Do You Still Seek Your Parents Approval In Middle Age?

When you make the decision to migrate to the other side of the world like I have, your relationship with your parents inevitably changes.

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My dad and I never shared what you would describe as a conventional relationship. He was twenty years old when he had me and at the time was an aspiring young actor. Inevitably, once the stork visited, he had to make the harsh choice to give up on his dream and earn a more dependable living to support his growing family.


I lived with him through my teenage years and it was an unusual relationship. He was unconventional, and still a young, single man when I was in my late teens, nevertheless I always felt loved. He always maintained high expectations for me, gave me what he believed to be the best education and the hardest part of our relationship, from my perspective, was to attain his approval.


Some facets of your relationship with your parents never change. My father may not know this, but I still seek my dad’s approval in everything I do.


Before he arrived for a visit to The Block a few weeks ago, I scrubbed our little apartment from top to bottom. I left no potential colony of bacteria unturned and not even the most robust bed bug would have survived my cleaning frenzy. Each sofa cushion was perfectly puffed and placed, every artwork polished until the glass gleamed and every shower drain emptied. For that hour before his arrival, our apartment resembled a ‘styled’ property and the kids were ordered not to breathe, let alone move around in it.


I even ironed my dad’s sheets. I’ve never ironed a fucking sheet in my life but I ironed his sheets methodically, from corner to corner, and controversially, I took a great deal of pleasure out of doing it.


I’m a grown up, middle-aged woman now and yet I still feel like a child in his presence. I wanted to please him.


Obviously, the kids were put on high grandparent alert. We role-played their table manners, reminded them that it is indeed possible to close their mouths when they eat, retaught them their ‘pleases and thank yous’ and I reminded Kurt that we would be ‘in the library’ for the duration of Grandad‘s visit.


I discovered organization skills that I thought had long disappeared with the arrival of children and the ageing process. I booked tables at restaurants ahead of the day, picked up Dad’s favourite breakfast treats at Aldi (as well as new outdoor chair cushions) and the only thing I forgot was a bottle of his favourite Whisky.


Obviously, it was the first thing he asked for.


My father is an intelligent man and a witty public speaker and he can also be an opinionated old git at times – which is obviously where I inherited it. Like me, he takes a perverse pleasure in baiting people for a reaction. So when we broached topics that I knew we might come to blows with – like feminism, racism and how to raise Kurt – I steered him carefully away and swallowed my pride and my convictions. I didn’t want anything to spoil this rare, precious time together.


Not having grandparents in the immediate vicinity to tell me how to raise my kids, I am even more sensitive to criticism of my parenting choices. ADHD and its symptoms are difficult for the older generations to grasp. In Dad’s day, kids with learning disabilities left school early and no one questioned why they under-achieved. Still, I wanted his approval. I needed him to tell me that I’d done a good job, married the right man and that the kids were a fantastic reflection of how we had raised them.


I didn’t pretend to be the perfect daughter. One evening he walked in on a domestic the old man and I were having when he refused to wear smart trousers to the Yacht Club, (just to be difficult) and I knew it was important to Dad for us to make that effort. I erupted into full fishwife mode – five days was obviously way too long for me to hold my shit together – and just as I called him the C word, Dad walked in, then reversed quickly back into his room.


Do You Still Seek Your Parents Approval In Middle Age?
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Mutually opinionated, Dad and I have both mellowed with time and realized the importance of our relationship, which is now closer to that of friends than father and daughter. Many people in dad’s social group are my age and many of mine are his. We are interested and passionate about the same subjects and share an appreciation of food and wine.


He hasn’t judged my life choices for quite some time now, so why do I still need his approval?

12 thoughts on “Do You Still Seek Your Parents Approval In Middle Age?

