That All Too Brief Time When You and Your Parents Are Friends

My parents were 19 years old when I was born which makes them much younger than most of my friends’ parents.  As young as they were, they were very old fashioned when it came to raising children and they never tried to be friends with me and my brother when we were growing up. As a teenager, I often lamented about this and was envious of my friends who seemed to have more of a friendship than a parent/child relationship with their parents. My mom told me many, many times when I was young that she was my mom, not my friend which hurt my feelings as a kid.

I know better now, with the benefit of experience. In fact, when I reflect on my own kids I find that my worst parenting mistakes often come when I’m trying to be a friend instead of a mom. That is not to say that I don’t hope for friendship in the future; I actually think (hope!) I’ll be great friends with my son and daughter when they’re adults. So while I’m knee deep in the jungle that is parenting teenagers, and waiting for that future friendship to begin, I have moved on to a great friendship with my own parents.

While we have the usual bumps in our relationship, we have moved beyond them for the most part. Many of you many have lost your parents at a young age, some of you have relationships that are too difficult emotionally to continue, some of you have hurt that is too deep to reconcile, and so can’t get to the point of true friendship with your parents. Because my parents and I don’t have that kind of baggage, we have been able to become friends and I know that that makes me very lucky.

They came to visit this weekend and it was a blast. You know you’re in a new phase of your relationship when you spend 4 days drinking and laughing, playing games and having deep conversations. Now that I’m in what I guess is early mid-life, and my parents are in late-midlife we have a lot to talk about and we’re more like peers. After a particularly relaxing day today, I was thinking to myself how precious this time really is.

There is only a small amount of time when your mom can ask what you’re reading, have you answer 50 Shades of Grey, and have her answer, “Ooh, how is it? I’ve been dying to start reading that one!” There is only a small amount of time when your husband and dad can talk about the challenges of raising a family over golf, drinks and cigars like buddies.

Eventually, our relationship will change again, and the roles of childhood will reverse. I will be watching out for them, acting as a protector, or advocate, perhaps I’ll turn into the caregiver. But for now, during this fantastic time, I will relish having my parents as my friends.

6 thoughts on “That All Too Brief Time When You and Your Parents Are Friends

  1. It is true. I have two little ones myself, and my wife and I have the same aspirations of becoming good friends with them in the future. However, as parents, we are called to be managers or overseers of their well being first and foremost while transitioning toward friendship.

    I believe every parent is required to become friends with their children at some point in their relationship. The all-important question is when should it happen. If you are friends too early with your children, you lose all respect as parents when it comes to disciplining when it matter the most. However, if you are just authority figures, you lose all intimacy as parents with your children. Our children will know about us but not KNOW us. Friendship requires intimacy and openness (exposing weaknesses, flaws and mistakes), which many parents are afraid to take. It is hard for many parents to share with their children that they were only ‘human’ not always a super hero.

    I am glad that you have that relationship with your parents. Yes, you have what many adult children desire to have with their parents. May you be able to keep that bond intact.


  2. Leslie Green says:

    Kristen, as I was reading your post, I was surprised that I didn’t find myself getting jealous of the relationship you have with your parents. Since my relationship with my parents (read: MOM) has been QUITE up and down over the years, I’m typically envious of those who have ‘made it’ to that happy place.
    I found myself smiling as I pictured you sitting with them, sipping wine, discussing meaningful topics. It was heart warming actually.
    I’m very happy for you! And for them, too — to have a daughter they cherish being with so much.
    Very well written!

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