am tolerant a bit more now. I'm more grateful for what was done for me and less judgmental about differences. Life is hard, life is fragile, relationships are hard but... they're worth the extra effort (on both sides).

I don't have a lot of friends. I just never fit in anywhere. But whether i did or didn't, it really strikes to the core of just how important family is, looking down and up generationally. No one wants to die alone.

No one wants to pour all that effort, love, attention, money, heart-ache, struggle to doing the best you can for a kid, just for that kid to be like "fuck off" (for whatever reason, sans abuse). To dedicate 18-25, sometimes more, of your life to someone and them to just ...be too good for you now?

I was that kid at 25. At 40 with a 5 year old, i am not. And i will not be.


The aversion to mental health care in the older generations is really tiresome. My mom has pathological anxiety and probably depression, but has never gotten any sort of treatment for it. It radiates out and affects everyone around her.

And of course, since she didn't recognize mental illness in herself, she also couldn't see in her children. So we never got care that we needed and are various degrees of fucked up now. We were just force-fed religion instead. We're all atheists now, but those scars never heal, and I'll never forgive my parents for putting us through that.


> I'll never forgive my parents for putting us through that.

Maybe worth keeping in mind that they were probably doing what they were force fed to believe was the right thing to do. Everyone is just trying their best (usually, and even if they aren’t, it is generally better for your own mental health to go through life assuming they are).


side topic: the funny part about going through anxiety myself, as an atheist, is it really made me appreciate certain aspects of religion - from the comfort and wisdom people get from faith in something bigger than themselves, to even appreciating services from organized religion itself, therapy services for those who can't afford therapy otherwise, to the mental benefits of social/communal gatherings and belonging.

i'm no less an atheist than i was before anxiety,but i'm certainly less of an asshole about it.


It's the contract between generations. I make sure my son hugs his grandmother when he visits her, because my wife is owed a lot of hugs from her grandchildren one day and I'm going to make damn sure she gets them.


> So, I felt [...] grateful to my parents for being there in the first place

I'm going to say something controversial. Not everyone is grateful for their life. I've talked to multiple people who preferred to never be born. And event the best parents I know couldn't offer much more honest reason for having children than "we wanted to" which is basically ultimate selfishness.

> [...] and being decent at being parents as well.

That's way more universally good reason for treating your parents well.


> > So, I felt [...] grateful to my parents for being there in the first place

> I'm going to say something controversial. Not everyone is grateful for their life. I've talked to multiple people who preferred to never be born. And event the best parents I know couldn't offer much more honest reason for having children than "we wanted to" which is basically ultimate selfishness.

> > [...] and being decent at being parents as well.

> That's way more universally good reason for treating your parents well.

I can verify this. I very much wish I wasn't tasked with being alive. Depending on your metaphysical beliefs, I feel like I'm wasting another soul's place in the world. I don't want to be here, maybe if another soul was in this body then it would put it to better use and be happy and fulfilled and desire this life. I have people who want me to be here and for their sake I continue onwards, always wondering why, and always wishing I didn't have to. I used to make the mistake of thinking I could confide in them these feelings I have, but eventually I realized that I cannot. Rather, I should not. My parents wanted to be parents, and they began preparing for me as soon as they found out I was on my way. They kept me from falling off of tall things or licking wall sockets or drinking cleaning fluid as a baby. No matter how you word it, there's no way to explain that you don't want to exist that doesn't tell a parent "everything you defined yourself by for the last few decades is a farce, the thing that you made doesn't want to exist." I am not grateful my parents made me, but I don't hate them so much as to want to hurt them by telling them that.


Hey, in case you aren't aware, it sounds like you might be depressed. I highly recommend finding a therapist, or if you can't, consider what would need to change in your life for you to feel more active and engaged. Are you eating/sleeping/exercising too little or too much? Is your job/commute/locale draining you? Do you feel like you just need to find a direction/purpose? There's no other soul out there that would take your spot, and even if one could they'd face the same challenges as you.


There's such thing as dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder). About 1.5% of people have it. Treatment is supposedly as effective as treatment for depression (it's the same treatment). You have to feel like that for at least 2 years to get a diagnosis. Since it's not severely handicapping people suffering from it, it may go undiagnosed for decades and even after diagnosis people might choose to forgo treatment because of its hit and miss nature and side effects.


> I know couldn't offer much more honest reason for having children than "we wanted to" which is basically ultimate selfishness.

I really don't think that's at all objectionable or selfish to be honest. Couples that don't have children exist and bless them for deciding to go with their gut and not feel compelled by society into having a child. A child being born has absolutely no say in the matter - it's solely a decision of the parents and it should be one driven by whether the parents want and can care for a child.

The question of being grateful for life - that's a pretty complex philosophical subject. At the end of the day life is all you've got as an organism, you will experience pain from time to time but without life you simply would not exist. To those who go through severe trauma and pain, my heart goes out to you and I thankfully can't relate to that utter helplessness - but for most people existence is all we've got and if you run across someone that genuinely prefers they were never born I'd hope you can direct them to some therapists to work through their issues with, that can't be a healthy place to be.


I've lived about as good a life as it is possible to live, and I still totally understand someone who prefers the void. Sometimes I prefer the void, especially when I contemplate what is likely to transpire in the next few decades given current trends, particularly with respect to climate change.


But the void isn't peace or existence - it's just nothingness. You are able to, at least, helplessly curse the world you see in front of you - without life there is absolutely nothing, there is no you to contemplate the changes or appreciate the peace of not living through them.

You simply are not.

(and sorry if this is a bit deep or morose)


Yes, I get that. We all know what the void is like: it's the state we were all in before we were born. It's not at all clear to me that that will be worse than witnessing the collapse of civilization, which is not at all unlikely to happen in the lifetime of many of the people hanging out here on HN.


Our culture offers very little in the way of making life meaningful, especially for those who suffer. I don't diminish the suffering of the people who's life no longer feels worth it. In fact, many people's lives are truly unhappy. But an unhappy life can still be a meaningful one.

Further I would argue the antihuman sentiment offer by your argument that giving life is selfish only further contributes to the problem.


> ultimate selfishness

You can't really blame them. It's a consequence of evolution. Genes that make brains that want to have children tend to reproduce better than genes that make brains that don't.


No you can't. But you don't have to be grateful for what you never wanted just because you got it.


We're all living that Asian family joke.

Parents spend their whole lives waiting for their kids to thank you. Kids spend their whole lives waiting for their parent to say "I'm sorry."

That said I've never felt that way about my Mom and Dad. I've faults and problems a plenty but I wouldn't ascribe any of that on them; indeed the best things about me seem to clearly come from them and the worst are just as clearly things they suggested I not do. What are you going to do though, even if all that wasn't true they'd still love me and I'd still love them.


In therapy circles and attachment theory land, this is exactly what's supposed to happen when you receive "good enough parenting". Good enough parenting means your parents actually tried and either worked through any of their issues preventing them from giving care to their children, or didn't have those issues in the first place. So the idea goes, you end up developing a relationship based on mutual respect, love, and level-headedness.

The problem is, not everyone is lucky enough to receive that kind of childhood care, even though it seems like it should be universal. Lots of people are massively fucked up and still have kids anyway, either accidentally or otherwise. And then their kids are put at a massive disadvantage in life and in human relationships.

It's usually difficult for people with decent upbringings to even conceptualize why a child might willingly remain estranged from their family. But there are a lot of people out there with really good reasons to do that.


> "Lots of people are massively fucked up and still have kids anyway, either accidentally or otherwise. And then their kids are put at a massive disadvantage in life and in human relationships."

This is an interesting one, and in direct contradiction to the adage: "Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”

My life experience agrees, tough times mostly produce emotionally damaged people


This reminds me of a friend who has gone through some bad life experiences. She once told me that "everything happens for a reason" is the kind of garbage only said by people who have never had bad things happen to them.

Yes, dealing with adversity can teach us things and make us stronger. But there are limits, and adversity can also do permanent mental and emotional damage. The latter outcome is way more common than some people would like to believe.


Just as a couple of counter points to that phrase (to people who say and and those who hear it), because I know a lot of people hate hearing it.

People saying it are trying to impart hope on the people that they are saying it to. If you believe that everything happens for a reason, this will be a comforting reminder even though you're going through something awful. It's intended to remind people of the countless stories of individuals and groups of people who have suffered only to find out later that such suffering prepared them to make a difference later in life.

For some, this could mean that a tragedy in your life will leave you prepared to help others who are going through something similar later in life.

It's not intended as a dismissal of your pain. It's only to say that one day, the lessons you learn from this pain may help you to help others or yourself.

Simple examples:

- You lose a loved one to a horrible disease but then organize people to fund research to cure the disease, grow up to become a doctor or help support people coping with it

- You get dumped in a relationship and you're devastated, but on reflection you realize things about yourself that you need to work on, make real changes in yourself and later meet the love of your life

It's not meant to be dismissive.

On the flip side, for people who throw this phrase around you need to know that it gives the impression that God is controlling everything like some type of puppet master without any free will or random occurrences in the world.

The Bible doesn't reflect that perspective at all. It's worth the read to understand it better.


I don't think I would say "everything happens for a reason" to someone who is suffering, but all the same for me and other people of faith it's a simple reality. But for people who disagree or struggle with the premise, it will offer no solace. They would probably feel like it dismisses and trivializes their suffering, and worse, they might attach other, unintended meanings.

History attests to the terrible condition of the world, and the Bible is very clear about that from the earliest parts of Genesis. There is so much pain, as a constant through the vastness of history and before. Saying everything happens for a reason doesn't necessarily deny that. When applied properly, it acknowledges the cruelty and struggle to find meaning, but that the reality is as it stands. Someone who does not believe may very well reject the notion of meaning, and see only the path of improving the situation as the answer. In the end, both types have among them people of goodwill, and we must be charitable to each other.

A sibling comment to yours mentions Candide, which takes "we live in the best of all possible worlds" very cynically. Voltaire disagreed with Leibniz's premises. But of course "best of all possible worlds" has lots of room for argument as to "best" means, and it certainly does not mean the best of all of _your_ possible worlds. As the joke goes, both the optimist and pessimist believe ours is the best possible.


Like you said, it can probably console people that believe in that sort of stuff and probably is meant like that but you gotta be careful with it if you ask me. I can easily be damaging.

If you think about it, the bible and other books/religions were created in really hard and tough times and the belief that somehow in some way "it was meant to be and there's a reason behind this terrible thing happening" was helping them through it. This is all in times in which less was known about how the world around us works (and even nowadays we don't really know but our models are much much better - just think of how medicine knows about bacteria causing illnesses and such vs. the whole Yellow Bile, Black Bile, Phlegm and Blood thing - Hippocrates ~460BC-~370BC).

A merchant in the 1300s coming home to find all of his family had died from the plague might find solace in thinking that all of this happened for a reason if he is a very devout believer in such things. I can't personally fathom how you'd find someone today that would see meaning in having a family member getting infected with Yersinia Pestis, nevermind die from it, but that's just me.

So as you can see, personally I absolutely don't believe in the whole reason and other religious stuff but I can see and appreciate how religion can help stabilize society and keep the population under control in tough times, how it can be a moral compass etc. I don't personally need the rest of it all to know that I shouldn't just go about killing other people. And if something bad happens in the world then - from my relatively safe western vantage point - I can just see that the world is still an ugly place and that there are bad people that just do bad things or that are living in bad enough situations that make them do those things (hey, until we're in those situations ourselves, we don't really know what we'd actually do, best intentions not to or not!) and all I can do is to try as best as I can to avoid those people amd situations altogether. There's not much more to it and I don't need to imagine a devil or some other stuff to explain this somehow.