  1. I was the older child and supposed to be a boy. I sought my father’s approval in everything I did. Every step up the ladder in my career, every shattering of a glass ceiling, every pay raise and bonus – I rang my Dad. Each new house, every achievement by his two grandsons, I rang my Dad. Dad died only last year at 93 and Mum died 5 days ago at 95. There is nobody left to ring the next time one of my sons does something incredible, or my grandsons, for that matter. I know just how you feel and I think that your need to try to make him happy, comfortable and to impress him is perfectly normal.


    1. Oh, Leonie, I’m so sorry about your mum. I see it in my own children, when they have tried to gain my approval and I haven’t noticed it. This is why kids blame their parents for everything. Dad and I went through some bad times but who knows how much time we have left together. Life’s too short.


      1. Thank you Louisa. Strangely enough, I don’t see it in my two sons. Neither one of them gives a damn whether I’m impressed/pleased or not. And I love it I sought my father’s approval for 67 years and I’m glad my children are not tied by this. But of course, despite not seeking my approval, they still blame me for everything. Some things don’t change.


  2. I still want the approval of my father. I also moved half-way around the world after getting married. It’s been a year and a half since the, and I’m glad we moved, but wondering where that leaves me and my dad when we see each other again.
    I think it’s a natural thing, though. You love and respect your father. As humans, we crave the approval of people we love and respect. For me, it’s not just my dad, it’s old friends, too, or new friends that have, for some reason or another, vaulted themselves into monumental respect in a short time. It’s even people that I hear my parents speaking of highly. 🙂


    1. For me, our move made our relationship stronger. He suddenly realised that he would have to make more effort. We don’t see a lot of each other but when we do, I value it so much more and I’m more relaxed with him.


  3. I can totally understand this post. I moved 18 hours drive away from the Gold Coast to Canberra and it’s been WONDERFUL! The parents have visited once each (separately) and mum is no trouble, but dad is hard work! I instructed the husband to mute the telly when the ads are on, to not stand with the fridge door open and to not mention the cost of the new trailer.

    My dad and his dad came here together to paint the house for us. For which we could not thank them enough. It was actually the best visit I’ve had with my father for a long time, considering the last two times I arrived on the Gold Coast I wanted to turn around and get back onto that bloody plane within five minutes of my arrival.

    I was amazed that dad and I didn’t have an argument the entire time he was here.I did, however, bite my tongue when he told me how to arrange the forks in the cutlery drawer (the tines towards the back so you don’t stab your fingers on them, Yvette. Your mother has stabbed her hands on them before so now that’s how we store them.)

    Anyway, it’s always a big debate as to how much father knows about what goes on in our lives. We have to remember to not tell ANYONE things we don’t want other family members to know. It’s a bit like a game of Chinese Whispers… or living in a small town or something.

    I found out once that my dad has an operation because I had been talking to my husband who talked to his dad who talked to my mum who said my dad was having an operation. I rang mum and straight away said “Mum! Dad had an operation! When were you going to tell me?” to which she replied… “he’s fine”.

    But back on topic, yes, my dad does not know I have a tattoo…. as he would not approve. So he will never know. Mum, however, was at the tattoo parlour with me and my sister when we got them done (we got identical ones – you know, sisters and all).


    1. Love that bit about the tattoo. I was panicked about Dad seeing Kurt’s nose ring and then as if by magic he lost it, about a week before he came out. I know that if Dad had picked holes in the kids, I would have jumped to their defence like a lioness, but he didn’t. There were a few comments about Kurt initially but the longer they stayed, they more he understood what we were dealing with and he saw the good side to Kurt, rather than just hearing about the bad.


      1. Really pleased to hear how well your Dad reacted to Kurt. Major milestone I think. Now that Mum has gone, I can finally think about my tattoo. When I had my ears pierced at 30, on doctor’s orders because of continual infections from sweating clip-on earrings, my mother sniffed and said why didn’t a go completely New Guinea Native and have one in my nose. Once Mum reached 95, I figured I’d probably have to order the tattoo post mortem. But, now that I think about it, I’m conflicted. I’m probably too damned old.


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