Monday, September 4, 2023

Why Your Kids Won't Talk To You...

Being a parent is heartbreaking in that, at some point, your children become separate beings and not mere possessions.  Some parents can't adjust to this - and in fact, most don't.

Elon Musk is in the news again, which suits him just fine.  This time around, he is grousing about how his kids won't talk to him anymore (and ex-spouses, ex-employees, ex-friends, most people, America in general, the world, aliens, etc.) which, in the case of his daughter, he blames on a "woke" school "brainwashing" her.  He claims that is what motivated him to buy Twitter, and turn it in to a Saudi-Arabian propaganda machine.

Nice try, Elon.

The reason she won't talk to you is right there in front of you.  Rather than assume she is an independent adult human being with opinions of her own, you assume that someone "brainwashed" her, because, hey, who doesn't like Elon Musk?  I mean, other than the folks I listed above.  I forgot animals.  I suspect even animals dislike him, too.  Dogs probably bark at him, sensing that he is one of the undead or something.

Kids grow up into adults just like you!  And like most adults, they tend to think they have their own opinions and ideas and want to live their own lives.  Sadly, many if not most parents have a problem with this - they raised you from a pup and see you as some sort of half-formed existance that is, in fact, their property.  They "created" you, so they own you - right?  This sets up the inherient parent-child conflict.

My Mother, when she was drunk and maudlin (as opposed to drunk and violent) would tell me how sad it made her, when, one day, when I was five or so, she wanted to hold my hand crossing the street, and apparently I said, "No, Mommy! I can do it myself!"  I have no memory of this, and I remember everything else (sadly) so I wonder if, in her drunken mind, she was either making this story up, or it happened with one of my siblings. But it illustrates how parents have to go through this separation - this transition from this small being who you completely control, to this independent human with ideas of their own.

And they have ideas of their own.  I have seen a lot of kids in my day (in fact, I was one, at one time, believe it or not) and it always surprises me (and their parents) how children come screaming out of the womb with their own personalities and ideas, distinct from their parents.  And by the time puberty rolls around, this, along with hormones, often leads to strife between parents and children.  Some parents just can't come to grips with the idea that their children are no longer their possessions.

Of course, in Musk's case, the problem is more acute.  His daughter is apparently "trans" and Dad is meanwhile running a social media site that embraces a lot of anti-trans, anti-gay, pro-Nazi, pro-racist, and other odious views, in the ersatz name of "free speech" - funded by the Saudi Government.  Dad promises to "pay the legal bills" of anyone who is "cancelled" yet refuses to defend a Saudi teacher sentenced to death for Tweeting against the Saudi government.

Hey, Trump never pays the legal bills of his lackeys, even after promising to do so.  Hell, he never pays his own legal bills, either - or any other bill, for that matter.  Musk seems to be following this pattern, not paying his landlords or his contractors, or even his former employees.  This seems to be a new Billionaire trend, not paying people.  Or maybe that is how they get rich in the first place?

Anyway, you can't blame a person for refusing to talk to their Dad, when Dad is encouraging and platforming people who want to kill you.  And these far-right folks are quite clear on this - talking of shooting gays and trans people (as DeSantis' own preacher has said, from the pulpit!) as well as talk of "Civil War" and shooting Democrats if they don't get their way.

Quite frankly, I am shocked anyone wants to talk to Musk at this point, other than die-hard Trumpers.  But then again, they are conflicted.  They drive Dodge pickup trucks with diesel engines, "blowing coal" and despise electric vehicles in general.  Musk may find himself a man without a nation - not welcome among Democrats, despised among Republicans.  The new "cybertruck" will have to be converted to coal power!

But there are other reasons not to talk to family members - or engage with them in any way.  For example, if you were molested or physically, psychologically, or financially abused, you may not feel comfortable sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with your abuser.  There may be more mundane reasons as well - you just may not like them and they make you uncomfortable.  People are different and have different values from one another, and when you grow up, you realize that you don't like certain people, not because of their opinions, but their personalities.  Visiting such people can give you anxiety and even make you physically ill.  And you are not obligated to sacrifice your life on the altar of "family."

In a lot of cultures, this is quite literally the case - adult children, well into their 30s, 40s, and 50s (and beyond!) are expected to kow-tow to the demands of their parents and siblings.  I recalled before how a Korean-born friend of mine, who became a successful attorney, was grousing about the high cost of car insurance. As "number one son!" he was expected to buy cars for his parents and siblings and insure them.  And as you might expect, his siblings just were layabouts who got lots of speeding tickets and got into accidents, which made his insurance skyrocket.

I didn't understand it, but he told me it was a cultural thing - that a successful family member was expected to subsidize those less successful.  Of course, this encourages other family members to not try as hard.  I am not sure if he ever broke free of that trap, but from what I understand, similar things happen in other cultures, and indeed, even here in America, where parents will browbeat children into coughing up money, once they have squandered their own.

There is also the issue of role-reversal.  Parents get old and enter a "second childhood" which is often preceded by a second adolescence.  At some point, the children may be more "mature" than the parents, who revert to hissy-fits and meltdowns.  Second childhood has come early for Elon, it seems.   It gets awkward, for example, when you have to extricate your own parents from legal troubles, or watch them behave like small children.  Many choose to simply look away and not engage - and often that is the only thing you can do, unless you want to make yourself miserable.

It isn't abnormal to move on from childhood and live a life of your own.  What is abnormal is to live as a perpetual child - as many do these days, often living with their parents - only "free" to live their own lives, very briefly, once their parents die.  A family should not be like a fraternity house - where you bide your time until you are the one in charge and can then "haze" the newcomers.  That isn't love, that isn't "family" - it is just abuse.