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Disappointed in My Millennial Kids

last month
last modified: last month

So, despite my cavalier treatment of skin cancer in a discussion a few months ago, or perhaps because karma's a bitch...last Monday I had a basal skin cancer removed via Mohs surgery. As sometimes happens it turned out to be much more extensive than expected and I was left with most of the tissue on one nostril gone. I need several reconstructive plastic surgeries, the first of which was done Friday. Fortunately I've got great doctors and hopefully the healing and repair will be uneventful.

What I could use some help and perspective with is how my 2 kids have reacted or should I say NOT reacted. They both knew it was coming up and that I was very worried; I also texted them (and my DIL) a picture just afterward of me with a massive bandage. I saw my son after that and before the first surgery and told him the details; the night before the repair surgery my daughter sent me a brief text asking how I was. Other than that I've heard not a thing from either one or from my DIL. Meanwhile everyone else in my little world-friends, neighbors, rest of family-has checked in with messages of concern, good wishes, even flowers.

But my own children are totally in the wind! I really feel as if I must have done something wrong to have raised two kids who don't even have the time or inclination to take, literally, 10 seconds to send a text much less a phone call.

I think I need some GW wisdom here. I'm not going to say anything to them; I certainly know how unhelpful it is to demand that somebody show you care and attention. Still, it really hurts-emotionally, not just the nose ;).

Comments (39)

  • graywings123

    May I ask whether the friends, neighbors, and rest-of-family are older than your son and daughter? Sometimes people who are still in the i-am-bullet-proof age group - have never suffered a serious injury or disease - don't comprehend the magnitude of a problem or that the patient is psychologically vulnerable and in need of support.

  • maddielee

    I’m sorry running. I hope your healing goes smoothly.

    There is still an ”it’s only a skin thing“ attitude with many people when skin cancer is involved. Not a big deal to some. My guess is that is how your kids may feel?

    I think after I have been through all the necessary procedures, I would say something to my children letting them know I was disappointed in their lack of empathy. (For me it would be better to tell them then for me to hold it in and let it spill out at another time.)

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  • salonva

    I am just very sorry that they are disappointing you............ ((hugs))

  • DLM2000-GW

    I'm so sorry that you feel overlooked by your kidsrunning. BTDT and it's a big ouch emotionally. You are 100% justified in feeling hurt IMO, however I don't think keepng mum about it is the way to go. This is a conversation to have, parent to child AND friend to friend. Your kids need a bit more schooling in how to be a caring friend and it doesn't necessarily mean you skipped over that. Sometimes lessons need repetition. If a dear friend was callous in that way I imagine you would bring it up. I would. Sometimes there's a good reason, but it still requires a conversation. You've never struck me as a needy emotional person so perhaps your kids feel you have everything under control? But that doesn't excuse not checking in with the mama! Talk to them.

  • jb1586

    I know exactly how you feel. Our otherwise loving two DS, and DDIL, don't react appropriately concerned when health crises occur with my husband or me. No answer for you, it's difficult to broach the subject with them (all 3 are in healthcare, maybe it hits too close to home).


    Perhaps their age has them unaware or unable to conceive of the idea of what you are going through? I know that young people can be rather self-centered. DD is a high school teacher and tells me stories of her students empty heads each night.

    Perhaps some of this going on? : My father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. We had a long lapse in our relationship due to family turmoil beyond our control and we had only a couple of months reconnected when the news arrived. I did not handle it well and I was well aware of what he was facing. I found myself unable to know what to say to him. It was surprising to me that I was so without words. I felt horrible about it, and yet, I could not write a decent letter or email (he didn't like phone calls). He would go the PO Box daily looking for a letter, then walk over to the library to check his email account and nothing from me. The harder I tried to write, the more I couldn't. I can't explain it. It was like I became mute. I could, on occasion type out a short note of "I hope you are feeling as well as you can and I love you". Ugh. I did not know what to say. He felt ignored I am sure, while he was on my mind 24/7 and I could not get a decent group of words together no matter what kind of pep talk I gave myself. It's twenty years later, and I still feel terrible about it.

    I'm very sorry you are dealing with this. I hope your nose reconstruction comes out beautiful!! This has to be difficult for you. I'm you have a good medical team on your side. Wishing you easy healing of your skin, and your heart. How nice your friends have rallied to your side.

