Q: My daughter-in-law (after threatening to do so and being told that it would upset me) hung a motorcycle ornament on my Christmas tree (angels). My son asked if I liked the “joke”. I said no. He got mad, said I couldn’t take a joke, stormed out, etc.
A: Seems this is a matter of lifestyle, in a lot of different ways. They are goading you into being disapproving of them.
If they are rather young, this is just part of being a teenager and young adult. Kids need to separate themselves from their parents’ values and make decisions on their own. In families that are more controlling, this can be very difficult – so they need to take stronger and stronger measures to “shock” their parents to prove that they are really on their own and making their own decisions. (They are trying to prove this to themselves, not to you…. So they are the ones with the big doubts about it, regardless of what you think about whether you are letting go or not…)
If they aren’t so young, they need to grow up emotionally. You might check out the topic at my site about this: “Growing Up Emotionally” to understand their situation better. If they drink heavily or use drugs, this can prolong their adolescence indefinitely. And if this is the situation, you may need to protect yourself from them by insisting that they respect your property (the tree) and, if necessary, by not even spending time with them.
Try to let go of them as completely as you can, while still enjoying their company as often or as seldom as you like – based on how they treat you.