Ten years ago, our firstborn daughter snuggled her newborn into that warm crook between her shoulder and neck, tilting her head toward the baby’s crown. She gently patted her daughter’s back and whispered, “One day we’ll be best friends but for now I’m your mama.”
This wise, grown woman was now bending her heart into mothering her own child. Meanwhile, as she’s transitioned into motherhood, my daughter and I are transitioning to a new relationship – that of a friend.
How do we navigate the journey from parent to friend? We’ll always be a parent, but in adulthood, we can become friends. What is that status called? Are we priends? Frarents?
People will tell a new mom how awful teething is but will say, “Just wait until they become teenagers”. For me, the most challenging phase has been parenting adult children and learning to be friends.
We don’t live in the same town with our grown children but we are connected by text, FaceTime, and email. We may not connect every week but those quick communications are made easier by technology and living in the same time zone.
Our children don’t need our advice or financial support. They have married good people and love each other and their families well. I’m proud of them, but also had to deal with the feeling that a part of my mission has been completed. Of course, that’s not the case. We’re a family, and they’ve faced challenges, just as my husband I did as we were raising them. An injury keeps one out of work for weeks, or a job change comes with a move farther away from home. Uncertainty looms for a spouse as her company reorganizes and another meets a disappointment with unexpected change at her job. As I follow the ups and downs in my adult children’s lives, I have struggled with feeling helpless. When they were younger, I could comfort them after a lost volleyball game or help with a last-minute science project. But there’s nothing I can do to help them when they face grown-up trials.
We went through a particularly difficult time after our younger one graduated high school. I remember standing in the aisle at the Christian bookstore scanning the shelves in the “Family” section looking for guidance. I felt like screaming, “I’ve read all these damn books and it didn’t help!” In spite of the challenges and tough decisions, our love for him was clear. He saw our love was unconditional. We continued to believe in him. Our faith fueled our hope and saw us through. Today he’s the one who most enjoys times we can all be together.
Today, I revel in the friendship I share with our adult children. Conversations on topics where we share similar interests in music or share memories of family times are easy and comfortable between us. We laugh and genuinely enjoy being together.
But these new relationships are not friction-free. There are times when I squirm a bit inside at the some of the adult decisions they make that seem foreign to how we raised them. Even though I treasure our friendship, inside, I am still a parent. I worry. I remind myself our friendship is more important. I have to refuse to give in to fear.
Our first-born daughter is in the midst of parenting her now-ten year old. As I listened to her weighing the options of deciding whether she wants to push her daughter to put on a sweater on a chilly day, or choosing to skip this particular battle so they can get out the door in time, I remembered my own years filled with everyday parenting decisions. I pray that her long-ago words will be true in her relationship with her little girl – she’s a parent now, but will one day be her daughter’s friend as well. The process of becoming learning to be friends with my adult children has taught me to be more observer and supporter. I’m no longer responsible for making the plans and scheduling their lives.
As we learn to adapt to this new season in our lives as a family, we are seizing the moments together to focus on strengthening our friendship. I’m loving this part of the journey.
This post first appeared on Perennial Gen blog.
Linking up with Holley Gerth and Coffee for Your Heart.