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.

What Makes Us Hide Our Needs?

This article isn’t political or activist in nature. It’s just another one of those serendipitous instances where I had a conversation with a friend which made me think long and hard and then got a different perspective from an unexpected source.

The situation that got me thinking was this. An acquaintance was at my house last week and we were chit chatting when she mentioned that she had been dealing with a significant medical diagnosis, one that had required surgery and was pretty scary. She hadn’t told anyone about it because she didn’t want anyone fussing over her or to feel obligated to do anything for her. She was my third such friend or acquaintance in the past year to do that. All three keeping their diagnoses secret because they didn’t want the attention or the pity or to rely on anyone else for help.

And I really, REALLY don’t understand that. I am lucky enough to have never had a debilitating or life-threatening illness, so I guess I don’t truly know what I would do in that situation, but isn’t one of the wonderful things about friendship that you know you’re not alone in the world and that you have someone you can share your thoughts and fears with and know that they will do what they can to help you through a hardship?

No Man is an Island...Shared joy is a double joy: shared sorrow is a half sorrow~Sweedish Proverb

I’m busy and overstretched, just like most moms. The responsibilities of work, kids, marriage, school, etc, etc often leave me overwhelmed and I don’t know how I could possibly get it all done. But I consider the opportunity to show a friend how much they mean to me a gift, not another burden. Whether that means a visit, a lunch to talk, or making a meal for their family… all seems like a small way to show the gratitude I feel for their friendship. Truthfully, I find it sad and a wee bit hurtful when a friend doesn’t give me that opportunity.

When my daughter was about a year old my grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He went through  a year of radiation treatments and generally felt awful all of the time. No one, except my grandmother, knew what he was going through and apparently the only joys in his life were babysitting my daughter and his weekly trips to Foxwoods Casino to play video poker. An intensely private man, he didn’t want his kids and grandkids to worry or fuss over him. I’m sure thought he was being selfless by bearing the burden of his illness alone, (forcing my grandmother to bear it alone is another story.) but I think what he did was incredibly selfish. He denied his family the chance to show him how much he meant to them and how much they loved him. He denied them the chance to try to give back to the man who had given so much to all of his family, and it felt like he didn’t trust us to handle his diagnosis in a way that would have been helpful to him. If he had died as a result of his cancer, we would never have gotten the chance to help him in that way.

At it was, he recovered from his prostate cancer, and I think when he saw the shock and hurt he’d caused by keeping this secret from his children, he was taken aback and then he was able to look at his decision from a new perspective. When it came to his many future illnesses and health issues he was never a complainer and while he always maintained his dignity and his spirit of independence, he was also more open to allowing his loved ones to demonstrate their love through actions.

James Taylor’s Shower the People is one of my all time favorites.

As I was mulling over these thoughts and how to best put them into an article I heard that unmistakable ping which means I have a new e-mail. One of the blogs I follow, The Grome Soapbox in an interesting mix of writers speaking on the subject of atheism. My favorite of the group, Larry, is funny and a bit irrevent without being cruel or demeaning. In one of Larry’s last posts he introduced me to a poetry blogger that you can find at, and I do highly recommend you check her out. Her poems are short, simple and amazingly powerful and here is the one that spoke to me on this subject. Read it slowly and carefully.

Don’t Be Silent

Cry out your pain.
Let others know your need.
Do not be stoic, silent–
lament, cry as a baby cries
and releases the milk in its
mother’s breasts. There are
helpers in the world waiting
to hear those in need. Bless
them by giving them an
opportunity to help you.

Let others know your need. Bless them by giving them an opportunity to help you.

I would love to hear different perspectives or affirmations of my thoughts here so please comment. If you like what I’ve written, like or share the blog today and don’t forget you can also like me on Facebook. Thank you for taking the time to read. Go show someone how much they mean to you.