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45 hours and a few odd minutes until my parents land at National and my nightmare weekend begins.

My hunch is I've had parents longer than you have. I may even have been a parent longer than you've had them. And I backtracked through your posts to get some context.

It seems to me that you know what you really want from them: their acceptance (if not approval) of your choice (which seems to be fencing, yes; MBA, no). Which is better for you? Damned if I know -- my guess, without knowing anything about foils, is that a fencer can get an MBA at 50 more easily than an MBA can become a fencer at the same age. So choice A doesn't necessarily eliminate choice B.

The more important issue is that, as you say, your parents can guilt you into anything. That might be true. If it is, at this stage of your life, it'll be hard to avoid that. When you stop being "guilted," they're likely to think they're just not guilting in the right way, and work at guilting at a higher level of skill.

Not (I'm hoping) because they enjoy the guilting, but because you're their child, and they hope the best for you. "Best" to them apparently doesn't include "best fencer you can be," and might include "best MBA student at the Falls Church School of Truck Driving."

So it may help in the short term to reframe: to consider their interest and suggestions as signs of their caring for you, and not necessarily as attempts to control your life. (They may actually be attempting to control, but your gracious smile and recollection of childhood memories of their caring may distract them. It's a weekend, you know, not a three-to-five sentence.)

And, you might let your weakness be your strength. "I just can't talk about whether to get an MBA now." Then, don't talk about it. "No, it's just too confusing for me. It's too large a decision for me to make right now."

When you were a child, your parents may have set limits for you. If you were lucky, those limits were clear, and were enforced, and helped you become an adolescent and now an adult.

The same applies here. Painful though it may be, you need to make clear to them which aspects of your life are yours to decide. "I really do appreciate your concern for me. I want you to know I am happy with what I'm doing."

Of course, dreading every moment of the visit ain't good. Instead of giving them the list of stuff to do, take one of those evenings and do something with them.

How old are they? I can't think of many people over 40 who wouldn't be struck by the FDR memorial at night. Go to dinner somewhere nearby, and around sunset head over to that parking lot, so you enter the FDR at the point that's farthest from the Jefferson memorial.

It's not necessarily the memorial -- but maybe what FDR might mean to them. If they're not that old, take the suggestion and wrap it into something that would mean something to them: a tour of the National Cathedral. A stroll past the Vietnam wall. Or the Smithsonian photo exhibit on women in sports -- what does a female athlete look like? (She looks like herself.)

You have to accept your parents as they are, too. And you never know when they'll surprise you. With a nudge from me and a few of my siblings, my 83-year-old mother now makes her own greeting cards on the computer, and my 88-year-old dad reads three different newspapers online. He doesn't have a clue how that works, but he's up on the down-home news.
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