At each stage of our lives, our parents seem to change. When I was a kid, my mom was the best friend who I always wanted to chaperone my field trips. My dad was the big teddy bear who carried me to bed when I fell asleep in the car. As a teenager, my mom was out to ruin my life and my dad was the world’s most frustrating math tutor. In college, Mom taught me how to be the best version of myself, Dad taught me not to take life too seriously.
Clearly I was the one who was changing. My parents were always the same people just trying to figure out how best to raise another person. Now that I have joined them in adulthood, I’ve had to adapt my relationship once again with the people I’ve known my entire life. I’ve learned how to live with and love my parents as fellow adults who are done raising other people and get to focus on themselves for the first time in a while. Turns out, those two are pretty damn cool. I bet your parents are, too, if you finally get to know them.
What’s your dad’s favorite food? What kind of music does your mom like? What are they passionate about? Ask your parents questions, get to know them as humans in their own right, not just two people destined to give you life. The dinner table is the perfect opportunity for this. Think of it like a first date. Ask them to tell you stories about their childhood (my dad smoked weed and played guitar, my mom rode horses and dated quarterbacks), ask them where they want to travel, how they met, why they had kids. Imagine them in a different context, in a time before you existed, and you can get to know them like you’ve never known them before.
Participate in their Hobbies
I can’t play guitar as well as my dad, or turn seeds into magic beanstalks like my mom, but I can participate in their favorite hobbies by showing support. We encourage after-dinner “shows” put on by my dad- he’ll share whatever Tom Petty tune he’s learning at the time and we will dutifully dance along. I go to garden nurseries with my mom and patiently observe as she admires Lilies and gushes about Holly. I ooh and aah whenever she points out the little red poppies that appear at the beginning of the summer next to our driveway. Learn what your parents love to do and encourage that hobby however you can; they would do the same for you.
Take them Out
There is nothing more satisfying than whisking the check away from your father at the end of a meal. I’ve got this, I’ll say as he protests, then hand my credit card to the waiter without looking at the final bill. Your dinner doesn’t have to be expensive; I’ve taken my parents out to Irish dive-bars where the bill was under $50 and I’ve taken them to fancy Portuguese restaurants for $50 a person. Taking your parents out gets them to see you as an adult, too, and it balances the power dynamic between the three of you. Just as it’s important for you to see them as independent people, they still might have a hard time accepting that you’re all grown up. Plus, it’s always fun to watch Mom get drunk.
Acknowledge & Accept their Flaws
Now that you and your parents are the three best friends that anybody could have, you have to accept that they are not perfect. Just like your friends from college, they do or say things occasionally that might piss you off, make you sad, or even disappointed. But you have to let them fuck up. Your parents are allowed to get angry and yell a little too loudly at you in a moment of passion, they’re allowed to forget to turn the rice cooker on (AGAIN) and leave a key component of dinner missing, they’re allowed to be left alone if they just had a bad day at work. Imagine if your parents held you to as high of a standard as you held them. Now that you’re all close friends, you have to be as forgiving as you are loving. Learn what they love to do, take them out for a nice meal, and hold your tongue when dad orders fried calamari (AGAIN!).