The only time Taylor has ever felt her mother withheld information from her was when doctors found a lump in Vernona’s breast last year.
Vernona admitted she was trying to protect her three children—to shield them from the burden of worry, but also to prevent them from discovering how scared she was herself. “You don’t want your kids to be worried about you, so there’s a temptation not to tell or to give limited information,” Vernona said.
Adult millennial children report feeling increasingly out of touch with their parents when it comes to important family issues. Major health diagnoses go unshared, news of a loved one’s passing is belated, money problems are brushed under the rug. For families like the Dismukes, the omission is intended to protect children from pain, but adult kids are often left angry or despondent, fearing they’re a low-ranking member on the need-to-know list amid a family crisis.
[F]requently calling and visiting parents might not be enough for parents who are determined to keep their kids in the dark. Jessica Greenhalgh, a 36-year-old communications consultant in Boston, suspects her parents don’t tell her important news about their health because they believe it isn’t her business. When her mother was diagnosed with leukemia, she didn’t find out until about a month later; she learned of her grandmother’s passing via a voicemail. Two days after Greenhalgh’s father tested positive for COVID-19 this winter, she got a call from her mom mentioning they didn’t want to bother her with the news. She then enlisted the help of a neighbor and a family friend to keep tabs on her parents since she didn’t trust them to tell her if her dad might need to be hospitalized.
Christopher Adams, 54, the Fort Lauderdale-based founder of aquarium care website Modest Fish, said he doesn’t plan on telling his kids about upcoming surgeries on his wrists so they don’t put their lives on hold to care for him as he recovers. He and his wife also didn’t inform their children when their grandfather was hospitalized with Covid-19 last year.
When Nonna’s memory fails her, she returns to familiar gestures. On a weekend afternoon in winter 2021, she offers me a piece of hard licorice...