It’s confession time: I’ve lied about my situation to someone. That someone is my mom.
Making excuses or explaining why really does matter. But, a story about how to deal with unwanted help (especially from people like our parents who are so vehemently protective and loving that all they want to do is dig us out of the holes we have dug ourselves into) does matter.
In a conversation about going to graduate school (something my mother does not support), she wanted to know how much debt I had. I didn’t want to lie and tell her I had 0 debt, and I didn’t want to lie and tell her the full amount (partially because I didn’t know the full amount at the time and partially because she would have a stroke at the number). I told her I had $4,000 worth of credit card debt.
Immediately, she is demanding, not asking, that she gives me the money to pay it off. I’m kindly refusing, stating that this is my battle and it is my problem; that I love her and understand why she wants to help, but I don’t need that sort of help from her right now; that she should trust that if I need help, I would come to you. And she is getting angry, very angry, at my refusal to accept her help.
Now, how easy would it be to just say, “Ok, I’ll take the 4 grand!”? Very damn easy. Painfully easy. Too easy. It also opens the door for chastising and negativity in the future when/if I do go to graduate school: “After I dug you out of debt, you’re going to accumulate more!?” and I refuse to put both of us in a situation where she is saying that sentence to me.
A month later, she is still not dropping it. She’s is on Facebook, messaging me about interests rates and numbers and “doing the math”; about how she isn’t mad at me, but mad at the numbers. I spend an hour on Facebook messenger kindly and lovingly declining her offer for help and she will not drop it. Eventually, I had to set a boundary:
Jenn: I love you. I love that you want, so desperately and passionately to help me. It’s part of why everyone loves you, but we can not continue to have this conversation. If I need help, you are the first person I will go to, but I do not need help in this right now. If you continue to talk about it, I will have to stop talking until you talk about something else.
This was the first time I had ever set a mature boundary with either of my parents. And, I had to follow through as she did not let up. It was a small achievement and a good lesson, although heartbreaking.
You’re an adult. It is completely in your right and realm to establish boundaries that are loving, honest, and that protect yourself, regardless of who that boundary is established with.