That was really my point. In the Bible, you see God directly intervening in certain situations but you don’t see Him actively controlling everything. Moses even argues with Him at one point.

There’s a couple of verses that people have strained to apply that meaning to it, but reading the entire Bible to put things in context you don’t see “everything” happening for a reason. You see some things.

It’s one of the reasons that I try to make this point a lot. I don’t know how many people realize how much that phrase leads non-believers to demonize God by attaching every awful thing that happens to a reason, which then makes those things His doing.

It’s simply not reflected in the text.


This comes more from the early Catholic theology dogmas of an all-knowing, all-powerful benevolent god, which creates a contradiction.

If God is not actively controlling everything, then you have to either admit that He can't control everything (but that clashes with the all-knowing, all-powerful aspect that the church really wants to preserve), or that He can intervene but chooses not to, in which case He is responsible for every awful thing that He lets happen, and you either need to assert that "it's all for a good reason in the end" and letting these awful things happen is not a bad thing, or give up the presumption of benevolence.

So the tricky thing is that you have to give up something of these assumptions; you can keep any of them, but if you want to keep all of them, then there's a contradiction - and the discussion becomes very different depending on which assumption you give up; if you keep omnipotence, then you have to "demonize God"; if you keep both omnipotence and benevolence, then you have to ignore any awful thing in our reality that does not have a plausible good reason justifying the awfulness; if you want to keep benevolence and a common-sense look on our reality, then you get (perhaps, I hope I'm not misinterpreting you) something like your approach - which, IMHO, is quite reasonable, but essentially surrenders omnipotence and thus strongly goes against dogma of many churches that do assert a God that actively intervenes all the time.


Fair enough.

I'm intrigued by the "non-believers to demonize God" though. As a thought experiment, replace God by any deity of any religion, such that you would also be a non-believer (I assume you are a believer in the Christian god), which should help with the objective distance.

How about human sacrifices, say Vikings or Aztecs. What are your thoughts on human sacrifice? Would you go as far as to demonize the Aztec god(s) that required a human sacrifice?


(I'm not the person you're replying to) A bit of a tangent: I don't know that much about the Aztec gods but AFAICT, the Vikings didn't really deny that their gods can be pretty terrible. There are a lot of Norse myths that basically describe a really dysfunctional and bitter family, but with superpowers. Betrayal, infidelity, pettiness, arrogance, and stupid mistakes are all reflected in stories about their gods. They might as well be demons but they weren't as bad as other things so you'd worship them all the same.

Christianity in particular is significantly different in that their god is canonically benevolent while also being omnipotent. It's a pretty fundamental aspect of Christianity, I don't think I've heard any Christian that believes their god is actually kind of a dick. I would imagine that even though "why do bad things happen?" is a classic foundational challenge to Christianity, it's probably irrelevant to Vikings. Christianity isn't really comparable to old school faiths like Vikings/Aztecs.


Also fair enough :) and to add to your tangent AFAICT though Viking human sacrifices are described it seems like they weren't the common place standard type of sacrifice.

I don't necessarily think that it matters much for the question though. I'm not sure I can find a different benevolent omnipotent (or close enough) deity to make a straight comparison to that doesn't have a current (large) following that would drag the discussion into geopolitical/georeligious territory. If you do know one I'm all up for a substitution.

I don't know with the parent I was replying to, he seems reasonable, but usually religious discussions "never end well" because of the belief involved. Bringing the discussion to a different non-current religion levels the playing field to both sides discussing something they don't believe in. The "fun part" is where the believer in a current deity knows that "obviously Odin doesn't actually exist, there are no Norse gods". Well that's how I feel about their deity, sorry. But I don't mind that they believe in it as long as they leave me be and don't try to convert me or negatively affect me because of their beliefs.


The Bible often talks about not honoring other gods, avoiding idols, etc. Even Solomon built many shrines to other gods for his wives.

Some people interpret it to affirm the existence of other gods. In reading, there’s never a point where another god directly intervenes in the lives of men. There are plenty of occurrences of men creating idols to worship of other gods or falling to temptations offered by the gods of other cultures. Asherah poles are the most often called out.

All that is to say, we don’t have any historical context of other gods directly intervening in people’s lives.

What we do know is that if we were to claim to know when God will intervene we would be wrong. We can’t possibly. I have seen in my own life and heard testimony from others which gives me a little bit of a pattern to draw from and gain better understanding to help make some sense of it…but I’m still just guessing.

What we do see in the Bible is that even the biblical heroes are all very flawed and fall in and out of favor with God. Noah, Moses, David, Solomon, etc. The only one who doesn’t is Jesus, but even Jesus became frustrated at times. There’s a story where Jesus curses a fig tree because he’s hungry and there’s no fruit on it. I always thought it was funny because it shows more of his human side…he got hangry.


Interesting. In two ways, you brought the discussion back to the Christian god instead of coming onto the "we both don't believe in those gods" playing field.

I appreciate the civil discussion nevertheless and there's the second interesting point.

You never actually say it directly but between the lines I read that you think to have at least an inkling of a pattern that confirms the direct interference of the Christian god in this world. I don't know why that would be relevant to be honest.

In any case, I would bet that the same could be said of people in ancient times for their gods (or even right now people that have different religions might for their god(s)). They probably thought to see patterns as well and attributed them to the gods. Without thinking about any specific religion: if they made a specific sacrifice every year at a specific time to gain favourable weather for example, they probably had a pretty good chance of success by pure luck and pattern observation and any unlucky weather anomalies could easily be attributed to mistakes with making the sacrifice (maybe it was the wrong goat or whatever) for example.


Repeating annoying phrases that casually dismiss suffering seem to be human nature. It likely irritated Voltaire so much he wrote the tragic novel Candide in 1759. In that book the phrase is "everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds" is thoughtlessly repeated during times of unspeakable cruelty and horror.


Candide is a critique of Leibnizian optimism: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_of_all_possible_worlds


Everything happens for a reason ... and that reason is physics.


After reading "The Fremen Mirage Collection" [0], I can't read that adage/meme without feeling snarky.

While I believe that, in an individual scale, harsh times can help develop toughness and resilience, most times it seems to lead to resentment, anger and frustration.

[0] https://acoup.blog/2020/01/17/collections-the-fremen-mirage-...


I've been estranged from my family since my teens due to an unpleasant childhood and young adulthood.

Eventually, the flames of the furnace of life reaches all of us; some younger than others; some more acutely than others. In skillful hands, it can temper us to become purer, higher quality versions of ourselves. In unskilled hands, it can damage us. All of us acquire wounds, it is a part of being human, being unskilled, and being alive.

Strength is just another word for empathy, love, and kindness. Everyone is capable of that, regardless of their pain. That's what makes humanity beautiful.


Thank you for this thoughtful comment swimming in a sea of cynicism


That's survivor bias. If you throw a million 8 year olds into the ocean, you'll create hundreds of swimmers.

The "good times create weak men" I have less of a story for, but it's perhaps something like this:

If you throw a million 8 year olds into the ocean while wearing life-preservers, you will end up depriving some of them the chance to learn to swim, and wrongly teach many of them that there's nothing dangerous about the ocean.


There was a discussion of this in Nassim Taleb's Fooled by Randomness, where he was critiquing the "crucible experiences" chapter of Jim Collin's Good to Great.

Taleb's whole point was that this is an illusion caused by selection bias. Hard times don't create strong men. Hard times kill everyone who is weak. Hard times make everybody weaker, but they cause those who are weak to begin with to drop out of sample pool, leaving only those who were strong to begin with.


I mean, that adage about hard times, while entertaining, has zero truth to it. It's not something supported by history. It just sounds cool to say is all.


A child born to a parent with Borderline Personality Disorder will likely pay a hefty price for their parent's Diagnosis, good times or bad.


I disagree. I think the reason combat veterans often feel like their squad is a second family and rich country club members often feel like the other members are competitors is the difference in the adversity of each situation.

However, I think the type of “bad times” conducive to building strength is fairly particular; it only creates strong people if the problems being faced are external and require cooperation to solve, and the people facing adversity are capable of overcoming their own problems when adversity forces them to face them.

If interpersonal problems are the main source of adversity, and there is nothing external to force cooperation, that’s often demoralizing and more conducive to antagonistic forms of competition rather than camaraderie and self improvement.


Arguably, "hard times" are pretty much defined by serious external or environmental problems threatening normal life, and only in good times you're left with interpersonal problems as the main source of adversity.


Yes, it sounds more like a dystopian fascist aphorism rather than a nugget of wisdom.


I'm not sure it is contradiction, both the strong and weak alike can be emotionally damaged. Many see dictators, or want to be dictators as strong men, yet they are often obviously damaged people.


Surely this is a contradiction in terms? A strong boxer who is missing a leg is a weak boxer.

I don't think dictators are a good example, you only see the PR spin, it's not like you get a chance to meet Putin in person to realise he is actually clueless about whats happening in his own government.


I always thought that saying applied more to economics and politics than personal relationships. Look at the leaders who came of age during the Great Depression, then took the US through WW2 and the subsequent postwar boom. Many of them were massively fucked up in their private lives but still managed to perform well in public.


Even then, I'm not sure it holds. The US's situation then was the worst by 20th/21st century American standards, but by global or historic standards it was really not that bad.

Germany or Russia had much harder times around then and that produced some of the most horrific leaders the world has ever seen. Hitler and Stalin weren't the result of easy times.


Maybe this is more accurate.

"Hard times create weak men, weak men create hard times"

I've never believed that adversity creates strength, at least that has not been my experience in life.


There is truth in the original saying. Adversity creates the conditions and provides the motivation that spur people to develop strength they would not have needed otherwise. However, adversity is a very blunt instrument, and it is also a matter of degree. People don't always respond positively to adversity. And if the hardship is too great, it doesn't lead to opportunities for growth, just trauma.

That's one of the reasons we need safety nets, to dull the hardship to the point where we can grow through it and not be crushed under it.


Adversity might not create strength but it certainly filters out weakness.


That statement comes with the implication that strength is something intrinsic and static. That's not true - you get strong when you train, but you have to train gently and gradually enough to not get injured. You train yourself to be physically fit, but if you push too hard you will sprain tendons and break bones. You can also train yourself to be gentle, and if you push it too hard, you'll be taken advantage of. You can train yourself to be assertive, but if you push too hard you'll end up being aggressive and alienating people. That's part of growth.

Saying that adversity filters out weakness - no, adversity pushes people too hard before they're ready to handle it, then they fail. Sometimes they try again, sometimes the damage is too great and they give up. That's not a moral failing though. It just means they were pushed too hard.


i.e. they were too weak. strength/weakness in this sense has little to do with morality. someone who can't rise to the occasion or hasn't grown enough isn't a bad person or anything, just unprepared or ill suited. e.g. a natural selection even doesn't care if an organism was still growing and learning. They either survive (strong) or die (weak). And that's the same definition of strong being used here.


You missed the point - 100% of the population is too weak without training. Only correct training produces 'strength'.


>I've never believed that adversity creates strength, at least that has not been my experience in life.

Except this is true in the most literal sense.


Think Polio or PTSD.


It's called hormesis. Yes, there is a range beyond which further stress causes permanent and serious damage, but within the hormetic range "adversity" is basically the proximate cause of growth.


Stress impact also varies per individual biological differences.

According to Sapolsky's lecture on depression [1], a stressful childhood experience is 30x more likely to cause depression in individuals with a particular serotonin-related gene variant.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOAgplgTxfc @ 47:00


> It's called hormesis

No. [1] The context of the whole conversation is traumatic relationships. If anything you are talking about eustress - and traumatic relationships are not beneficial and do not "make you stronger" [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hormesis

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eustress#Compared_with_distres...


