Are you a friend, or just a parent, to your adult children? 76



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Are you a friend to your adult children or a parent? What happened as your relationship matured?

Many of you here have now got adult children, in fact, well and truly adult children. Some even have children with children of their own.  And the question I have for you today is a question borne from my own experiences with three different sets of parents and inlaws in my life, and friends with maturing  parent relationships, and that is “What happened to your relationship with your child as they matured?  Did it grow with you both? And how? Or did it go to a place you are not happy with?”

With each of my parents (and my husband’s parents) our relationships have matured differently.  And when I look at others around me, my siblings and my friends, I can see totally different maturing of family relationships, some for the better and some for the worse.

In my family and friend circles there are a few great yet personal examples:


The mature peer and patriarch

Over recent years, my father has very much grown into the role of family patriarch, and his wife, my stepmum is also comfortable in her matriarchal role.  They have stepped into the joined up family healed up from an early divorce and remarriage and bring together all of the younger generations which is wonderful to watch.  They get a lot of joy out of taking this pivotal role of bringing all the grandkids from stepchildren together without any recognition of old family boundaries.

Just as important to me, as I have gotten older, the role and relationship we have has grown up enormously.  No longer do I look to them for parenting, but I consider them much more like friends, peers with a common bond of values and history.  There is no doubt I still look to them for advice and guidance on decision making and as a patriarch, but I do so with much more confidence in my own maturity.  It is funny to consider how our relationship has changed over the years.


The life of the party, but only on show

In contrast, my friend’s relationship with his mother (in her early sixties now) has become strained as he and his wife have matured beyond their thirties, heading to a place where they only like to visit twice a year from their home in Adelaide.  His mother never liked the fact that they had children quite young after a small but not unhappy pregnancy accident and I suspect the memory of this has grown into a monster.   She was clear about not wanting to be a “Grandma” at 54, and  wouldn’t let the young children call her by anything other than her first name until much much later on.

She is great fun, turning up to every party in the coolest fashions (complete with coloured platforms shoes) with the best travel stories, and the finest gifts for the audience to see, but didn’t want to be a helping hand for them as they juggled the tough times.  Instead she would be what many would call a fair-weather parent…

Her relationship with her son and daughter in law seem to have evolved from one where they desperately needed, wanted and hoped for her help but were constantly disappointed to the point where they gave up.  Then, as the years went on she might have wished it differently.  Now, the children are the responsible grown ups and play the matriarchal role they had hoped their mum might step into for their whole family.


The best friend at all costs

Then there is my dear friend, who is admittedly only 57. She has children in their twenties that have grown up comfortably with her waiting on their every wish and need. A devoted mother, she is focussed on being the “best friend” rather than the mother these days, and has been since the children hit their mid teens. She is always there, at any time of the day with very few boundaries. Over the years it has been interesting to listen to her stories of the children’s attitudes as they grew up, and to how she has adapted her behaviour to keep them very close to her as they have stepped out into the world as adults.

I’m not sure if you are or have a friend like her, but she is the mother who would stock a party with a large quantity of alcohol for a crew of minors, wanting to look cool, and would try to justify why her kids had crashed into a friends car and not left a note with a host of excuses, never obligating them to resolve the incident.

She’s cool in her kids eyes and even cooler in the eyes of their friends.  I’m not sure what happens next here.  It probably turns out great.


And the parent of a child that never grew up

And in the case of a dear friend, he perhaps has never matured in his own eyes enough to have seen his relationship with his parents mature.  This dear friend in his mid thirties still relies on his parents as the key provider of financial security which I am sure almost all parents are happy to be whenever a child honestly needs it, but perhaps not when it becomes a day-to-day habit.


These above are all real life examples, and every family is different.  And I am curious today to know how your relationship with your children has matured over the years. Tell us below.

Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. When your children are under 21 you have to be a parent and a teacher.Over 21 you become a parent and most of all best friends.

  2. I am both, I am a parent when I need to be and that is less and less as your children age and a good friend at other times

  3. I come from a very dis functional family. I never really had any of that, although I guess my mother did her best. I am a parent first. My kids range in age from forty to 23. I have had ups and downs with them all, but I have never deviated from parent. I don’t know if this is wrong or right, but it is me. However, I have become great friends with most of their friends over the years. My eldest and I get along great now, my middle child and I were always close til a couple of years ago. His best friend died and for some reason he stopped talking to me. He does communicate now, but not much. He is only like this with me. I am and will be always there for him and I contact him constantly, regardless. My youngest and I are very close. He and his friends sometimes seem to reverse the parent role with me since I have been out of work. This is sweet and sometimes funny and mostly unnecessary, but I am grateful and always allow them to do it. I think you can try to be a sort of friend, but should always be the parent, regardless of age, as long as you let them make their own choices and mistakes and as long as they learn from them. My Opinion. 🙂

    2 REPLY
    • My friend had one child only who passed away a few months ago. She said the thing she missed the most was that no-one would ever call her mum again. Says it all I think.

  4. My children now early 40’s. are so different. One is happy & outgoing & one serious & a worry wart. I have a different relationship with each, apart from always being Mum. You adjust to the person they have become.

  5. Have only one son who has made a good life for himself, marrying a lovely girl and they have 2 beautiful kids now. We also get along well with their many friends. They always invite us to go gramping with them, which we enjoy immensely.

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