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Offspring Rejection Syndrome: (O.R.S.) A severe and often chronic affliction affecting parents of tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings

Oh, the pain of Offspring Rejection Syndrome!

I am officially suffering from an acute case of O.R.S. And it is seriously sucking the joy out of my life. You see, I used to be the bees knees, the cat’s pajamas, totally rad. And now? I’m nothing more than an inconvenient embarrassment whose sole value derives from driving small boys to and fro, continuously providing a never-ending supply of cut-up fruit, and paying for…everything!

This totally sucks! It’s not that it comes as a surprise to me. I’ve always known that parents become uncool. I just never thought it would happen to me, and never so abruptly.It all happened yesterday, the day my eldest son turned 11. Today, he can’t even stand to be seen with me in public. What changed overnight? And why does it have to hurt so much?

I drove to school today and on the way, I remembered that I was supposed to bring a check for an upcoming overnight retreat. Since I didn’t have a check, I decided to pop into the school office and give them my credit card.

“You’re coming in with us?” My son barked insensitively.

“No,” I replied calmly, “I’m just going in to pay for your retreat. You can go in by yourself.”

“But, Mom…Geez! That is sooooooooo embarrassing!” He grunted, harumphed and rolled his eyes to the ceiling.

I was pissed.

“Well,” I started with a defensively edgy lilt, “If it’s so embarrassing, would you rather I not go in and pay for the retreat? It’s up to you.”

“Whatever,” he snipped.

It was at that moment, hearing his surly “whatever,” that something inside of me snapped. I grabbed his still sweet, loving, seven-year-old little brother’s hand and walked into the office. I should have just gotten back into my car and driven away. Too embarrassed to be in the same room with me? That’s just…mean.

Look, I’m all for individuating. I know that’s part of the growing up process. But I don’t recall ever treating my parents with disgust, disdain or disrespect. It hurts. My husband says I shouldn’t take it so personally. It’s actually good that our son, who hasn’t always been so keen about social appropriateness, gets that his peers are rejecting their parents right now. But I feel like crap. And I’m honestly not sure I’m capable of rising above this. I keep wanting to say to him, “Well, if you’re too good for me, then why don’t you just go rent an apartment, get a friggin’ job and get off the parental dole?” I know that’s childish and immature. But that’s how I feel.

Please tell me that this is only a stage, a short one. Tell me that all kids go through this, that it isn’t me. Tell me that he’ll come around, that he wont always feel shame when I enter a room, that I really am more than a money machine and chauffeur. And if you can’t tell me any of those things, at least tell me how to handle the hurt and where to find the internal strength to let this stuff roll off my back.

I know I’m not the first parent to suffer from offspring rejection syndrome. But it would sure help if someone who lived through it could point out the light at the end of this tunnel and assure me that this boy, who lights up my heart, will once again, someday, think as lovingly about me as I do everyday about him.

About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Oklahoma City with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

7 responses to “Offspring Rejection Syndrome: (O.R.S.) A severe and often chronic affliction affecting parents of tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings

  1. Marc Kunis ⋅

    As a boy I can tell you that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but you’ll may have to wait 15 to 20 years for that to happen. I guess that why my mother always wanted a girl, instead she ended up with 2 boys.


  2. Mack Burly ⋅

    He’ll do his damnedest to hide it but his love for you will never go away. And when he’s old enough not to feel he needs to hide it, he will make up for those years with a need to show you regularly how much he loves you. You’ll know then what you might question now. So kick back and enjoy a little extra elbow room as your son lets go of the apron strings. If he clings too long, you’ll have a whole other world of unwanted issues to deal with. The kid is growing up and it sounds like he’s pretty much right on schedule. I don’t usually give advise to parents but you asked for it. And by the way Ms. Gettleman, you write a real fine column.


  3. I’m really not looking forward to this stage. Luckily, my daughter is only eight, and still wants to hold my hand when we go ice-skating.


  4. Debra,

    I used to teach junior high kids and would send this out to all my incoming parents. Thought you might like it! I also am the mom of a 27 yo, 20 yo and 12 yo!


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