Generally speaking you are right but please don't talk about "strong" and "weak". Humans are way more complex than that.


> This is an interesting one, and in direct contradiction to the adage: "Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”

"Strong" in this context means ability to survive, not the ability to thrive. A society of "strong" men and women often results in "good times" of material progress, which masks the negatives in society. Unmasking all the ugliness cause society to lose cohesion, resulting in breakdown via internal or external factors and hence resulting in "hard times".


I don't see the contradiction there, it's pretty much the thing that saying is talking about.

A community full of emotionally damaged, unhappy people is also generally full of tough, no-nonsense people who know the dangers from personal experience, know how to avoid or eliminate them, do what needs to be done, no matter the cost and then afterwards perhaps drink themselves to death while abusing their family, but many of them also ensuring that their kids have a much better life than they did - slowly creating the good times.

And a few generations later a community of happy, emotionally well-adjusted people haven't had horror in their childhood, and they don't know how to handle real adversity and recognize abusive evil because they don't have the skill and experience for that, and spend their struggle/effort over meaningless trifles and status games; are emotionally principled and don't let ends justify the means - so when eventually push comes to shove (often due to some external circumstance or an interaction with another, exploitative community) they are unwilling or unable to take decisive action and sacrifices (including moral sacrifices) to prevent someone much more violent and unprincipled from taking over and causing hard times for you (and perhaps better times for themselves at your expense).

It's essentially about a cyclic change in the tradeoff between the qualities required to be happy, satisfied and cooperative versus the (very different and often incompatible) qualities required to be effective in the face of brutal adversity. Warrior mindset is harmful in peacetime, and pacifist mindset is ineffective in wartime. And perhaps it makes sense to raise "weak" men - friendly, open-minded, forgiving, sharing, optimistic and perhaps just naively expecting the best in others - whenever we can afford to, because it's just better and more sane, and we raise disproportionally strong, brutal, ruthless, efficient (and also damaged and abusive) men and women when we're forced to by circumstances that would just grind down people like those described in the previous sentence; damaging them until they either become "strong" or just break down.

Perhaps a bit related is the issue of parenting styles. Maximizing potential of kids is often quite abusive and results in unhappy and perhaps "damaged" kids; when looking at biographies of e.g. olympic champions it often (but not always - there certainly are exceptions) seems clear that they would have been much more emotionally healthy without as much early age pressure; but they also wouldn't be champions then, they would be outcompeted by someone just as lucky in the genetic lottery but willing (or, more likely, pressured) to sacrifice more and live a less balanced life.


In your entire paragraph the only way you were able to characterise strength is by associating it with cruelty and voilence. You have not come up with any other characteristic, where we could pick a random person and test how strong they are.

It is not obvious that being more cruel improves your chances of survival, it might, but maybe it's an abberation.

It was never the strongest guy that was in charge if the tribe of cavemen - becauae the two weaker guys could always gang up on him and kill him. There was always a degree of cooperation and politics involved. Of building a group and austracising your enemies


Yes, sure, that's why "strong" and "weak" pretty much need to be in airquotes as that's a narrow and niche aspect of that word, as there are many quite different and better aspects of strength - but those don't apply to that quote. Perhaps that sentence would be more accurately phrased as "Hard times create hard people, hard people create good times, good times create soft people, soft people create hard times" or something like that.

What I have in mind regarding this saying is what I see (both in relatives, acquaitances, life stories of those who passed away, and general culture) in the generation that were kids during WW2 who had the frontlines pass over them and the disruptions to their families caused by mass conscriptions and ubiquitous violence towards civilians as well. They are very different from their kids and grandkids. It's overwhelmingly a generation of hard, strong people - also clearly a generation of people who afterwards built better times through their attitude towards hardship, in ways that the following generations simply won't tolerate. And at the same time, overwhelmingly a generation of severely emotionally damaged people in many ways.


Most emotional damage that I've seen comes in the good times phase. That's when genx's parents were born. In the good times everyone is free to do as they please and have to find their own meaning, this creates weak men. Weak men create hard times. We're entering the really hard times now.

When things really go to shit, you'll find your purpose and have to rely on others. That creates strength and good times, eventually.


Think about most hostile places, in the midst of civil war- do they produce the greatest people?

In all times, the great philosophers, engineers, generals, scientists, etc. Were never made up of peoppe that suffered greaters hardship, that starved in the childhood. They were always elites, people with best education or at least middle class.

We've run this experiment, there is zero evidence for it.


People born in 1930: Clint Eastwood, Sandra Day O’Connor, Warren Buffett, Sean Connery, George Soros, Ray Charles.


That's not a particularly impressive list, Steven Hawking was born in the 40's, Bill Gates was born in the 50,s, Bezos in the 60's. I am not seeing how 30's was a particularly 'strong' decade.


This is super obvious but I'll say it anyway. We have been living in the good times phase for many decennia now, so it's no surprise that you don't see emotional damage from the bad times phase.


We've had perpetual war for the last 20 years. We've had increasing inequality. The temperature is rising, wages are stagnating, riots in major urban areas are becoming more common.

These are not the good times. We have plenty to eat and too much technology but these are not what make the good times.


Perpetual war in a far off land that has pretty much zero impact on people at home.

Inequality sure, but the economy has been on a tear in the US since the 90’s, contrast that with the decade of the Great Depression.

And the riots now are nothing compared to the 60’s riots worldwide.

The last 20-30 years have definitely been easy times for the developed world. Not without challenges (2008 crash) but relatively speaking easy times.


I am not sure that is true. As an outside observer of the US I see a lot of highly trained, potentially dangerous veterans who came home to a pile of broken promises with broken psyches and sometimes broken bodies. There are now decades worth of these guys milling around in a society awash with firearms and blitzed with misinformation. It's a powderkeg that might just go off unexpectedly. Of course there are side effects to those middle east adventures.


Genx parents were born in 1925-45. Those were not good times.


I guess I think of myself as genx when I'm actually geny.


I don't think the quote was meant to describe individual experiences, but rather society. Similar to the saying "only the strong survive". Hard times are also a defining function as to what a "strong" person is, and of course the saying says nothing about a "strong" persons emotional troubles.


It seems that there are specific kinds of difficult experiences that promote growth and others that inhibit it. There are certain kinds of widely felt hardships like economic downturn that can unite communities and help bring out the best in people. There is a definite silver lining. There's no upside to shitty parenting.


Tough times create people with coping mechanisms - some healthy, some not.

The ones with healthy coping mechanisms come out stronger - they have tools to cope with future challenges.

The ones with unhealthy coping mechanisms can come out worse than before.

And the folks that never face those hard times don’t escape the potential trap - they just delay it because hard times come for everyone eventually.


We are still reeling from WW2 that wiped out massive numbers of (mostly) men who were then missing fathers. All the down-stream effects of that are fascinating.


> It's usually difficult for people with decent upbringings to even conceptualize why a child might willingly remain estranged from their family. But there are a lot of people out there with really good reasons to do that.

This sums up how I feel about this topic. I read all these accounts of how people's perceptions of parent-child relationships change after they have kids, or how there's still mutual love between them and their parents despite so-and-so, and I understand.

I am well into adulthood with a stable marriage and career; I've been to therapy, and done all things reasonable to heal from whatever it is I came from. By all accounts I've been pretty successful on that front.

But goddammit, when I think about my parents, I move between seething resentment and gratitude that I decided to cut contact. And this is an improvement.

As you say, people with good enough upbringings can't conceptualize why a child might remain estranged from their family; I'd wager they impose perceptions of their own (good enough) parents when making that judgment.


I agree, and you can see this pass down through the generations. It's even possible to recognize it in yourself and still have trouble because you don't know what else to do. So called default mode behaviors etc...


Yes, but for many of us in the West, without the tradition common to East and South Asians of reciprocal obligation.

This used to be nigh unto a human universal: your parents raise you up from a helpless infant to adulthood, and this obliges you to love and care for them for the rest of their lives.

I'm as deracinated Westerner as it comes, and yet I'm fairly traditional in this regard. I can think of three acceptable reasons to estrange from parents: sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, and the parents disowning the child. Even the second one leaves a lot of room for reconciliation, since they can't hurt you anymore.

I mean, easy for me to say, my parents easily earned a B+ and I was able to work out my teen angst with my father by my mid twenties. Still: casually abandoning "honor thy father and thy mother" doesn't seem to be working out very well for us.


> This used to be nigh unto a human universal: your parents raise you up from a helpless infant to adulthood, and this obliges you to love and care for them for the rest of their lives.

Alternate take on that human universal: your parents had unprotected sex and fulfilled their obligation to raise the offspring produced to adulthood, this obliges you to nothing.

I'm not saying this means everyone should estrange their parents, but the idea that a child has any obligation to their parents for raising them seems misguided at best and damaging at worst, imo. Any attachment between children and parents should be due to mutual feelings of love and respect, like any other relationship - if those are absent on one side, why should the other suffer a relationship with people who they would otherwise remove from their friend group?

(Note that I have a good relationship with my parents, so this isn't coming from a place of personal pain, but rather a dislike for the idea that two humans procreating and fulfilling their obligation to the offspring that comes of it should impose any obligation whatsoever upon that offspring.)

EDIT: I should clarify that I do believe that parents who went above and beyond that obligation to show their children love and respect and receive nothing in return have a right to be upset - however, what about situations where a parent thought they were doing the right thing (based on how they were raised, religious briefs, parenting advice from a friend or magazine, etc.) but the thing they were doing was actually harmful? There's a lot of nuance in this, but I think that a blanket "honor thy father and thy mother [out of obligation]" is a bad idea.


In reality, no one owes anyone anything. That doesn’t make it ideal or justified.

Turns out that’s a bad way to structure a society and being hyper individualistic just ends up in your society collapsing.


If society collapses it will be because we ignored existential threats like climate change, nuclear war, biological warfare etc.


Wrong. Societies have dealt with far worse situations and managed to survive. Societal cohesion is what prevents anarchy in the long run, not avoiding natural disasters.


Precisely none of “climate change, nuclear war, biological warfare” constitute a natural disaster, nor has this quasi-neo-confucian conception of societal cohesion via filial piety historically triumphed over anything worse than any of these modern extinction scenarios.


None of those things would result in the complete extinction of human beings.

The Black Death was pretty horrible and yet European society still exists.


Why did you just shift the goalposts from societal collapse to complete human extinction?


Because the comment used the word extinction?


European society exists today, but experienced societal collapse at the time, which extended for hundreds of years. Y'know, the Dark Ages?


The Dark Ages were before the Black Death...


Nuclear war could definitely kill literally every human. Even more if you get bio weapons and omnicidal nuclear strikes at once.

The Black Plague is not even a cold compared to what we can engineer.


I’m not going to bother arguing about it, but suffice to say I don’t share your sunny optimism vis-a-vis nuclear holocaust.


Many scholars have posited that a global thermonuclear war with Cold War-era stockpiles, or even with the current smaller stockpiles, may lead to human extinction. This position was bolstered when nuclear winter was first conceptualized and modelled in 1983. However, models from the past decade consider total extinction very unlikely, and suggest parts of the world would remain habitable.[25] Technically the risk may not be zero, as the climatic effects of nuclear war are uncertain and could theoretically be larger than current models suggest, just as they could theoretically be smaller than current models suggest. There could also be indirect risks, such as a societal collapse following nuclear war that can make humanity much more vulnerable to other existential threats

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_holocaust


We might live but we wouldn't live well and our long term prospects would be dim.


The claim was “extinction event.”


The phrase I used was actually “extinction scenario” rather than a singular event, and “most people die immediately, an unlucky few eke out lives of unspeakable horror and pestilence for a handful of generations before the species collapses entirely” was basically what I had in mind.