  • IdaClaire

    I'm so sorry, running. I don't have kids, but I do know a couple of Millennials and Gen-Xers even that would likely behave very much like your kids did in similar situations. I think there may be some validity to what's been expressed above, that perhaps they view your ordeal as somehow not being a huge concern, knowing you'll get through this and be just fine in due course. Or perhaps they are or have been terribly concerned, but are fearful and don't like to think about a parent's physical problem, as that puts them a bit too close for comfort into "thinking of mom's mortality" territory. I honestly don't know, but it sucks, and I'm so sorry that they have disappointed you in this way. I would tell them how you feel. As an adult child myself, I would want to know if my parent had expectations of me that I failed to live up to, when living up to them was clearly in my control. I don't want my parents to hurt or feel animosity because of something I did or didn't do, and I think this is a situation where your children must know, for future reference.

  • tinam61

    I so sorry Running. I had MOHS on one side of my nose also. I hate to hear you have to deal with reconstruction. So thankful for MOHS and that they take only what is needed! I agree with discussing this with your children. I wouldn't hesitate to share pics with them of your incision, reconstruction, etc. just so they see what you are going through. My prayers are with you for a smooth reconstruction and speedy healing. (((hugs)))

  • Gargamel

    How old are your children?

  • rubyclaire

    I'm so sorry you are dealing with hurt feelings while dealing with the surgery and reconstruction. I have a feeling my own millenial child would not react very differently and that concerns me. This was on my mind recently as I have a friend who had surgery just after Christmas and her daughter (same age as mine) took leave from her job and took care of her mom post-surgery. Took care of her in the most loving, hands-on, proactive way (like a mom). I could be wrong, and I hope I don't have to find out anytime soon, but I felt like my child would not be so giving and that made me a little sad.

    I hope you feel better soon. I'm not exactly sure how I would handle it but think I would be tempted to have the conversation down the road. Take care -

  • mtnrdredux_gw

    I'm so glad you are in good hands and have a good prognosis, I can appreciate it is scary.

    I would say that most people, myself included, botch the handling of health scares/crises. We all find it hard to do, feel inadequate, want to be supportive but not dismissive, and in some cases we are in denial as well. Among the social graces, it is one of the hardest. A lot of people say just do something, anything, but OTOH we have all heard of missteps that were not well received either.

    Please don't let your disappointment with your kids turn in this matter into a reflection of your parenting. It is not. Sometimes lessons need repetition. I had to laugh out loud at this! I have repeated a few things a few million times.

    When the emotions of this have passed a bit, and you have more time to think about it a little less emotionally, I would discuss it with your kids. Sometimes in relationships it helps to be very specific about one's needs rather than assuming everyone knows what you need and how you feel.

  • justerrilynn

    I’m sorry you are feeling hurt and hope you heal fast. I’m not 100% sure my boys would be any different. As far as they are concerned I’m indestructible. I think they would need something from the doctor in writing stating I had one week to live before they would believe I could possibly have anything serious. I would tell them if they hurt my feelings though.

  • Bonnie

    Running, I am so sorry about your skin cancer and the surgeries. A dear friend has been down that road and had a very favorable reconstructive outcome. I hope the surgeries Go smoothly and that the outcome is a good one.

    I agree with DLM’s assertion that because you don’t seem like a needy and emotional person, your kids might think “she’s got this.” You did not do anything wrong in raising your children, so do not put this on yourself. Think of how and when you can let them know that you would like their support as you go through this. They won’t know what you need if you don’t tell them. I am playing this scenario in my head and wondering what I would do, and I know I would call them.

  • jmck_nc

    I was going to say that perhaps their behavior is a sort of defense mechanism. If they "act like it isn't a big deal, it won't be a big deal". Also, from what you have written over the years it seems like you present yourself as super capable, unflappable and "on it". So, perhaps they have a hard time seeing you as someone who is also vulnerable and needing support. They may not figure it out unless you tell them explicitly, in a loving way. Perhaps your husband could say something on your behalf along the lines of "I know mom has always been so capable and unflappable, but it would be helpful if you could offer support in the following ways if/when there is a health issue". Your family dynamics will drive the "how", but I think your kids may need some specific direction. Best to you as you navigate this both physically and emotionally.

  • eld6161

    We can analyze, make excuses or rationalize, but the bottom line is the same.

    They did not step up to the plate the way you needed them too.

