I grew up with two (much) older brothers. There was such a big age difference between us (9 and 12 years), that throughout much of my childhood they were already adults. As I struggled through braces, acne, and general teen angst, they were getting jobs and buying houses. They were always an entire step ahead of me; part of a “grownup club,” and I had no idea how to be admitted.
This age difference always had its advantages. My brothers’ struggles and choices created a roadmap for my life. I could use what had/hadn’t worked for them as my guide. They knew it all.
When I was about 15, I asked them about “being an adult.” I wanted to know the secrets of the “grownup club” – I wanted in. And, in that moment, my brothers told me something that I will never forget: Being an adult is all about “mommy and daddy.” They told me that paying taxes or being old enough to order a drink doesn’t make you a grown up. There are so many adults, in fact, that aren’t actually grown ups. The moment happens when you begin to see your parents as human-beings.
This was totally revolutionary for me. And something that, as a 15-year-old, was difficult to comprehend. At that age, my parents were barriers to my independence. All I wanted was “freedom.” I just couldn’t see my parents as anything BUT parents.
But, slowly, I grew out of my teens. As I needed less parenting, I gained the ability to recognize my parents for who they truly where: humans. They’re vulnerable. They try their best and make mistakes. They hurt and they grow. They are as much a person as I am; with fears, aspirations, failures, and accomplishments. Once I came to this realization, I suddenly became an active member of the “grownup club.”
Being an adult is all about mommy and daddy.
This was a difficult transition, and not something that I ever consciously did. But, I will say that once I got there, my relationship with my parents got so much stronger. I could speak to them on equal footing, and love them beyond who they are to me as parents; as people with their own personalities.
While nobody can “make” this transition happen for you, there are some key ways you can begin to help yourself get there. Here’s some advice joining the “grownup club”:
Have a conversation with them, about them.
As I get older, I’m shocked at how few of my peers really know their parents. Start asking them some basic facts about their youth. Then when you get the ball rolling, really dive in. Ask about their first heartbreak, their dreams or insecurities. Ask about what they wish they could tell their younger selves. Understanding is in the details!
Recognize that they aren’t perfect.
My parents are super amazing people. They raised me to be a good person. But were they perfect parents 100% of the time? No way… that would be impossible. They are people, and people make mistakes. You wouldn’t want your parents to hold you to an impossible standard, so we have to do the same for them. Cut ‘em some slack!
Know that they don’t really have all the answers.
There isn’t a rule-book for life, so it’s okay for your parents to be wrong. They can give great advice, but it’s healthy to know that they might not always have the right answer. They’re figuring it out as they go along, just like you are!