Really though I can’t imagine what you think this pedantic obsession with whether or not everyone gets blown up immediately is adding to the conversation.


It’s not pedantic, it’s referencing actual studies on the topic. No expert thinks that humans would go extinct.


We're incredibly resilient. We can eat anything and we have technology that can be used in some of the worst environments on the planet and that allow us to get shelter and food.

We'd be 10 thousand not 10 billion and life would suck but we would survive. And the fallout would clear within a few decades or centuries.


No, we wouldn't. The fallout could feasibly kill everyone without WMD protection within a few years.

10 000 people is not nearly enough for a modern division of labour - we'd be reverted back to prehistoric technology levels within a generation, with a bonus of fallout and absolute climate dysfunction. Given a sufficiently destructive nuclear exchange literally every single human could die.


Can you please list some of this "far worse situations" than nuclear war and climate change as we are currently facing?

"Societal cohesion" doesn't do too much to help us survive crop failures and wet bulb temperatures over 35C.

Aside from that, I think you might misunderstand your causal arrows a bit. It is fair more likely that massive industrialization and late state capitalism led to a society that valued the individual over the social unit, rather than that a sudden desire to be individuals sprung up in people's hearts and made a mess of the world.


Black Death and Mongol Invasions were probably worse on a per-person basis for those affected than even a realistic nuclear war would be.


Absolutely not, not even close. 99.9% of the population dying within a few years is not comparable to a disease that killed ~10% of the population and a series of invasions that killed at most a single percent.


> If society collapses it will be because we ignored existential threats like climate change, nuclear war, biological warfare etc.

All that where created by an individualistic approach. Party now and let future generations deal with the dirt.


> All that where created by an individualistic approach.

How so? TFA attributes this modern alienation to changes in the American family structure that took place in the last half of the 20th century. All three of the threats the person you’re responding to listed, nuclear war, (modern) biological warfare, and climate change, were developed or essentially locked in in our society prior to the last half of the 20th century – largely by people born before or right around the end of the 19th century, who were presumably much more attuned to this “dutiful family obligation” mindset, since those are the very people TFA is contrasting these post-1950 changes against.

The plain history of these developments would seem to argue that post-1950 societal changes had nothing whatsoever to do with these threats, unless you’re arguing that the effect preceded the cause.


Change ‘will’ to ‘might’ and this statement is likely more true.


What makes you think society is more important than individual?


Without society, the best you can do as an individual is forage for food while naked and homeless. A little hyperbolic, but not far off.


Having grown up in an environment exactly like your edit describes, I really appreciate you voicing this perspective.


> the idea that a child has any obligation to their parents for raising them seems misguided at best and damaging at worst, imo

Let me guess: you are not a parent


This is the individualistic take.

The person you're responding to is referring to how societies worked since time immemorial, prior to the advent of such strong individualism.


You'll have to go back a very long way to find stable families that didn't have children leaving because they were bored, ambitious, abused, angry, or - in royal families - literally wanted to kill either or both of their parents and perhaps also their siblings so they could take over.

One difference now is freely available contraception and a much lower birthrate, combined with more economic stability. (At least for the boomer gen.)

When parents have two children and both are estranged, it's a tragedy. When parents had ten children, five of them made it to adulthood, and two decided to leave, it was acceptable attrition.

The other difference is the absence of extended family and friends who can step in with childcare help. So parents + kids going through adolescence under the same roof becomes a pressure cooker. No one gets much of a break for 4-8 years.


Reciprocal obligation is the key. I've heard people spin it so that children owe their parents an infinite debt that justifies anything, but that is not reciprocity. Reciprocity means equivalent behavior on both sides. People get a chance as adults to discuss what happened in their households as children, and some people find out that their stories are radically outside the norm. Usually all they want is some acknowledgment from their parents that mistakes were made and it wasn't ideal. Denial and justification are the things that trigger estrangement. Or continued exploitation: people who cared for their drug-addicted or otherwise needy parents for years starting in childhood and decide that however much their parents still need them, they have to separate themselves from that pathology so they can have their own healthy life.

Not everybody wants to share details, but I've heard enough stories from friends that I'm shocked what people are willing to forgive from their parents. I shared one story in another comment -- that person has a close relationship with their parents despite it not being a very positive one. Another friend of mine, who is queer, grew up with a father who would frequently say things like all gay people should be executed, they should be locked away from decent people, doctors should have let AIDs finish the job, etc. This person did cut off contact with their parents a couple of times but eventually heard sincere apologies and regret from their father and reconciled. That was almost twenty years ago, and now they speak lovingly of their parents and are helping care for them as their health declines.

Really it comes down to two questions: forgiveness and continuing harm. In my observation, adult children are not stingy with forgiveness for their parents. Not everybody can forgive everything, and it can take a while (I wouldn't bother asking until the kids are at least 25, maybe 30) but people forgive their parents for things they would never forgive anybody else for. They also tolerate a lot of continuing harm for the sake of maintaining the relationship. They draw a sharp line when it starts to affect their own children, directly or indirectly, and I think it's good for everyone that they do so.


> people forgive their parents for things they would never forgive anybody else for

I suspect this is because after becoming a parent, most people instinctively recognize the contract between generations: if you want your own kids to maintain a relationship with you in your old age, regardless of the inevitable mistakes you will make as a parent, you probably ought to give them a good example to follow.


> This used to be nigh unto a human universal: your parents raise you up from a helpless infant to adulthood, and this obliges you to love and care for them for the rest of their lives.

In ancient Rome as far as the legal system was concerned, your children were your property. You could literally sell them into slavery, no questions asked[1]:

> The pater familias had the power to sell his children into slavery; Roman law provided, however, that if a child had been sold as a slave three times, he was no longer subject to patria potestas.

Also, your children's property was your property:

> Legally, any property acquired by individual family members (sons, daughters or slaves) was acquired for the family estate: the pater familias held sole rights to its disposal and sole responsibility for the consequences, including personal forfeiture of rights and property through debt.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pater_familias#Children


> Also, your children's property was your property:

Isn't that still the case today until the child is past the age of majority?

Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v10DWClP7NA


Britney Spears is probably the more important example of that...


Explain


I don't fully understand the legal issues myself. But it appears that when Brittney Spears was put into a mental ward in 2008, her father + lawyer was granted "Conservatorship" and therefore was placed in charge of Britney Spears and all of her assets. There's a court case going on right now about whether or not this conservatorship should end.

I'd talk more about the subject, but that's all I'm willing to say in my current state of (mostly) ignorance. The idea of one adult (Britney's Father) literally owning another adult's assets (Britney Spears's stuff) is still around, especially when combined with mental health + court cases of the modern life.


My layperson's understanding of conservatorship: if there is any possible doubt about your ability to care for yourself and money can be made from the conservatorship, you are very likely to find yourself in a conservatorship and will have great difficulty in getting out of it.

If you are absolutely unable to care for yourself and are in desperate need of help but there is no money to be made, you will probably find yourself living on the street in a major metropolitan area.


But mental/emotional abuse and neglect are perfectly fine? Those can be just as irreparably damaging as physical abuse.


This is what caused me to cut the cord with my parents. My father is a massive criminal, got himself into prison for a large part of my formative years, never said I love you. Mother is untreated borderline, was emotionally abusive my entire life.

I spent years of my adulthood trying to find a way to reconcile with them and the conclusion I came to was it's not your burden to suffer for your parents' sins. They will change or won't change of their own volition. But you deserve to survive and thrive in kindness.

So much of ourselves is steeped in the company we keep. Choose the company that fosters the better, kinder, wiser you.


Ex: I have a (former) coworker who told me his life story. He's homosexual and his parents sent him multiple times to gay conversion therapy. Learning to accept himself for who he is required him to leave his parents: because they would not accept a homosexual child.

No sexual abuse or physical abuse in this story, but its pretty clear that he's healthier for leaving his parents.

IIRC, he's an only child as well. I'm not sure if he'll be willing to take care of his parents as they get older.


Considering the posters background, they may have just not taken it into account.

One challenge with abuse on all these fronts is that there is a huge amount of grey area in all of them, and judgement that would need to be drawn on what is and is not abuse. Sometimes/often it is REALLY clear cut (yeah, someone doing munchausen by proxy on their kids, or beating them, or whatever is clearly abuse).

Other times, you'll find a lot of controversy. There was a lot of discussion recently about parents getting cut off from their kids because of rabid Trump support. Is that abuse? From whom? There have also been stories of parents cutting off their kids because of their strongly anti-Trump views during the election. Is that abuse? From whom?

Mental abuse can be incredibly subtle, and a key component of many abusers is their ability to convince others around them that they totally aren't abusing anyone and it's that OTHER PERSONS fault.

Made even worse by the fact that sometimes the person being painted as the abuser IS NOT the abuser, and it really IS the other persons fault!

Sexual abuse and physical abuse can at least be generally judged somewhat accurately from a third party witness/video perspective.


If you've ever worked as a camp counselor for rich kids - the term abuse can work out as follows:

"Clean up your crap" = "You can't make me, that's abuse, my dads a lawyer."

Is asking someone whose had maid service / cleaners to clean up their crap in a group situation abuse?

The other stuff is feeling "uncomfortable" or "unsafe" in situations where you are asked to take the most basic responsibilities (ie, turn in an educational assignment").

Kids will get a school counselor to excuse them from the work because it makes them feel "uncomfortable and stressed".


This is an interesting example of subjective versus objective well being.

Asking someone to help clean is clearly not a misuse of power (e.g. abuse), but to an ill informed/molded individual, any request that they do something they don’t want to do (homework, chores, work, etc.) can ‘feel’ like abuse to them (subjectively), even though objectively it is not.

Most of our society is shifting to focusing on subjective well being over objective well being, so we get these confusing situations. (at least this framework helps me parse these issues).


It's interesting - because if you work with really rich / spoiled kids, they are sometimes being sent on these summer / camp type programs as a punishment. So some kids have been mowing lawns to try to pay for the program (thinking of it as something super special - which it is), and other kids are being sent as punishment.

Reality is underneath most kids are good. Get them out of the environment and if you can get peer pressure going the right way, they'll drop right into it. Seriously, their parents wouldn't recognize them (cooking, cleaning, being very physically active etc).

But early days can be a shock to the system. If you've been jetting to paris to shop on weekends, and then are being asked to eat a meal cooked by other kids (no meal choice at all - just one big something) and/or need to cook it, it can really feel like something way out of comfort zone.


Written down and agreed upfront clear principles and responsibilities should help, even with lawyer dads, no?


Actually - I was working internationally. What these kids didn't realize is that where I was - I really was in charge from the locals point of view. Local law enforcement was sometimes a wack and a "spot fine" or pre-trial / charge detention (formal judicial cases took forever/unreliable so this method of on the spot justice/corruption was tolerated).

None of my kids had this happen, but overseas the tolerance for foreigner bad behavior can be low in some cases if there is a perception of disrespect. Some of the rich kids in another group stole some liquor "as a joke". Hahaha. They were jailed and the locals squeezed cash out of parents before parents had to charter a flight to get them out (program required parents to pay repatriation expenses in these cases).

Only real downer culturally at times was treatment of women - the US kids are used to bikinis and the girls are used to agency / freedom as it should be. Locally dress / behavior etc can send a message that generates a metric ton of harassment - and it can be no holds barred even under age. Only thing I really disliked I think and female counselors doubly so - locals would sometimes not respect even the female counselor push back but need the guy to intervene. For trips that were in part about independence building a bummer. My sense over some time though was that this was changing though so by now I suspect probably much much better.

We did have all the paperwork in place of course. But what really works is actually peer pressure. I mean -> it's insane how powerful that is. Kids that age will do almost anything if it's the thing to do based on peer behavior. So you want to get the dynamic going and you are home free if you can.