    And, yes you should talk to them.

    We can role play here, but I agree with jmck. You know the dynamics of your family.

    My family has an odd sense of humor and how we react could be perceived differently in another family.

  • runninginplace

    Thank you all so very much! Amazing how much better your kind and wise words have made me feel. For the record my daughter is 28 and son is 30, so they are young but not exactly novices at the art of adulting ;).

    After I posted my lament I happened to look back at the text trail from last week between my daughter and me and yes indeed many of you hit the nail precisely on the head. Re-reading my messages to her, it all sounded breezy and matter of fact, as if I was having a day of it but things were well under control. As for my son, when I talked to him although he could see me in person in full bandaged glory I am sure I didn't act as scared and run down as I was feeling. We also talked at his office and I know he wasn't going to do a lot of emoting in that environment.

    So your thoughts make sense including the bulls-eye that I am always the one who handles things unflappably, though aren't all of us moms that way?! They probably don't think anything is going on that merits checking in from their busy lives.

    Last but not least, I agree I should bring it up to them when we talk next in a loving, not angry or hurt, conversation. Being a mom means it's still worth trying to convey life lessons to adult children albeit rarely and with delicacy .

    Mtn you are also right, this one is worth repeating: when people you love are having problems you need to show up even if just to say 'I'm here and I care'.

    Actually I'm going to remember that myself next time someone I know is going through a tough life experience because it's been revelatory to find out how much it means to me getting a note or a text or a card.

    Thanks again everyone.

  • Oakley

    I'm sending you a super tight hug Running. I have two friends in the same situation and let me just say, I had no idea that's what happened. Be very careful, one friend tripped over her dog and undid the surgery on her nostril and it was like starting over.

    I don't have a solution but I've been in similar situations with my two, ages 37 & 40. They still look like kids to me! There have been times I thought they would contact me to see how I was doing, or maybe how their dad is feeling after an illness. Nothing. And we're a close knit family too.

    I was so upset I googled the subject. Apparently narcissism (some are mild, some are bad) has become almost epidemic with that age group, and the group ahead of them which consist of my oldest son. Both boys are loving, but there are times I wonder why they aren't checking in on me.

    And then I put the pieces together. On one of my birthdays when the boys were young and without the family knowing, I brought home an old fashioned bakery cake wishing me a happy birthday and it had a Star War's theme. The kids loved it of course. One birthday when both were in college and also roommates, I called them before morning classes to jokingly let them know it was my birthday and they didn't need to call because I knew they were so busy with school. They thought it was hilarious.

    It was a bad idea and now they know if I really needed help or their attention, I'd definitely call them and in the meantime, no news is good news.

  • pudgeder

    Running, you're children are about the same ages as mine. I hope you have a speedy and uneventful recovery!!

    I will say my daughter lives a couple hours away, and when I had my knee replacement, she was right here. When I had my hip replaced last year, daughter was PG and didn't need to be hanging around germy hopsitals, so I had to call my son and ask him to come to the hospital to sit w/his Dad. He asked "Why?" Clueless. After I explained the "why" he understood. Seriously. You'd think a person 31 yrs old would know. Apparently not.

    Definitely talk to them both. As a mother, you never, NEVER, stop teaching. Even if they aren't tuned in to the lesson. LOL

  • OutsidePlaying

    I’m so sorry, Running, both for the discomfort and extensive surgery, and for the apparent lack of compassion by your kids. I don’t have any answers except to say to give them time to come around and ask you again how you are doing. If they don’t, do tell them anyway how they made you feel. Sometimes it can be fear on their part, and young people do tend to think differently.

    I’m glad you re-read the messages with a different slant on things. We tend to not want to ‘worry’ our kids, or even our spouses, when really we want that hug, or some words or comfort, just like they needed it from us at one time.

  • Arapaho-Rd

    I'm so sorry you are going through this. The stress of the surgeries has to be putting an emotional strain on you as well. I hope your kids realize the need to be there for you. I'm in caregiver mode for my Mom right now and every time I think of how difficult it is, I remember all the times my Mom has been there for me. The scale is and always will be in her favor.

  • yeonassky

    Very sorry for your struggle with this. Hugs!

    I like the idea of your making this a teaching moment. I don't know how far away your family is from you but seeing them frequently also helps I think. The out of sight out of mind thing is real.

