Growing a Friendship With My Adult Children
I felt lost and sometimes that I was drowning in a sea of confusion and conflict.
My parenting style had changed and grown over the years as my children matured, but while each transition was challenging, I felt pretty confident in how I was doing.
Then my children grew up and left home, building new, independent lives and I didn't know what to do anymore. I couldn't figure out my role in their lives.
I'm a mom. I fix things.
So I made a plan.
I set out to learn from other parents and adult children how to "parent" my adult kids. I was looking for tips and advice on what I needed to do to continue "parenting" them.
As in, parent, the verb.
Actions I needed to take, things I needed "to do" in this new stage of life with our adult kids.
Instead, my first big takeaway on this journey was this:
Adult kids don't want to "be parented."
Then what in the world am I supposed "to do?"
My worldview was rocked when one mom described my new stage of life like this:
We are forging an adult to adult friendship, more reflective of a marriage or a best friend.
I rejected that concept initially
Looking back through my notes, I didn't write much down from that interview. If I'm honest with myself, it's because what she said didn't fit with the information I thought I was looking for.
I discounted much of what she said that day because it didn't fit my model.
God kept working on me though... As I talked to more and more parents and then to adult children in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, I started to accept that my concept had been skewed.
While I will always be their parent because God chose me to give them life, as my children mature and build an independent life, I need to back off the "parent track" and embrace this new idea of simply being a best friend.
Here are some thoughts parents shared with me as we talked...
"We want to be best friends with them and have an adult to adult relationship."
"Our biggest desire is to have a closeness where they can come to us for anything and know that we will not over-react, but listen well."
"We want a close relationship where we can communicate and be involved in each other's lives."
"We hope that despite our differences we can love one another. We hope they feel our love is sincere and genuine."
"We love to spend time together, and we have fun together. It is growing into more and more of a peer relationship."
"We want to be involved in their lives in a way that makes sense, then sit back to watch them and enjoy them and our grandchildren."
"We want them to know we love them and support them even if we might not agree with decisions they make."
The answers I got back from adult children confirmed that they appreciated having parents who are becoming friends...they don't want to be "parented" anymore...
"Our dynamic has grown from me seeking their approval to us becoming partners, teammates..."
"My mom has become more of a peer, but when I have a bad day and want comfort, I want to talk to my mom."
"I love that I can share openly with my parents what is going on in my life. I love that I don't feel judged by them but loved and supported. I love that we can have fun together and that we can enjoy my kids together."
"My parents are two of my very best friends. I have such unique relationships with both of them, but I think that what I love the most is a mutual trust...it is friendship in it's truest form."
"I would describe our current relationship as an advisor/friend relationship..."
"They feel like friends. They have thoughts but don't tell me what to do. We have jokes, play games and get and give advice. I really like that. I think it is special."
"...and some calls aren't about anything at all in the grand scheme of things, but that's what friends are for, and that's totally what my parents are to me...friends...among many other things!"
Reflecting on these responses inspired me to rethink things.
Building a great friendship is a worthy goal!
I hope Tom and I will always be a positive influence spiritually, financially and in every realm of life. I hope our kids know we are available if they need help or support in any way. But I know now that it's not so much what I do, but
who I am
with them that matters.
It's calmed my heart and changed our interactions to learn that simply enjoying a real friendship with them should be my focus.
Scriptures to ponder:
"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)
"One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24)