Being friends with your parents as adults

I’m fortunate enough to have my parents still in my life and to have a close relationship with them both. Today we did a socially distanced pseudo-thanksgiving (read: chic-fil-a at picnic tables) and we got to talking about how their parenting shaped my life as an adult. The talk was enriching and educating.

One of the things my mom made a point of as we (my sister and I) were growing up was that she was our mom, not our friend. While this sounds harsh it is very healthy. She reminisced on a family member who would interact with her children on “peer level” and how that was off-putting to my mom. In contrast, my mom had a clear role as us kids were growing up and she understood that. That role was “mom” not “best friend”. This paid off because now, decades later, we are able to be friends as adults.

My dad was equally part of our lives as kids. Some of my fond memories with him are conversations at our kitchen table about things I was going through. He was a source of solid wisdom. Much like a mountain that welcomes you to sit in its shadow and listens to your concerns without judgement or derision. One of the best parenting frameworks my Dad instilled was that as we got older we were given much freedom to make our own decisions and that no decision was a “bad” one. Rather, decisions would have different levels of natural consequences. And my parents let us feel those consequences when they happened, yet they never let us get in over our heads.

Both reiterated the importance that they put on treating us as little future adults. The understood we were people who were going to grow up to be adults in our own rights. We were treated with respect and dignity and given chances to learn, and guided when we made mistakes. I know no parents are perfect, but mine must have done something right because in a time when I get to choose who I spend my time with I always try and make my parents a priority.

Your story with your parents may be different. That is okay. While my parents are great, they’ll be the first to say that they aren’t perfect.

However, if you still have your parents in your life I hope that you can make time to make connections (if it is safe and healthy to do so) with them this week. Give them a call or FaceTime. Ask what they remember about raising you and ask what feel that they did well and maybe should have done different. These talks can be healing and deepening. If you are a parent yourself these talks can be invaluable as you lead your little ones on in their own journeys.