The thing about abuse is that it has to be excessive or misuse of some power. Generally, mental abuse should require that the person being abused say that they don't like whatever is being said and for what is being said to be objectively meant to harm them (serve no legitimate purpose, phrased vulgarly). If it does serve a legitimate purpose and was delivered in a decent way, then I don't see how that could be abuse. That is protected speech. Forcing someone else from expressing their views just because someone else doesn't like it would then also fall under mental abuse and restriction of of their protected speech.


"Protected" vs "unprotected" speech: The distinction itself is an abomination, papering over a more subjective reality.


Objectivity is really just society's collective subjectivity as far as determining what is protected, unprotected, reasonable, who is "wrong", etc. I don't see how societies can exist without this (even anarchists would implicitly be subscribing to the collective rules and interpretations, or lack there of).


I think you presuppose that the abuse is in the past and not the present. My dad actively emotionally abused me, regularly insulted my wife, and tried to destroy my relationship with my mother. By necessity he made it a choice between a relationship with him and a relationship with my mom. My estrangement wasn't about something I remembered, it was about him being terrible to me when I was 25 and didn't need him for support or money anymore.


This view seems predicated on the idea that people who estrange their parents do so because of past actions. I'd argue that in my personal experience and my experience with other such adult children the reasoning is more often about the current behavior of the parent or parents than past behaviors.

People who abuse or neglect their children are often doing so because of their own mental illness or emotional instability and those issues are unlikely to resolve without outside help.


> I'm as deracinated Westerner as it comes, and yet I'm fairly traditional in this regard. I can think of three acceptable reasons to estrange from parents: sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, and the parents disowning the child. Even the second one leaves a lot of room for reconciliation, since they can't hurt you anymore.

I'm in exactly the same boat. I'm the most hyperindividualist, detached-from-culture, atomized person I know, but my concept of filial (and familial) duty practically makes me an Old Country traditionalist compared to many of my friends.

> I can think of three acceptable reasons to estrange from parents: sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, and the parents disowning the child

I don't think my view is as concrete as this, as I don't want to confidently dismiss someone who claims that estrangement is necessary for their mental health. But I'm a little disturbed by the degree to which the current culture diminishes or occasionally entirely dismisses the existence of any familial obligation at all.


Why would someone giving birth to you oblige one to forgive severe physical abuse merely because you are too big to beat up at this point?

It is a bizarre to suppose that love is owed instead of earned or earned once instead of the result of ongoing effort. If you stop feeding your cat or watering your plant it dies same with your relationship.

I would venture to guess that the majority of estranged parents don't know this or in denial about having let the relationship die.

The article says that the majority of parental estrangement is due to divorce especially the non custodial father then successfully segues to some nonsense about identity politics.

I don't see it as a realignment of values so much as a more boring story about parents breaking up and becoming estranged spiced up with a minority becoming estranged because the values they hold are correctly deemed odious and hateful.

If you hate gay people and your kid is either gay or feels strongly about the issue they aren't going to want to be around you.

If you talk about shooting dirty liberals and your kid is a dirty liberal likewise.

If your own kid hates you the first thing you should do is ask yourself why and if you blame it on a lack of family values you are almost certainly the problem.

We both have good relationships with our kids I think you misunderstand why others don't.


What about people raised by single parents? What do they owe to the absentee parent?


Gratitude for removing him/herself from your life and saving you all the drama that would inevitably end up happening.

I'm saying this as a child of single parent.


Knocked out teeth.


An apology?


You might be confusing the question. A child does not have to apologize to a parent that left before they were born.


Sadly, I wasn't confusing it. The world is cruel, and a non-zero fraction of absentee parents became so because of the child in question.

Meaning: for a number of children with an absentee parent, they were the reason for one of their parents to abandon the other.


Isn’t this ignoring consent? The child had no choice in whether to be conceived; at least one of the parents did :)


Asia also has a western end. And being from West Asia, I can assure you that "reciprocal obligation" (dare one call it love and respect?) is very much a thing at those coordinates as well.


For me personally there are aspects I don't like about myself that are clearly a result of how my parents raised me. As a much younger man I was bitter about this, but I came to realize that my parents are human and made some mistakes, but over all did sacrifice a lot for my and my sister's well being. I also realized we didn't do a lot to make raising us any easier. So rather than remain resentful towards them, I just let it go and started working to fix the things about me I didn't like.


Sadly, when I was young adult, I knew my parents were not perfect and was happy with everything they did for me. They, like typical Asian parents, were always criticizing but I learned to ignore it.

It wasn't much later when I had my own child, they finally broke me. Not only they set high expectations for how I will help them have relationship with their grandchild, and criticizing our parenting, but also started criticizing 2 year old. For their part as grandparents, they did bare minimum, that is attend a birthday, ask for pictures because relatives are asking for photos. Never made an effort to come visit us. That is when they broke something in my brain.

Now I resent them more than ever, I wish I had never let them criticize me as an adult. I lost faith in God since they are so religious. I am trying to be complete opposite of them. I have mostly stopped feeling joy. I live mostly to fulfill my duty as a father. I really want to pack everything and move to the other side of the world but wife doesn't agree with that.

And as a father, I realize that there is no sacrifice in parenting. You choose to be a father. That was your choice. My kids are the only things that bring me joy right now. Yes sometimes they push my limits and I am tired, but it was my choice to have them. Thinking that my kids are making me sacrifice will probably make me resentful towards them. When I am playing video games while tired because I am so close to finishing a level, I don't say I made a sacrifice.

EDIT: I want to add that I have lost joy in everything related to my parents like my culture, songs that I grew up with, religious festivals, food, stories, career, etc. I hate it.


Stay positive! This is a good incentive to break out of this toxic tradition/behaviour. Now you have a good idea of what not to do. You might even tell your parents this conclusion.


That's a good, healthy way to look at things in general. When I was younger, I also was more bitter about life circumstances, especially with family, as we were poor, but beyond family as well. As I got older, I realized finding the blame and feeling angry might feel good, but it doesn't actually improve the situation. It's really best to just find out how to accept things and find corrective actions, regardless of fault.


>did sacrifice.

On the one hand I agree children and young adults can be overly entitled or have too high expectations for their human parents on the other I think that framing raising children as a sacrifice is wrong. It is kind of the core point of biological life. In past times children were seen as a blessing now some times in the west they are seen as a burden. This inversion is part of the larger narcissism epidemic distorting modern society IMHO.


I agree. My parents held their “sacrifice” over our head and I don’t think I really got over it and I think it’s why I never wanted kids until fairly recently. I used to respond to that by saying that I never asked them conceive me in the first place which made me feel like poo. Now being a parent myself, I can see why parents would feel like they made a sacrifice, but I am never going to hold that “sacrifice” over my child’s head because I also see how that felt terrible as a kid.


My parents did same thing, they made parenting seems like such a horrible thing. Made me wonder why anyone would ever have any kids. I never wanted any kids until my wife convinced me after 10 years.

Now I know parenting is hard if you do it as religious duty to your god, family, country etc. But if you choose to become parent, like when you choose to pick up a new project or hobby, it is pure joy, even the hard parts. Yes you will be tired running marathon, but you will not say that you made a sacrifice. And unless you are trying to monetize you hobbies, you don't expect anything back.


Whether or not it made you feel like "poo" doesn't change that responsibility for a physical action lies with the people initiating it.


Children were mostly seen as a blessing because they were indentured servants that worked for very little.

Childhood as it is seen today is a very recent creation.


Your comment is a humblebrag. :(

My parents modeled and explicitly taught me a judgmental mindset. It became my worst fault. Can you feel the judgement in this comment? Thanks, Dad & Mom.


The moment you stop blaming others on your faults is the moment you'll start improving.


Why do you assume that I'm not improving?

I started improving after I took a free 10-day meditation course (the Goenka one), four years ago. At the course, I gained the ability to notice changes in my emotions and mental state. Suddenly, I could see when my mind switches to a judgmental attitude. I began intentionally trying to prevent the switch. I also intentionally restrain myself if I do switch into that mode. Changing mental habits is difficult and worthwhile. I have improved a lot in this area in 4 years.

Two years ago, I realized that my parents taught me to be a judgmental jerk. Since that time, I have considerably reduced the bad mental habit. People close to me confirm this. Therefore, my experience contradicts your statement.


Despite my half century and having repeatedly listened to and ruminated about "being judgemental", I can't fully fault "making judgements", for without judgement we have no comparison of worse vs better, and without that we have no basis for improvement. At issue mostly is _hasty_ judgement, uninformed, and without humility of all the potential and unknowable errors in judgement. But we definitely must judge, or stagnate.


Judging pointlessly is a big one, too. Especially if unhelpful levels of ill emotions are all wrapped up with judging things to be bad, which is so common I think it's fair to call that most people's default state, unless they've taken effort to change that.

Fixing those (forming judgements when they serve no purpose; feeling excessive ill emotions over judgements) is about half of the self-improvement part of stoicism, as in "think the right way, and act the right way". It's most of the "think the right way" half.


It's very difficult to improve oneself without understanding the mechanisms, context, and history that contribute to one's behavior.


As someone who was abandoned as a child and still maintains a pretty good relationship w both parents, I'm sure they are oblivious to the effect that had on me as a child. Nor are they willing to talk about it now. They feel what's done is done and in the past, and don't want the awkwardness of that conversation.

It's cool, but sometimes you wanna cry for that child. As an adult, I've heard the mistake is looking at what happened to you through a childs eyes. Ya can't really ever let it go.


You are allowed to and should grieve for that child. There's therapy based on attachment theory where you learn to how to be the parent to that (inner) child.


I think the grand reveal is when you slap your own kid the first time :D

I see myself talking to my daughter with the same autoritative tone my dad used on me that I found so "unfair omg". And see her progress from monkey to little girl as a result :D

Parenthood succeed when your kids complain about your failures, as Francoise Dolto (perhaps not a role model herself) liked to write.


Wonder how much of this is driven by social media and the internet today. The word 'Toxic' is just thrown around now and everything is 'Toxic'. Its a word that has ceased to have any real meaning but virtually every behavior that used to just be normal every day activity is Toxic. Everyone has flaws and no one has all the answers. Parents are just people doing the best they can and for the most part making what they think are the best decisions in the moment while struggling with everything that everyone else struggles with. Children want to put their parents on a pedestal and assume that all decisions; and any harm caused was intentional. There are of course bad parents and bad people and I don't mean to discount the effect that those people have on their kids. Social media is quick these days to tell you that your parents are narcissists when in reality they are just distracted trying to figure out what happened to their lives and trying to get by. At the end of every day I look back and see choices I made that were probably not great or see where I ignored my kid as I was trying to get something done for work. These things pile up and then are focused through the lens of the internet and suddenly you are a bad parent.


Here's the thing though. If you hit me with your car, it doesn't matter whether it was an accident or whether you intended to. You still caused me damage and it's still not crazy for me to hold you accountable. I may have more empathy in one case than another but if you refuse to accept responsibility for the harms you caused then yeah that empathy is likely going away. And this is what the author refers to near the beginning of the article:

"Adult children frequently say the parent is gaslighting them by not acknowledging the harm they caused or are still causing, failing to respect their boundaries, and/or being unwilling to accept the adult child’s requirements for a healthy relationship".

No one is perfect. I still have a great relationship with my own parents despite their failings but not all my siblings do, and as I've told each of my parents, it's on them to work to make that relationship better. Some things my siblings may never forgive or forget and you can do with that what you will, but if you want this person in your life you have to work to make it happen.


I don't disagree, it is everyone's job to work on relationships.


