Growing Up When Your Home For the Holidays

The holidays sometimes mean family drama.  When you are in your 20s the drama can be even more personal as many people still feel the weight of their parents expectations. And even while most 20-somethings today have a closer relationship than ever with their parents, there is always some bristle to the parent – child interaction at the holidays. There is an innate tension between becoming an adult and reverting back to the comfort of being a child when you go home for the holidays. And with that comfort of being a child, sometimes comes the impatience and pushback of being told what to do by a parent.


This struck me in the past year as I spent a month visiting my parents when I started this project. More than a few people thought I was crazy to visit my parents for so long. Didn’t we drive each other crazy enough when we were teenage daughter and 40-year-old parents? I decided to use the time not only to start writing but also to brush up on my cooking while giving my mom a break from her nightly ritual. As we started to plan meals my impatience kicked in. I was determined to do things my way…not her lamb recipe but the lamb dish I could try to recreate from that restaurant in New York City. Then when it came to cooking, my Mom would quickly jump in with advice …or the old “if I were doing that I would do it this way”. I reverted to the young girl who didn’t want advice. I insisted I would do it myself….even it if meant screwing it up. I  banished her from the kitchen. I will figure it out on my own thanks. But I quickly learned that maybe Mom could teach me a thing or two (cutting up a chicken anyone? Don’t they always come pre-cut?).


At the end of the month I looked back and had to laugh. Here was all this resistance to advice from a woman who was writing a book on inter-generational advice! I came to appreciate my mom’s cooking wisdom and in the end she got excited to try some new recipes rather than relying on the tried and true.   And now I make a conscious effort to not revert to the childhood me and to show them who their young girl has grown up into…and keeps growing. But at the same time, I learned I’m never too old from some good advice from my mom…or dad.


Here are a few other 40-somethings perspectives on their relationship with their parents and striking the balance between striking out on your own and valuing a new type of “adult” relationship with your parents.

“I would say be kind to your parents. Stay close in your heart but you have to figure out what’s right for you and it’s not always what your parents think is the right choice. You can’t let them direct your life. I think a lot of people really can’t let go of that. — 40-something, Chicago, IL

“As you get older, just be kind to your parents. I see so many people, friends or friends of friends, who are still a little bitter at their moms. There are some bad moms but for many a lot of it is in our minds.  At some point in your life, you have to let go and realize they made mistakes, as you will too if you become a parent.  I used to resent my parents for not letting me do certain activities that they let my younger sister do later.  But now that I’m a parent, you realize how hard it is to work just to take care of them. I would tell people in their twenties to try to put aside whatever objections they may have to things. When you’re growing up despite the mistakes your parents made they were doing the best they could.” – 40-something, San Francisco, CA

“Be more patient with your parents. Something at 40 that I didn’t have in my 20s was patience with my parents. Be more forgiving.  I did this thing when I was out in California called the Hoffman Process.  They take you through your parent’s life and what it was like to be them. It really helps you see them in a different way and relate to them. I work with a lot of kids in their 20s and I always tell them to be a little more patient with their parents, and kinder. That time in your 20s can be precious. When you’re an adult, when you get to be 19 or 20 or so you can totally enjoy your parents in a different way. Maybe some people don’t have that relationship, but I know if I had started the process earlier with my parents, I would have been a better person myself.” – 40-something, New York, NY

Remember the old adage. Your parents are just people too. They have fears and insecurities and egos just like the rest of humanity. You can begin to see these more when you have been away perhaps and not only be more forgiving or passionate, but also appreciate whole new sides to them. Here’s to a stress free holiday season for all!

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