  • allison0704

    I am sorry you are feeling disappointed and hurt while undergoing a scary issue. Having our feelings acknowledged can only help in the healing process. I'm glad to read you will bring up causally during conversation.

  • Kitchenwitch111

    A good friend of mine just had surgery (we are both single). I drove her home from the hospital, I took her dog overnight, I’ve brought her meals and groceries and checked on her every day. Her son and daughter-in-law literally live around the corner from her. My friend told me that she hasn’t seen her grandbaby in all this time because she couldn’t walk to their house. I said, they haven’t come to see you??? No not once. I was floored. They aren’t even my kids but I feel like saying something to them.

  • Zalco/bring back Sophie!

    I am so sorry you are going through this, running. I hope all your treatments go smoothly and you are on the mend soon. Waiting to get through lal the steps can be so very frustrating.

    Perhaps your children did not notice all the ways you made yourself present and available to those around you who needed some TLC. You were not narrating your every kindness and they were busy being children, so they were oblivious. As for all the ways mothers are there for their little ones, well that's like the air we breathe, totally unnoticeable, except in its absence. Sometimes we have to be explicit in our teaching and remind our children that even if there is nothing we can do to make things better per se, acknowledging a person's suffering is tremendously healing. And small gestures that show we see one another are golden.

    Let us know how things are progressing.

  • blfenton

    I had the same surgery and acted and reacted as if it was nothing. And so that was the reaction that I got from my sons., as if it was nothing.

    Stands to reason actually.

  • Bestyears

    If you feel your kids are otherwise attentive and kind toward you, I would try not to ruminate on this. Last week I hosted a few friends in our lakehouse, and I went three days without calling my mother, who is in a nursing home -whereas I normally call her every day. I thought of her of course, but I was always being pulled away. I'm not saying that your kids were just too busy, but this week was a good reminder to me of just how much busier I used to be, and perhaps that is partly what's happening here.

  • runninginplace

    Such kindness and such wisdom! Blfenton, your comment made me laugh-and nod, because you are so right. When we act as if everything is ok, our kids assume....everything is ok.

    Got a text from my daughter this morning asking if I wanted to have a phone chat tonight and how was I. So I answered yes and things have been rough...she almost certainly has no idea that I've been going through a bad patch so we'll talk and I'll ask without rancor what her impression was. We're very close and we can/do talk to each other about interpersonal dynamics so I"m curious about her response.

    Last but not least, apologies that I've got 2 identically titled posts going right now :(. I wrote one, hit submit, saw nothing for awhile so wrote a second, hit submit and then of course both popped up. I've deleted one so hopefully it will not look too ok-boomer up in the runninginplace corner of the virtual world LOL.

  • bbstx

    It was only a few years ago that I realized I should have been much more attentive to my mother when she had her hysterectomy. At the time I was in my early 20s and living many miles from home. Mother had always been strong and healthy. At 20-ish, I had no idea what a hysterectomy involved and how it might affect my mother. I did nothing special. Not because I’m thoughtless, but because it was presented as “no big deal.” Perhaps you are such a strong person that your children cannot imagine that you need their reassurance and a little bit of attention.

    My sister, who is similarly strong, was in the hospital in very precarious health. Her husband and her children were treating it as “no big deal.” Finally, one day she looked at them and said “this is all about me!” I was there and it did my heart good for her to let them know she needed them and they were being thoughtless. Fortunately, she recovered from her crisis and leads a healthy, active life today.

  • roarah

    Hope your recovery is smoother than this initial stage. I am assuming your kids might not realize just how tough this has been both prior and after your surgery. Feel better soon.

  • arcy_gw

    I have been following. Haven't chimed in as these are very muddy waters. It is for sure an art to raise kids to be all we want them to be, FOR US and to think we are all the parents our kids want/need. Families in the world today are very disjointed--for many reasons,: divorce,technology,distance,death of family business, prosperity. It just hit me how does this thread mesh with the one from a week ago or so about what we owe our parents?

  • Funkyart

    So sorry you are dealing with this Running.. these kinds of scary events make us vulnerable and much more sensitive to the actions of others. I had two surgeries last year and they were very scary for me because they were cutting into my eye and because it was out of town. One of my sisters was great support--not only transporting me but waiting through the surgery/recovery, filling the hotel room with things she thought I might be able to eat after surgery (I am very sensitive to anesthesia) and mostly just BEING there. I was pretty hurt though that I didn't hear much from my other siblings.. or friends.