Sometimes only one side wants the relationship.

In that case, they're the ones that have to work on it.


> Here's the thing though. If you hit me with your car, it doesn't matter whether it was an accident or whether you intended to.

It matters a lot! First of all, it matters legally. An entirely different set of laws and procedures will be invoked depending on which it was. But, second, it matters because it tells me something about what to expect from you in the future. It tells me something about how you feel towards me. It tells me something about your character, about your capacity for violence.


Don't ignore the sentence that "it doesn't matter" applies to:

> You still caused me damage and it's still not crazy for me to hold you accountable.

Obviously it matters in other ways.


Yes, my first objection addresses that part directly. Of course you're still accountable, but you're accountable in totally different ways. It matters a lot even just in how one should be accountable. Even if the topic is limited to accountability, there's no possible way to say it doesn't matter. It informs every aspect of that discussion.


"Toxic" is just a catchier-sounding synonym for "harmful." It doesn't imply intent — in fact, that's one of its strengths, and one of the major components in the shift in the way we collectively talk about things over the past couple decades. Part of the conversation around race, for example, has been an awareness by more and more people that unintentional harms are far more prevalent than intentional ones, and in total are something to be taken seriously.

What if everyone is a "bad" parent? What if no parent lives up to their child's expectation? Intentional harm or not, people coming of age have to reckon with the gap between their idealized understanding of/hope for their parents, and their increasing understanding of the tradeoffs adult life demands. Personally, I think putting that reckoning front and center is a good thing. Burying our resentments doesn't solve things—talking them through and understanding each others' perspectives does.


> "Toxic" is just a catchier-sounding synonym for "harmful."

It’s more subtle than that. “Toxic” is used as a synonym for “irredeemably harmful”, and that very distinction makes all the difference. If a person is labeled a “jerk”, they are potentially redeemable and able to be reformed, but if someone is labeled as “toxic”, the label itself declares that there is no helping them. The label itself prescribes ostracism.


I don't think "toxic" means "irredeemably harmful". It just means harmful and makes no judgement on intent.


It's more than harmful—prior to the latest common usage, toxic usually meant potentially lethal for sufficient dosage.

So, while it is indeed free of connotations of intent, it evokes disgust and, in fact, invites ostracism. If something is so dangerous that it can kill you, there's rarely much wisdom in attempting to talk it out of being lethal. Better to just remove it from your environment.

In any case, I agree that the word is tragically overworked. And don't we all know that overwork can be toxic.


I understand it to be harmful, but in a way that contaminates the environment around it. A bad colleague can be a dick, in isolation, whereas a toxic colleague would be someone whose behaviours poisons their surrounds and brings out bad behavior in other people in their team.

I am non-contact with a toxic parent because I know it brings out worse behaviour in myself, and I want to stop that cycle of passive-aggressiveness and judgement towards people I do care about.


That may be an accurate technical meaning but lay people still just meant "harmful" well before it started being applied to behavior.


uh ok, sounds like you've thought about this a lot.

I just meant to say that *to me*, toxic doesn't imply irredeemable. It's just a popular word for harmful.


So what you're saying is... Toxic is being toxically overused?


Everything is potentially lethal given a sufficient dosage.

So really I think "toxic" is appropriate.


I mean, same with "harmful" right? But I've rarely heard a person described that way. Usually it's a behavior.


Since “harmful” isn’t generally used to describe people, it’s not generally an issue. “Toxic”, on the other hand, I see applied to people all the time.


It's not "just" anything and it's definitely not just catchier. Toxic is a far more forceful word that is often used to convey more force than is deserved for the situation. It steals discussion territory without justifying its claims. It's a bit like a clickbaity headline.


Have you ever had a long-term relationship with someone who would lie to your face, or lie to others about you, in order to get something they want?

There are plenty of people in the world who you would better off just staying away from.


Resentment arises from a gap between expectations and reality. Maybe the problem is the idealized expectations. And talking about things doesn’t help that. Kids need to learn that life sucks and then you die and really internalize that in order to bring expectations in line with reality.


Agreed. Except now, idealization doesn't only apply to "white picket fence" experiences or "going to college." Now it applies to inner identity, and sometimes aggressive or even militant external identities. It's an impossible situation for a parent. Sometimes, the only way for the parent to survive emotionally is to allow the child to fail and hopefully learn from the failure.


Have to wonder if that identity is the final refuge of generations that feel helpless and worse-off than prior ones.


Which suggests maybe we aren’t doing a good job teaching history.


Or someone isn't looking out the front windscreen to worry about climate change looming ahead...


Or current events.


Are you sure? Because there are more lessons that I have seen people learn from their parents...

* no one cares about your opinions or ideas,

* no one has any actual affection for you; they only appear to when you have something they want,

* in a choice between your physical or mental well-being and their short-term happiness, you take a rather distant second,

* and then you die.


> Kids need to learn that life sucks and then you die and really internalize that in order to bring expectations in line with reality.

I'm convinced that the world is cleanly divided into two categories of people. People that internalize this early in life, and people that never do at all.

Along with learning to be bored, it's the most important life lesson you can pass on to the next generation to ensure a happy productive life.


If all you focus on are the harmful aspects, you're dismissing the beneficial aspects. All parents will both benefit and harm their child. Hopefully in most cases, the former will be intentional and the latter be unintentional. The extreme focus lately on the latter, harm, has led many to ignore if not outright dismiss the former. That's not healthy.

What's the point in having children and raising them as best as you can if the talking heads in society will treat them to focus on your unintentional harms and resent you?

I myself am one of four children and I'm the only one that had a healthy relationship with both our parents because I ignored society's pressure to focus on people's failures and instead consider parents as flawed people doing their best given their upbringing, values, effort and the knowledge/information they had available to them at the time. My three siblings all have have issues with one or both parents and they aren't doing as well I me emotionally and I feel bad for them but also know it isn't entirely their fault since society has fed them toxicity.

That's right: society teaching people to focus on how others are toxic to you can be as toxic as those people are and often is far more toxic than any toxicity you experienced from the people you're been taught to consider toxic. Yet, we never discuss how all these discussions about "toxic people" are more toxic that the people we're discussing.


Toxic implies that some negative influence seeps out of people or situations, which causes harm proportional to the duration of exposure.


What happens if one party, either parent or child, will not "understand the other's perspective"? What happens if "talking them through" just turns into another replay of the same argument?

I have come to the conclusion that my parents, who of course had their flaws, were damn nigh perfect.


I think if your kid grows up knowing you love them and you do your best to educate and teach them right from wrong then you are probably a good enough parent.

"Personally, I think putting that reckoning front and center is a good thing" I really disagree. If you parent was a monster, then absolutely. Otherwise, if they met the 3 points above then what good does calling them out and telling them that what they did was in your mind, harmful? They cant change anything and all it will do is make them react in hurt; they are still just people and you are invalidating their core life achievement. My parents were far from perfect, but they loved me and did their best, what would calling them out on any perceived failures do? I feel like people have lost the ability to just take things in stride these days. I can only speak from the personal experience of me and my siblings of course. My brother and I are very different in almost every way especially politics (He is pro Trump, I am not) but we just assume the other is coming from an honest place and doing what they think is best in their mind for their family and have good conversations and our families hang out often. My sister is unable to take anything in stride and assumes anyone that has different opinions than her is coming from a vindictive place. She has elected to completely remove herself from the family based on us not being far enough left for her (and I am pretty left). I find if one just assumes positive intent on another's actions as long as reality and not being a sucker allows then things are good. I always just assumed positive intent on my parents past actions or simple human flaw and all is good.


> My parents were far from perfect, but they loved me and did their best

Not all parents do that, when a divorce happened at least one of them thought that as well. The thing is: not everything is abuse but things can still be bad enough as also pointed out in the article. That's when you call it toxic I guess. It's this fuzzy new word to describe some hard to grasp behaviour that is maybe only so hard to grasp because it's that outlandish. One time I was with my sister and my father on holiday - my mother gave us a cell-phone so we could call in case he would abduct us. In any case, my mother was completely overwhelmed with raising 2 kids and cut some corners. Also my father did his best to put pressure on my mother, mostly financially. (He moved far away and blames anything bad that happened on my mother or me) And the list goes on. My sister is completely unwilling to talk about any of this. My father is like described in the article saying I'm rewriting history and having a complete lack of empathy. Is this abuse? Probably not, unless you go with a crazy strict definition. But toxic for sure. What upsets me the most that this is just some really fuzzy stuff that happened, I cannot pin-point any isolated root cause. So to come up with a reasonable explanation why I chose estrangement, I would have to tell quite a long story and some details are too personal. Still I'm much happier now.


People estranged from parents are often reacting to parents still doing harm. It dont stop when kid grow - the narcisstic or controlling or abusive parent dont change when kid grows.


I’m not so sure about blaming social media. I really wish the article had included any sort of concrete data on whether estrangement has actually become more common over time. In my family, my grandfather didn’t talk to his parents because they were alcoholic money-grubbers. My grandma didn’t talk to her dad because he’d left their family to start another family. My aunt didn’t talk to my grandma because my grandma discouraged her from having a career. Reading biographies and history books, it seems like there have always been shitty, “toxic,” or difficult parents, and there have always been disowning, abandonments, and silent treatments. Add to that the fact that our social support structures (babysitting help, end-of-life care) can be paid for in cash, rather than social favors, and you have some pretty normal and understandable dynamics. People barely have time for friends these days. What are the odds that both parents are fun, awesome people you really want to hang out with and spend extra time with? FWIW, I get along great with my parents. But I also recognize that they were better, healthier, more supportive, more present parents than what most of my friends had growing up.


A few years back there was a movement on Facebook with groups called "Survivors of Narcissistic Parents" and similar that encouraged people to cut off their parents. It seemed wildly popular and had tons of engagement. People would diagnose their parents with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, discuss how every problem in their lives could be traced to their parents, and that was that.

I've also saw more than one person disown their parents after being sucked in to the anticircumcision movement - men who had until that moment seemingly normal lives but were then convinced their sex lives would never reach their potential because of a decision their parents had made.


> A few years back there was a movement on Facebook with groups called "Survivors of Narcissistic Parents" and similar that encouraged people to cut off their parents....

> I've also saw more than one person disown their parents after being sucked in to the anticircumcision movement - men who had until that moment seemingly normal lives but were then convinced their sex lives would never reach their potential because of a decision their parents had made....

That's a really good point. Before the internet, and especially social media, people had weird and arguable toxic ideas, but it was almost always impossible to form a geographically-based community around them, so they'd almost always peter out and their effect was limited. The internet broke geographical limits, allowing intense purely ideological communities to form around almost every idea and validate them, no matter how wrong and misguided. In our very online times that can have serious social consequences, sometimes for good but often for ill.


What's weird is some of these communities aren't even wrong, a lot of people do have parents with personality problems or whatever, it's just their nature to go off the rails and have unpleasant real world effects.


Also their congregation creates the conditions for other similar types of thinking and cross pollination of other niche ideas which explains Q-like, super-conspiracy groups that are like a rotating prix fixe menu of paranoid nativist memes and fit neatly adjacent to neo-nazi, sovereign citizen, and even incel movements.


> anticircumcision movement

This is one of those things that is specific to the Jewish religion, in which it serves as an irreversible symbol of membership and has done for about three thousand years ... and also a subset of Americans, who do it for reasons which they suddenly find difficult to explain to their adult children.

If it's important for adult life, but not actually urgent, leave it until the child is old enough to be asked for their meaningful consent.


It is very much not specific to the Jewish religion. Jews make up 0.2% of the world population while ~33% of the worlds males are circumcised. Its very much a part of the Islamic religion as well; being nearly universal in the middle east. In addition ~80% of American men are circumcised.


