Wednesday, 6 May 2015


It must be really hard for a parent whose child develops views they simply can't understand or sympathise with, and who gradually severs all contact and wants nothing more to do with them.

Every parent must assume a life-long bond with their child, one that grows increasingly close and rewarding, and when instead that bond disintegrates, it must be immensely painful. Even more so if the child dies.

I thought of that when I was reading about Christianne Boudreau, the Canadian woman whose son Damian became a Muslim, joined Islamic State and died in Syria at the age of 22.

How does she come to terms with what became of him? How does she cope with such a profound loss?

One thing she does is to remember him as he used to be, before his conversion, before the estrangement. "To me he was a young man who was compassionate, caring, loving and protective. That was the boy I knew. I'll always remember him as that. Not for what everyone makes him out to be."

She also supports organisations that are working with families to stop a loved one embracing fundamentalism.

But it's a common dilemma for parents. I've read of wealthy couples whose child disowns them, scornful of their affluent lifestyles and shallow values. Or stiff and starchy, penny-pinching couples shunned by a child who prefers a more spontaneous, freewheeling way of life. Or a new step-parent rejected by a child who's loyal to their original parent and sees the newcomer as an unworthy chancer.

Once a gulf like that develops, it's very hard to bridge it again. Too often, both sides become set in their ways and the stand-off continues indefinitely. They say blood is thicker than water, but that's nonsense. Families can break as easily as friendships. And the fracture can cause unbelievable pain.

Pic: Christianne Boudreau


Jenny Woolf said...

You cannot make rules about peoples personalities. Parents can play a role in how their children turn out but they are not responsible for them once they reach their late teens. This poor lady's son was 22 years old, a grown up and he chose to be in a place where he could die in defence of something as brutish as Islamic State. Very tough to face that your child will make those kind of evil choices and sad because many people choose stupid things at that age and they usually grow out of it.

I am even more sorry for those who have lost their families in terrible ways at the hands of IS.

Nick said...

Jenny: As you say, people commonly make stupid choices at that age, and if he had lived he might have gone in a very different direction.

Indeed, the fate of those unlucky enough to get in the way of IS is often gruesome and macabre in the extreme. That an organisation like this can exist in 2015 is shocking.

Bijoux said...

Stories like this are so sad. I'm sure that there is also guilt on the part of the parent, wondering what they did or didn't do to prevent these actions.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Exactly. She probably tortures herself with such questions, even if his choices were not motivated by her in any way.

Mike said...

It is also really, really hard for the child when the estrangement results from the actions of the parents. My mom left my sister and me with her parents, my grandparents, in Nebraska when I was 10. My parents had been divorced for years and my grandmother convinced my dad that she had legal custody -- she didn't. Then, when I was 12, my dad took his second family to California -- and I didn't see him for 10 years and, after that one time, for another 22 years. There is much, much more to the story than these bare facts. Suffice it to say that it still hurts if I think about it.

Nick said...

Mike: Very true about the actions of the parents. And a very hurtful personal story. I didn't see my own father for around 20 years, because he refused to accept me for what I was and wanted me to be a carbon-copy of himself.

John Gray said...

I guess you never stop loving
But you difinately stop liking

Dislike will mask everything

Nick said...

John: too true - dislike masks everything.

Keith Smith said...

When my wife divorced me because she met another man, my daughter who had always been close to me, came down on her mothers side and drifted away from me. When she was married I naturally gave her away, being her real father, but at the reception she addressed my ex-wife's current man as "Dad". That hurt, it really did.

That was ten years ago. Now she condescends to visit me twice a year, and that also upsets me more than she realises.

Nick said...

Keith: Your daughter seeing someone else as her "Dad" must have been very hurtful. As I said, families can break as easily as friendships, and sad to say it's often a permanent break.

Grannymar said...

Nick, the most caring and loving parents can give their all to nurture and teach their children by example, but all it takes is one bad egg in a teenager's peer group to undo all the good from the formative years. This may lead to estrangment. Similarly, parents who try to force their own expectations on their offspring, or find they themselves are struggling with marriage and selfishly wash their dirty linen in front of the children, can drive the young folk away. Being a parent can be as difficult a journey as being a teenager in the throes of puberty.

Nick said...

Grannymar: You're right, one unfortunate influence can undo even the best possible parenting. And yes, airing all your relationship problems and conflicts in front of your kids is pretty dumb.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'd really struggle with one of my children embracing something I found morally appalling (like the Islamic State), but I'd never stop loving them. And if they estranged themselves from me, I'd do anything in my power to fix it. But there are times when the gulf is too great. What a heartache.

Nick said...

Agent: It must be shattering if you've done your utmost to restore the connection with your child, but no matter what you do, still there's an unbridgeable chasm between you.

Wisewebwoman said...

My younger daughter is estranged from her entire family and it hurts every single day.

It's really hard to understand unless you've been there.

I've had to come to terms with the fact she's mentally ill as nothing else makes sense.

The effect on her family is profound.


Wisewebwoman said...

Your turn for complicated capchas Nick. Those picture thingies came up and it's really hard to verify as it keeps slipping below the tide :)


Nick said...

www: Yes, I know how distressed you are about your estranged daughter. It must be a continual nagging agony. If she's mentally ill, I hope she's getting some kind of help, but it doesn't sound like it.

Sorry about the picture captcha screw-up. I've googled it but can't find anything relevant. I think all you can do is save the comment, exit my blog and then go back in and hopefully you'll get words or letters instead.

Liz Hinds said...

Poor woman. So tragic.

All we can do with our children is our best - and pray in my case. But sometimes we are helpless.

Nick said...

Liz: You're right, parents can only do their best and hope that all the things beyond their control will work out okay. But as Grannymar says, it only takes one bad influence to undo all that parental effort.