When Your Parents Stalk You
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Tobias Leeger.
By Eleanor Skelton, HA Editorial Board
Stalking is usually applied to a romantic relationship gone bad.
This is why people hesitate to believe me when I say I’ve been stalked by my parents.
After I moved out, my parents showed up unannounced at work or on campus, asking me to reconsider and go to Bob Jones University. The first time it happened, I was walking down the sidewalk to visit a new church since I had no car. A car drove up behind me honking, my family rolled down the windows, shouting, “Just remember, Bob Jones is still available!”
They often bring gifts: sandwiches, keychains, homemade soup. They seem to think this proves they are good parents. They say this is how they show me they love me. The professor who was my supervisor when I tutored on campus saw them do this. He said their behavior was abnormal, intended to wear me down and make me give in.
I’m not the only one. Other homeschool alum have had parents drop off identifying documents at work without asking, another told me her mom found her between classes and gave her a gift card and sent a sheet and towel to her apartment. She hadn’t told her mom her class schedule or her address.
I don’t know what their motivation is.
Maybe it’s guilt. Maybe they think I’ll be brought back into the fold with organic baked goods.
This is how my parents demonstrate that they love me.
My first apartment was unfortunately near the church that shunned me. My parents drove by often to look for my car, texting me “did you sleep at your apartment last night?” I explained my roommate and her boyfriend invited me for a movie night and I slept there. My mom told me it was inappropriate to sleep at a single guy’s place. Never mind that we had a couple of drinks during the movie and I wasn’t safe to drive.
Being honest and open about my decisions only provoked criticism. And they wondered why I stopped telling them things.
In summer 2013, my dad parked outside the nearest stop sign when he knew I would get off work. When I drove by, he jumped out in front of my car so I had to stop. He wanted to change the air filter in my car. He didn’t understand I was startled and angry, that I was afraid I could have hit him.
My parents barged into the middle of a staff meeting for the student newspaper in fall 2013, handing me a parking permit. My dad didn’t wait for me to buy one myself.
I told them I thought their actions were inappropriate in group counseling.
I wrote, “If anyone else who I wasn’t related to followed me around the way you guys do (leaving me random sermon CDs in my bicycle bag when I’m in class, etc), it would be considered really creepy and stalking. Think about it.”
My mom replied, “I do not think it is creepy if we are coming by UCCS from a doctor’s appt., and leave a gift for you in your bicycle sidebag. Sorry you took it that way. We are not checking up on you.”
Last October, my dad showed up at my apartment around 7:30 am, calling me over and over during an exam. He was upset that I didn’t answer right away. He wanted to trade out cars because he was afraid I wouldn’t get maintenance done, even though I’d asked him to let me learn how to take care of my car myself.
And they showed up at my work again last weekend, asked a coworker on his smoke break to bring me a package.
They don’t understand acting like this makes me feel incapacitated.
Fundamentalism doesn’t teach consent, it teaches you to respect authority. Control is normal, so you should be grateful for what they do, even if they don’t respect your wishes.
I don’t feel like an adult when my parents do this. I start to feel like a powerless small child whose parents are always going to check up on her, like all my independence has been taken away from me.
They think this is how to show me that they love me, but I just feel the walls close in.
And I don’t think this is love.