That doesn't happen in Europe, Japan or China.


True but 78% of South Korean 20 year old men are circumcised, a relatively new phenomenon in the country but something that has clearly taken hold and appears to be a new normal. 90% of the Philippine's are circumcised so its not a strictly non Asian tradition.


> and also a subset of Americans

I think you're underestimating just how many American men are circumcised. The WHO puts it at between 76 and 92%.


What is even weirder is that there are "estranged parents' forums". A good read on that rabbit hole is here (see "contents" on the right hand side for more links): http://www.issendai.com/psychology/estrangement/index.html


> after being sucked in to the anticircumcision movement

Did it take a lot of sucking into considering that they've been subjected to genital mutilation?


Considering that I'm circumcised and every male I know is, and none of us even give it a second thought or feel that our genitals have been "mutilated", I would say it requires a bit of sucking. There has to be some existing dissatisfaction or disorder for someone to get so up in arms about that.

Anyway, it was an example I saw, I had intended to remain neutral on the subject.


> There has to be some existing dissatisfaction or disorder for someone to get so up in arms about that.

How about undergoing a non-essential and medically unnecessary surgery without your consent? Doesn't that bother you at least a little bit?

I was baptised as an infant and most of the people I know were as well, but I recognize it for what it is - roping me into a membership in an organisation which requires me to jump through many hoops to leave, because it needs the numbers (at least on paper) to maintain power.

Fortunately this is reversible, but circumcision isn't.


> How about undergoing a non-essential and medically unnecessary surgery without your consent? Doesn't that bother you at least a little bit?

Nope. My parents were 20 and 21. Family, their Priest and Doctor all pushed them to do it. I have no recollection of any of this. My dick looks like most of the dicks I've seen in the change room and in porn. Why would this bother me? It's so abstract as to be ludicrous.

All sorts of things were done without my consent that have had a much larger impact in my happiness and well being: being raised Catholic for instance, something you brush off as "reversible".


I've really always thought of it as akin to cutting my nails. Its never bothered me and while a small benefit, I appreciate the cleanliness aspect of it; although, that can of course be mitigated by proper washing by those that are uncircumcised. My parents made the decision they thought was right and I am pretty happy with the results.


The fact that other people went through it too is a horrible, horrible metric for something being okay, and I think buying into that is its own form of sucking.


I am circumcised and pretty happy with it, has nothing to do with it happening to other people. It is not a horrible thing that happened to me, its just my penis and me and everyone else that has encountered it seem to like it. The fact that you are determined to think that I and others like me (the majority of American, middle eastern, south korean and other men) should feel assaulted or upset about it is an issue in and of itself. You appear to have a narrative you are trying to push.


I haven't determined as much, just poked a hole in your argument.

You can't really know how bad it was if you were too young to remember and can never have any bearings. The only way we can really know is from empirical analysis or people that went through it at an older age.


come on, your argument boils down to "you are circumcised so you are not qualified to comment on circumcised people".


Agreed, add to that because something didn't bother me or bothers me less than something else means it's okay is also a horrible metric.


Circumcision can be delayed until a man can consent, but it's much more traumatic if done after infancy.

I'm one of those people that people just feel comfortable opening up to.

In college, one friend told me his dad was asking him if he resented his father's decision to circumcise him. His father had to get a medical circumcision due to recurring infection due to difficult sanitary conditions in mandatory military service in his country of origin (where circumcision is uncommon). The father's experience was terrible, decided his son should never go through that, and circumcised his son. Years later, he was second-guessing the decision. My friend wasn't sure how to respond to his father, since it was clearly weighing heavily on his father, but it was totally a non-issue for the circumcised son.

Another friend told me that he was circumcised at 12 due to recurring infections (in a first-world G10 country), and is a big advocate for infant male circumcision.

Anyway, there are statistically significant benefits from male circumcision, though they are often over stated. On the other hand, the downsides to circumcision are also minor for most men. For the average male in a G10 nation, circumcision seems to be low-risk low-reward procedure, though with large fat-tail distribution on both the risks and rewards.


That sounds terrible.

It's fine to disagree with decisions someone (shouldn't have) made on your behalf, but learning to judge people by intent, not result, is part of adulthood.

Punishing someone who loves you for doing the best they knew to do is one of the most cruel things I can imagine.

In other words, disliking someone for something they did to you does not automatically mean they deserve punishment and you should hurt them return. Especially since causing harm to a loved one also already hurts oneself.


It sounds like a lot of those people are cutting those parenta off to make their own lives better. Not to punish parents.

They have choice of being estraged and happier, under less stress and less pressure. Or keep contact and have to deal with manipulation, stress and so on.

Finally, adulthood also means that you know that not just intent matter. The people are affected by consequences of your actions regardless if intent. Too many people write about this as if once you have good goal, you dont have to learn more or think what you are doing. As long as you dont care to check whether you might cause harm, you dont get any responsibility dor what you do.


Continuing to let someone degrade you because “they’re doing the best they can do” is equally cruel. All relationships take work, if one party isn’t willing to work on it then thats not a relationship worth putting energy into.


I would take any post on a "Survivors of Narcissistic Parents" or similar group with a grain of salt. While many of the stories are true, sometimes the speaker is the narcissist.

If someone tells you that everybody around them is always lying they are usually the liar. The same way some people who can't seem to work anywhere without having constant drama are the source of the conflict.


There's a Christian book called "Wild at Heart" which had a whole chapter on wounds from fathers. I bought into it for years. In hindsight I think books like that can lead people into exaggerating imagined or downplaying real problems. IME it's best to talk to a professional, or at least get a variety of other perspectives before passing judgement.


They have a point, since the foreskin has many nerve endings.

You are not doing your sons any favors if you circumcise them when it's not necessary.


I doubt there's much science behind this. Only adult males can really A/B test this, and circumcision of an adult penis may very well risk damage. There's no reason to think uncircumcised males enjoy sex more than those circumcised in infancy.


In parent it was about the "potential", which you can't reach anymore if you are circumcised. Whatever "potential" means. Could just be not having to use lube.

It remains genital mutilation though.


As the saying goes:

The apple never falls far from the tree.


The statistical apple can only fall so far from the statistical tree. Some apples may roll down hillsides or into rivers but it's unwise to bet on any one apple doing so.


> Parents are just people doing the best they can.

I'm not willing to be this generous by default. Beyond the basic manslow hierarchy of needs, people choose their priorities. Career, Friends, Family, Children, Recreation, Education, Health -> These are all facets of an adult priorities and they choose how much to allocate to each of these.

Many of those that have children do it out of obligation, ego, legacy, society. Many have unrealistic expectations about how much control they have in shaping their spawn, and do not handle well when this new independent human does not match their expectations.

These people end up causing genuine harm, and when we look back at what they did we should absolutely call out their prioritization and choices as harmful or toxic, and learn from them.


> The word 'Toxic' is just thrown around now and everything is 'Toxic'. Its a word that has ceased to have any real meaning but virtually every behavior that used to just be normal every day activity is Toxic.

I've been tempted to write a blog post "Toxic Considered Harmful"

One of the biggest problems with the toxic label is there isn't anything that can be said in response. Its an attempt to get sympathy and/or end the discussion.

"That's toxic" and well... there's not many places that a conversation can go from there. It is often incredibly difficult to refute someone making a claim that something is toxic - especially when much of the diagnosis of the situation is based on a one sided and often idealized view.

Additionally, applying the label of toxic to a wide range of situations reduces the descriptive nature of the word and the options available within a wider vocabulary selection.


Replace usage of "Toxic" by "makes me feel like shit" and I think you'll understand better.

What would you want to debate against someone who says something makes them feel like shit? There's not a lot to say beyond: "I don't care how you feel", "That sucks you feel that way, what would make you feel better", and "It's unreasonable to ask me to change in ways that make you feel better, so suck it up".

Now imagine one person telling another their behavior is toxic, which means they are telling them that they make them feel like shit. Well the response will dictate what happens to the relationship. If the response is anything but "That sucks you feel that way, what would make you feel better", well the logical move for the person feeling like shit is to find a way to never have to interact with the toxic person again or force them to change their behavior.

What else would you want to discuss?


The obvious fourth possibility is "you're wrong to feel shitty about this and should find a way to feel good instead". But of course, that's precisely the possibility that the framing of toxicity excludes, because both "you're wrong to feel this way" and "it's unreasonable to ask me to change" can only be expressed as "that's not toxic".


"You're wrong to feel this way" is a ridiculous notion, one I had to personally unlearn. Emotions aren't right or wrong and you can't control them. Disregarding someone's emotions as wrong has exactly one result, resentment, which leads to heightened conflict.

You can acknowledge that someone's emotions are valid while disagreeing with them on the content. Here's a template: "It sounds like when I said x you felt y, that wasn't my intention, my intention was z."


I'm not sure I'm fully understanding what you mean by "valid" here, because there's lots of emotions that seem obviously wrong and controllable.

The most obvious example is a fear of public speaking. Everyone I know who's struggled with it (including myself) has resolved it through the perspective that it's wrong to be afraid and you've gotta figure out tricks to get over your irrational fear. It's hard to see what a more "validating" approach would look like.


Public speaking carries real potential for negative outcomes. I don't think fear of it is irrational.

With experience and exposure, we learn how to manage risk and what our limits are. Same is true of learning to swim or learning to drive, but it's not true that a fear of swimming or driving is irrational or unwarranted for someone who hasn't done it often or ever. No, it's completely appropriate.


> you're wrong to feel shitty about this

What would this even mean? I don't see the difference with "suck it up"?

The feeling is real, it's a fact, it could be problematic, feeling shitty in general is problematic, and so ya, if the sight of people laughing, of kittens, of blooming flowers, the singing of birds and all that makes you feel shitty, that really sucks for you, and you'll have to figure out a way to cope.

Depression and other issues definitely cause such feelings of shittinines for things that ideally wouldn't make you feel shitty.

But if others are not willing to help you, then it still seems like a "suck it up" response.

And as a person whose behavior is the cause of someone's feeling of shittinines, what do you mean by: "you're wrong to feel shitty about this"? Are you insinuating that the person is in full control of their feelings and can simply choose to have your behavior no longer make them feel shitty, but suddenly makes them feel good and uplifted?

If so, what's this magic, I'm sure lots of people would love to know. Also, what would they? What motivation would they have to adapt to your shittiness causing behavior?

And on this track, do you really think people are wrong to feel shitty for things like sexual pushiness, inuendo and abuse in a workplace or anywhere unexpected. For pressures to do things, work extra, work over the weekend, etc. For racist or sexist comments, comments and actions that denigrate others for how they look or talk or where they come from, what they believe in, etc.

I'm not being totally dismissive, I think you make a good point, some things are a matter of perspective, but this perspective is important and I think often missed. When someone makes a sex joke for example, they might not mean anything bad of it or try to make anyone feel bad. And arguably, sex jokes shouldn't make you feel shitty. But given a reality where for lots of people this joke is not a joke, but something they experienced for real, a past abuse, a constant stigma, etc., well the joke is a reminder of that shitty thing and causes them to feel shitty.

What is often asked is to stop those bad behavior, and if those are stopped, maybe the jokes about it can fly again, because there'd be no one for whom the joke was just salt on the wound.

In those cases, is "you should learn to have these things make you feel good" really an answer? They logically are bad things, instinctively made to make you feel shitty. So I still think the choices are only what I brought up before.


The issue is the framing (as noted in the other comment) and the limitation that the label of "toxic" places on the possible solutions.

You've got a toxic manager? Leave. That's the only answer. There's nothing else that can be done.

The label of toxicity is used to limit the possible ways to move forward.