    But the reality is, this isn't the first time that I needed support and didn't get it-- and it hurt all the more because I am ALWAYS available when someone else needs a shoulder or some help. it required me to do some soul searching. I am fiercely independent .. and in the past I've brushed off offers of help and support. No, I don't need anything, I don't need help, thank you-- but I CAN DO IT MYSELF. (Not screaming-- just emphasizing). Eventually, I think, everyone just came to expect that I wouldn't need their help. I will need to learn to ask for it when I need it.. something I loathe to do and something I really don't know how to do.

    But I don't think it's all my fault-- or the fault of any other strong, independent woman who hesitates to ask for support. I think it's become all too easy for people to make empty offers of help. "Let me know what I can do.. " has become easy to say but when it comes down to it, the same people aren't as quick to adjust their schedule or actually BE there... but that's a whole other topic.

  • allison0704

    Touching on family (children and husbands) thinking Mom's on invincible - I had major surgery in October. Two days later, I was left alone to fend for myself when DH went to the Y and DD1 went to pilates/errands. They left before I got up. Not such a big deal if it was just me, but we have two dogs that need to go out and stairs down to the yard. They all are good about asking me how I'm doing/feeling and checking on me daily. I did not tell my closest in town friends because I did not want them bringing food, etc things over after my surgery. I just want my family to dote on me when I need it. LOL

    Fast forward to this week - DH had shoulder surgery Friday and has not been left alone since. It would be nice to be waited on and helped like I help them.

  • runninginplace

    Update-my daughter called last night and we had a great conversation. I told her in a non-blaming way that it had been very tough, gave some specifics etc. She was SO apologetic! We are very close and her comment was that the thought waves were going through because over the weekend she had a strong feeling that I needed her. Interesting since that's when I was most upset.

    I did comment that I"m going to be more aware myself about reaching out to folks who are hurting which was a subtle way to get a little mom lesson across doncha know? ;)

    And Arcy I've thought also about how this intersects with dealing with aging parents. It was a stark reminder that there will come a day when my kids may well be called upon to help us, and a good lesson on how we should be opening up better lines of communication on both sides.

  • hhireno

    For another perspective, I don’t want fuss or attention when I’m sick or recovering. My gut reaction is to leave people alone because that’s what I would want. What might be considered thoughtless behavior by one person might be another person doing what they think is best, giving you privacy and peace. Since we don’t know everyone else’s love language, we often do the wrong thing for them even though we mean well.

  • gsciencechick

    hhireno, that is a good point. We do want to leave people to rest up and recover, but also need to balance it with people who need care.

    Running, glad your DD checked in.

  • eld6161

    Hhireno, I’m with you. Sometimes you need an escape and that can’t happen with everyone constantly asking how you are doing.

    On the other hand, I have a SIL that always makes things bigger and wants constant attention for it, she enjoys telling everyone all the details. Too much info in my opinion.

    Could a conversation be helpful, asking the person what you can do? Explaining that from personal experience you want to meet their specific needs.

  • blfenton

    Both what arcy and funkyart said hit home for me. I can do everything myself and I don't need help- so I tell myself and them. It actually irritates my DH when I say it.

    As to what my kids owe me? They don't owe anything. That's not why I had kids. If I need help with something I will ask and they will probably help me but they don't OWE it to me. If they call me and ask for help I will help to do what I can as well.

  • IdaClaire

    Running, I'm so glad that you and your DD had a chance to talk. I'll bet that conversation will cause her to be more mindful, or perhaps to act on her gut feelings and reach out, should another similar occasion arise.

  • l pinkmountain

    I'm not sure if it is an age thing. I think it is more of a "people person" vs non people person. Some folks are just born nurturers and some aren't. I have my share of both in my family. With the nurturers though, sometimes they get overextended. My husband goes through a lot and gets zippo from his kid, and yet he is always there for whatever little thing upsets his son on any given day. But then, hubs is not a people person and isn't very nurturing of anyone other than his son, which is typical of introverts, they only have a few folks they have close relationships with. Also, my hubs is a "tough guy" and isn't used to getting support, so it never occurs to him that folks would need or want support. My brother has zero tolerance for supporting others, and he's introverted too. I think it is what it is, not everyone relates to us in our preferred style.

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