Friday, 27 September 2013

making friends with our parents

I know one should never apologise, and never explain (who said that?), but I'm sorry I've been away for a while.  I've had computer issues, the lurgie, and I also got sucked into playing The Sims.  I love playing the Sims.

I think I was also avoiding writing this post.

As you may know, I've been writing a series of posts inspired by Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim, who has created a list of 50 things to blog about.  Number 12 on that list is a how-to on something you know nothing about.  For some reason I decided that this would be on how to make friends with your parents.  But then it was just too hard.  How can I do this without causing offence?  Am I saying I'm not friends with my parents?  Would we want to be?  It all got a bit hairy.

But once I've decided something, that's the way it's going to be, so here goes.

How to make friends with your parents

AC Grayling.  Picture from The Guardian (here)
His house looks like my Dads house.
The philosopher, AC Grayling, has recently puplished a book entitled Friendship.  He was talking about it on the radio the other day, and it made me think.

As we grow up, our relationships with our friends become more important, and that is necessary and useful.  Eventually, we have strong enough relationships outside the family that we've got a good support network when we leave the nest.  Maybe we might be able to built a good enough friendship that we can make a family of our own.  But when we are all grown up, it's still good to have your parents in your life.  I know that friends of mine, who don't have good relationships with their parents are sad about that.  But we can't keep on being our parent's children.  It is too stifling, and there comes a point when we know better than they about what should be happening in our lives.  We need to shift the relationship, from parents to friends.

So, what's a friend?

I have made my best friends when I've had the time and leisure to just hang out with people for a long time, and I've certainly been able to do that with my parents.  However, familiarity can also breed contempt, and it can be hard to put aside arguments and squabbles.  Parents can find it hard to recognise that their children are grown, and capable, and adult children can be over-sensitive to criticism.

Photograph of Oscar Wilde in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony
Oscar Wilde said that "a good friend will always stab you in the front".  I have always found this to be true.  Who but your friends will betray you?  Who but your friends will tell you uncomfortable truths?  Who but your friends will put the kettle on when it's needed?  Well, your parents aren't likely to betray you, and you might not want to pour your heart out about your ailing love life to them, but I turn to my Mum if I've got a health worry, and both my Mum and my Dad are always willing to tell me when I've gained a few pounds, or they don't think I'm parenting right.

I might not appreciate that.  In fact, let's face it, I don't appreciate that, but I'm beginning to think I'm already friends with my parents.  Perhaps the thing I need to do is not to develop the relationship (although that sometimes does need to happen, if you want it to), but to forgive them for being parents, and therefore inevitably doing everything wrong... because that's what parents do.  As Philip Larkin said "They fuck you up, your mum and dad..."  Although they must have done something right, eh?

My Mum and I.  Photo from my brother.  Ta UE
There are things about my parents I would like to change - for instance, I wish my Mum didn't smoke.  But they are who they are, and my childishly willing it otherwise will not make it so.  So I am going to try, really hard, to recognise that my parents are people I like, because I do, and to stop worrying about the things that annoy me.  To be honest, there are things that I don't like about my friends too - mainly that most of them are far away.  But rarely anything worth losing a friend over, and thank goodness for that, because I am far from perfect too.  'Emma' is not the only one of my friends who has forgiven my bad behaviour.

Would you say that you were friends with your parents?  How does it work for you?

Posts in this series

This is one of a series of posts inspired by Fat Mum Slim's list of 50 things to blog about.  If you'd like to take a look at the rest, you can find them here.