Monday, September 8, 2008

Friends vs Parents

Recently at Paul's ministry board meeting, a board member asked our family members who were there to gather so she could take a picture. This picture was taken August 16. Front row: Melody (our daughter), yours truly, Paul, Cherri (our daughter). Back row l to r: Tony (Mel's husband), Wade (our son), Rachelle (Wade's wife), Kelly (Brett's wife), and Brett (our son). Mike (Cherri's husband) is not in the picture. He was with his mom in an unscheduled call for help she needed from him.

This picture is priceless to me as it represents people I love very much. It also prompted me to write another post regarding adult children and our relationship to them.

Early on when our children started marrying and establishing homes of their own, we began to experience something that was different for us. It didn't seem right to keep advising and treating our children as children and not as adults. It was awhile in coming, but we finally did get there. 

Paul and I talked about it and realized our "parenting" days were over and had been for some time. We had done what we could, we had made many mistakes, we had done some things right, but all things considered, the time for that opportunity was over. We now wanted to be "friends" with our adult children and treat them as such, and not do the "parenting" tasks or talk any more. 

So as much as we could, we then began treating our adult children as our adult friends. We didn't start out that way, especially I didn't. I was "Miss Advice-Giver." I knew how to do it all, and I was still very much in that mode. I gradually quit just giving advice and began waiting to be asked, but I was still quick-on-the-trigger with what should be done. I was going through many changes in my own life, one of which included attending a listening seminar where I learned a wonderful truth: "Don't should on people." I was such a you should person, that was a real change-point in my life. I also learned that listening was a learned relational skill that I needed to learn, to practice, and to incorporate into all my relationships. What a challenge!

Today, I think I can honestly say to and about all those other people in the above picture, these are all my adult friends. I love them very much and enjoy their friendship. 

A serendipity of this is that I, the Mom, have had such a release of feeling responsible. I can truly enjoy the relationships, and I do.

Of course, we've had some criticism. Other parents and grandparents tell us and our friend-children that once a parent, always a parent. We agree with the distinction that we will always be our children's mother and father. We love that and are so glad that doesn't change. We view parenting as a role and responsibility. All we're saying is that parenting ends when the child leaves the parent's home. Relationships continue and roles change. 

We love it and highly recommend this way of life. Just sharing...


The Lenoxes said...

I'm so grateful for the way you and Dad have transitioned from parents to friends! As I talk with many of my friends I realize that it is a rare thing that my parents don't give me advice unless I ask (and sometimes I have to ask several times! LOL). I have friends my age who are dealing with parents who are not just giving advice, but truly still trying to control their lives. Unbelievable!

I AM GRATEFUL FOR YOU AND DAD!! God has given us 4 children a precious gift. You have modeled for us how it's to be done. Thank you! Love you much.


BTW--we're one good-looking family! :)

Mary Burleson said...

It's one thing for me to write/say what I said. It could be just theory or a good talking game. It's another thing for you to write and verify that being friends is actually working for us in our family. Thanks for taking the time to read and then leave a comment.

BTW, I agree. Good-looking!

MajesticSix said...

Well, I wasn't around for the beginning of your "parenting" role, but I can honestly say that I have great admiration for you and Paul. I constantly tell people how blessed I am to be in this family and have you both as in-laws. I won't speak for my husband, but I do know that he has so much respect for both of you.

With 4 children of our own, we find ourselves doing the same with the older two. And I will have to say, it feels so much better being in this role as a parent/friend. You are absolutely correct, at this point in their lives - they are adults. If I didn't do a good job of parenting them by now, then we're all in trouble :) I just the other day said those very words to one of our older don't need me to "parent" you at this point in your life, but I will be happy to listen, love & support you. I think they really appreciated that from me.

Thank you both for all you do. Not everyone can say they enjoy and/or look forward to family get-togethers, but we do!


Oh, ditto on the good-looking family! Of course we are a little partial :)