What NOT to do as a Parent.


“If you move in with him, consider yourself disowned. We’ll have nothing more to do with you.”

Sounds like something out of a soap opera. Or a crappy romance novel. But it isn’t.

Victor and I met and fell in love while I was still in college. A summer romance turned into something much deeper. Sure, falling in love wasn’t in my plans, but that’s how love works, especially young love. A few months after I graduated from college, Victor asked me to marry him, and I said yes. Mom and Dad were not happy with this, but they attempted to show a brave face.

But then things got real. Victor and I decided that I would move up to San Francisco from Costa Mesa, live with him and his roommates in their apartment until we got our own, and then get married once we were settled in. We were both excited about starting our lives together, and since he was still in college at San Francisco State, it seemed like the right place for us to be. I’d already graduated and was at a crossroads: I wanted to go to the Monterey Institute and study spontaneous interpretation so I could be a translator at the UN. But I wasn’t one hundred percent sure that that was what I wanted to do. So it could wait.

I was incredibly nervous the day I decided to let Mom and Dad know. Victor and I had been planning the move for a while, but I didn’t want to tell them until the last minute because I didn’t want them to try to change my mind.

So, on a Friday afternoon, I walked into mom’s office at the hospital — well, outer office, because she was the assistant to the VP. I knew we’d be leaving soon, so this was the only time I could do it.

“Mom,” I said, “I wanted to let you know that I’m moving to San Francisco. I’m really excited and Victor needs to finish school and I can get a job up there while I decide what I want to do and then we’ll get married and it will be great…”

“No, you’re not,” she said. “What happened to your plans? We’re so disappointed.” 

“I can still go back to school later,” I said. “But right now, Victor and I want to start our life and get settled before the wedding.”

“Well, if you’re going to live in sin, then we can’t condone it. Period. And there’s no changing my mind,” she said.

“Dad will be okay with it,” I said, “so why can’t you?”

“Your father will agree with me,” she said. “We’re united on this. If you move to San Francisco and live with him, consider yourself disowned. We won’t speak with you or help you. You’re on your own.”

“Are you kidding me?” I didn’t expect this. Upset, sure. But cutting off all ties? I never imagined she’d do that. Then again, she was never the loving type. But honestly, I couldn’t believe this was coming out of her mouth. I started to cry.

“Save your tears. They’re not going to work on me,” she said.

“Mom, I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m doing this,” I said. I figured she’d come around eventually. After all, I’d been a near-perfect child, got fantastic grades all through school, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCLA. She’d have to support my decision. After all, she was my mother.

But she didn’t support it. And neither did my dad. To this day, I believe he regretted that. But he’d never fight her on stuff like that. And I can’t ask him because he’s dead.

Despite the cold shoulder from my parents — or maybe a little bit because of it — I left for San Francisco with Victor the following week. And the threat of disownment became reality. I didn’t speak to my parents from that point on. They didn’t come to our wedding — so my best friend’s parents came instead because they didn’t want me to be without family.

I didn’t talk to my mom or dad for two years. Not a call, not a card, nothing. I was certainly not going to reach out to them since they’d disowned me and all. And they moved to Florida shortly after I got married, which made it easier, I guess. Out of sight, out of mind — whether I wanted it or not.

But that time of my life was rough. I was 24, for fuck’s sake. I was just starting out in life. I could have used some guidance. I had none.

So, I got to work as a secretary at a high-end department store. I made some great friends. And soon, I moved on to being an administrative assistant in the financial district.

And my marriage fell apart.

Victor was controlling, verbally abusive, and generally not very nice. So yeah, my parents had had reason to be concerned. But I couldn’t reach out and let them know that I was hurting. They were no longer a safe place for me.

When Victor and I finally split up — after two years of a rough marriage — I decided it was time to call mom. After all, she’d be happy I’d screwed up my life. And I could actually talk to her because I wasn’t with him anymore.

So I called. And she picked up. “Mom?” I said. “My marriage is over. We’re getting divorced. I figured you’d be happy about that.”

“No, I’m not happy,” she said. “But I’m glad to speak to you.”

Why I didn’t hang up right there, I’ll never know. Instead, I started to cry, and she listened as I poured my heart out. Of course, I didn’t tell her about my cocaine habit and affair with my married boss. That would open up a whole new can of worms, just as we were reconciling.

From that point on, my relationship with my parents was distant, to say the least. I didn’t want to visit them, and I didn’t talk to them much. I saw them on holidays, but that was about it.

One year later, I joined a cult. They made me feel welcome and appreciated at first. They were the family I was looking for. And they seemed to have all the answers. So, I spent the next 18 years of my life being used, disrespected, sleep-deprived, and controlled. And no, I don’t blame my parents for this. It’s just an interesting turn of events.

I’m not a parent, so I can’t imagine how rough it is to see your kid doing something that you don’t agree with. But if I could say anything to you, if you’re a parent, please keep loving your child no matter what crazy things they might say or do. They need you.

As a note, I did reconnect with my parents when I escaped from Scientology. And they helped me enormously, in many ways. But unfortunately, the damage had been done. And we never cleared it up because my mother is infamously unwilling to speak about emotional issues.

My mom is still with us. And sometimes, I feel guilty about not calling her more often or visiting her since she lives a few miles away. But honestly, I’m still processing all of this. I thought I had forgiven her. But it seems I have more work to do.

I can say this: I’m fine with where things are right now. I don’t have to have a loving mother who apologizes for what she did (because she never will). I can move past that.

It’s just sad that I have to.

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