Additionally, the overuse of "toxic" diminishes the situations where it actually is a toxic environment that irredeemably pollutes everything that it touches. This is similar to how "Grammar Nazi" or "Soup Nazi" rubs me the wrong way as it trivializes and normalizes a truly horrific philosophy as something to be used to mock people who enforce/follow a particular set of rules.

In looking for examples of the overuse of the word toxic, I found https://www.scarymommy.com/toxicity-calling-everything-toxic... - which, I'm going to say I largely agree with.

> Toxic behavior or a toxic situation exist because of a consistent pattern of destructive behavior. Posting one rude comment is very different from consistently demeaning and trolling someone online. A loved one arguing with you over a disagreement is very different from verbal and emotional abuse. And a work environment where a boss pressures staff to meet a deadline is very different from a boss who consistently bullies employees and promotes a culture of fear to get results.

> But people are quick to grab at the negative connotation of the word without contemplating if it actually applies to the situation. It’s almost as if using the word toxic makes you a part of the “cool kids’ club” or somehow makes you more “woke” (yet another overused word). But throwing toxic out when someone offends you is like a metaphorical way of slamming the door in someone’s face. It’s an immature response that doesn’t solve anything.

Labeling something as toxic means that the only realistic answer to resolving the issue with that toxicity is to cut it out of one's life. With today's use of the word, if we were to do that, we'd likely end up as hermits (and then have someone claim that toxic solitude is infecting the culture).

Not everything that hurts is toxic. Seeing a public display of affection after a breakup may fall in the "makes me feel like shit" category, but it isn't toxic. Walking past a street preacher espousing views counter to my own and seeing people listen to him falls in the "makes me feel angry" category, but it isn't toxic.

Yes, there are toxic workplaces where the combination of bad management, awful coworkers, and unrelenting stress seeps out of the workplace into the rest of life and everyone else's and makes it worse. Labeling it "toxic" is the easy way out for trying to describe what is wrong with it.

The label of toxic ultimately means that we are unable to solve the problem and are thus a victim in the relationship (be it personal, professional, or other). In a world where everything that makes one "feel like shit" is toxic, it subverts our own ability to resolve issues since its the other's fault that they're toxic. Nothing that the individual can do will resolve it and we are powerless in the face of toxicity (other than cutting it out of our lives).

But yet, there are often numerous ways to resolve an issue if it isn't deemed as toxic and the power to resolve it remains with the person.

In the face of toxicity, the classic "change your company or change your company" only has one answer where the other answer is the more desirable one and leads to a better world - if one is willing to put in the effort rather than following the "just leave" advice that is the only answer to something that is toxic.


Love your thoughtful reply!

I personally find that the word toxic is quite apt, because everyone is already familiar with the concept of various degrees of toxicity. Sexual abuse is very toxic, someone who always talks over you and doesn't listen is still toxic but to much lower levels.

And like with all toxins, individuals can choose if there are any redeeming qualities that outweighs the negatives. Alcohol is a good example, pain killers another. Similarly, I think it has this intuition already built, ya there's some toxic behavior at my work, but it pays really well and I'm learning a lot. Ya my brother can be a little toxic, but he's always there to help when it matters and cares a lot about me.

Yet everyone understands that it would always be best without the toxic parts. Which is where for work you can look at other opportunities and see, this other place seems to not be toxic and similarly pays well and has a lot of growth opportunity.

> Labeling something as toxic means that the only realistic answer to resolving the issue with that toxicity is to cut it out of one's life

You seem to insist on this a lot, I don't think I agree.

I mentioned different ways to approach a toxic scenario.

One is to stop your exposure to it. You can do so by leaving or by having the cause of the toxic behavior leave.

Another one is to stop the cause of the toxicity, which you can do so by having the behavior stop (through repremendation, shaming, authority, education, etc).

You can also adapt to the toxicity, develop a thicker skin, or what I called "suck it up". Hopefully making its negative impact on you milder and maybe non-existent over time.

But the ideal pattern in my opinion, is not for the person who already feels shitty to have to deal with trying to figure out a way to avoid or stop the toxic behavior, but for others who are in much better positions to do so to do so.

It's pretty hard for someone bitten by a snake to save themselves from the poison. Once you're already feeling shitty, your courage and energy levels to face people that make you feel shitty about the very topic are low, and doing so can be a risk to face even more toxic backlash.

In a workplace, it's really the responsibility of the company to make sure they deal with toxic behavior preemptively, and offer easy channels for remediation if someone calls it out.

And as decent human beings, it is really all our own responssability to be aware of when and what make others feel shitty and see how we can adapt to make others feel good instead. That's how you can coexist positively with others. It's normal relationship building for trust, comfort and all that.

Now, I see that a lot of people want to be pedantic and point at an edge case which I'd consider is a bit of an absurd call-out, because in practice it's very rare that people call out these kind of toxic but shouldn't be scenarios. That's the case where someone feels shitty about things that for the majority of people do not make them feel shitty and sometimes even a normal person would feel good about.

The thing is, most of the time, in those scenarios we are dealing with trauma. And I think here too, like how you'd help someone in a wheelchair and not slam the door in their face, people with trauma need our help and compassion as well.

> But yet, there are often numerous ways to resolve an issue if it isn't deemed as toxic and the power to resolve it remains with the person

Can you expand here in what you mean by keeping the power with the person? In my mind, "toxic" is a new found power for just that, the ability to name and label a behavior that hurts you as toxic now levies new power to actually make that behavior stop or change or go away, where as before people had often no recourse and could only "suck it up".


The correct response is not to refute the label, it's to explore the feeling and ask what makes them feel that way. I'm sure some people will shut you down at that stage, but most people will open up if they actually want resolution.


But that's exactly the concern, that "toxic" is both hypercharged with negative affect and can't be disputed. Similar labels don't have that problem - I would and do tell friends things like "she's not contrarian, she just has strong beliefs you haven't fully understood".


> It is often incredibly difficult to refute someone making a claim that something is toxic

Perhaps a lot of the "toxic things" are subjective based on someones experience, so there is not much to refute.

If someone says the way they were treated by another was toxic, who are you to refute its toxicity? People tend to be able to understand how some thing affects them and if it is good for them.


Imagine if HN supported downvote reasons and "toxic comment" was one of them. Would I even be able to see your downvoted comment? I have "show dead" turned on in my settings, FWIW.


I think that if its not single-handedly causing this, its by far the biggest factor. The ways in which our world has been altered by the rise of the internet are things we haven't even begun to comprehend. I think most of our modern societal "ills" that we frequently lament about today seem to all trace back to extreme individualism and narcissism, both of which are fueled largely by the internet and social media.


There was a viral video I saw yesterday of a baby crying, and a deer rushing out of the woods probably trying to protect it.

Anyways, the lady who posted it got a ton of comments about her shitty parenting style from literally a 6 second video, to the point where she had to make a response video saying "No, I don't just place my newborn on a wooden porch", and explain why her child was on its stomach, and why it cried, etc.


Social media invites all sorts of low effort "you ought to" or "look I know about X" comments. These people don't really care about her baby. They care about getting virtue points for pretending like they care. It's a twilight zone at the intersection of virtue signaling and bike shedding.


> Wonder how much of this is driven by social media and the internet today. The word 'Toxic' is just thrown around now and everything is 'Toxic'.

You're spot on. The article coyly makes a mention of the real cause in this clause:

> For most of history, family relationships were based on mutual obligations rather than on mutual understanding. Parents or children might reproach the other for failing to honor/acknowledge their duty, but the idea that a relative could be faulted for failing to honor/acknowledge one’s ‘identity’ would have been incomprehensible.”

Although identity has many, and positive, functions[1], here it stands for "unquestioned affirmation of one's narcissistic self-image", in other words "what I think I am, being reflected to me". Social media can do this almost perfectly, most of them are perfectly fine tuned for our engagement, what we think we are, what we would like to hear, and what we would like to get angry at (which confirms our identity through opposition).

Anything that fails at this confirmation is expelled via the magic word "toxic"[2] and parents take their share for not being able to match this self-constructed, unearned narrative of an identity.

[1] Identity is a useful narrative that explains us to ourselves and others through time and space. But it is only useful to the degree it actually conforms to the reality, else it loses its adaptivity. Which means identity needs to stem from our relationships to the world; it doesn't come from within, it does't come from without, it comes from our genuine relationship with reality as we test it. If the majority of the reality we had to conform to was internet, where we can block, downvote, silence, cancel and get recommended to by an entity that are really interested in us sticking around, our identity becomes seriously self-deceptive and not useful across time and space outside the internet. In a sense, internet replaced the narcissistic, toxic parents we were running away from, except this parent is perfectly, and callously, able to tell us what we want to hear.

[2] Toxic exists. But not everything that pisses us off, or threatens our sense of identity is toxic. Narcissistic family systems are toxic because they put their needs above the needs of the child, that includes the need of the child to hear the harsh truth at times. What I see today is some parents are switching strategies by trying to outcompete with internet in being endlessly accommodating their children and not implementing necessary but unpopular structures their children might need. They couldn't have won anyway.


There's a meme going around that says something to the effect that people are just meat with electricity inside. It's obviously a simplistic joke but there's something about it that really resonated with me. I'm trying to keep that in mind now, have compassion for others more, and to basically lower my expectations for the human animal. Sure, we can and do overcome our limitations sometimes, but that's something to be grateful for, not something to be expected.


Not sure if you have kids or not, but once I had them it really made me understand where my parents were coming from and forgive their flaws. I literally know nothing about raising kids and am just making it up as I go along. I feel like I get it right a lot but also often get it wrong. There is no manual for being a parent or a person, we are all just flawed beings doing the best we can in a situation we have very little control over.


"Gens Y and Z getting lower salaries, higher rents, higher costs of education, limited choices, etc" Sure, it must be the fault of social media /s

Sure, not all harm is intentional, but when they get labeled as "lazy, useless, incompetent, etc" by the boomers it's hard to not blame them.

I am lucky to have been relatively successful, but I see that a lot of people (a couple of years) younger than me are really struggling.


"when they get labeled as "lazy, useless, incompetent, etc" Where are they getting labeled as this on?


The news, court rooms, congress floor, board rooms, hiring committees, college admissions, and yes on social media. But let's be honest here. We have two subsequent generations whose economic outlooks have been substantially harmed by the previous generation being blamed for not being successful and it's in more or less all corners of the world that imply power.


Don't forget "trauma"!


[flagged]


I don't think false centrism or compromise for the sake of compromise is beneficial here.

Let's take the most clear example.

Who legitimately won the 2020 US Presidential Election?

Did Biden win the election fairly and legitimately or not?

Does your position permit "splitting the difference"? How would that work? Are you advocating that we meet in the middle and say Biden won but not legitimately? Or that Trump lost but it wasn't a fair election?

Some positions just don't work like that. OAN won't simply say that Biden is the legitimately elected President. What do you propose is the appropriate "compromise" solution in this case?


one of the worst things to happen to society was pay per click advertising and news being funded by advertising dollars based on viewership numbers.


The way you're presenting the "both sides" of "FOX/OAN" vs everyone else sounds like you are presenting the FOX/OAN perspective that the media has a liberal bias and they are the counter.

The truth is much more nuanced: https://www.adfontesmedia.com/static-mbc/

Most of your listed 'left' news sources only "skew left" but focus mostly on "fat reporting". Compared to FOX/OAN who are "hyper partisan right" and focus on "selectve, incomplete, unfair persuasion, propaganda, and other issues"

When the most important facts of the day (electoral fraud, climate change, pandemic health and safety, vaccinations) have a "liberal bias" - in that the left is on the side of factual reality, and the right is on the side of unfounded conspiracy theories, you simply can't compare the news media the way you have.


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