Are you a grown-up who wants to get along better with your parents? Here’s some practical advice I scraped together for myself. Maybe it will help you, too.
1. Help your dad with his computer
When your dad calls you at work for computer help, drop everything and help him, even if you have to step out of the office for half an hour. Never take for granted that he knows what “track changes” is, or that he can find the settings menu on his own. Remember how patient he was when he taught you how to fire a BB gun? Be like that. Speak slowly and clearly and never raise your voice.
2. Don’t complain about their habits
Remember that you’re a guest in their home. If you don’t like the smell of cigarette smoke, too bad. Keep your mouth shut and live with it. Once you accept that your mom has been a smoker for last three decades—that this is who she is, so why should she apologize for it?—then your relationship will be a million times better.
You always say you want the recipe, but when I cook, you’re never in the kitchen.
3. Hang out with your mom when she’s cooking
Listen when your mom says, You always say you want the recipe, but when I cook, you’re never in the kitchen. Go to the kitchen. Offer to help even though she’ll say no because she’s particular about julienning the potatoes into tiny uniform strips. Set the table and scoop out the rice before she asks. Even though she won’t talk to you much, she’s happy you’re in the kitchen witnessing her in her element.
4. Put your phone away
Don’t look at your phone at the dinner table. But before you put your phone away, make sure you take lots of pictures of the food your mom has just spent hours preparing. Send these photos to the family group chat for your dad and sisters to fuss over.
5. Listen to your mom
Listen hard to everything your mom says, even if you think her ideas are insane. When she tells you to consult a professional dating service to find a husband, don’t laugh in her face. Instead, do some research and be thankful that you didn’t go to Stanford, you know how to cook, and you’re not bad-looking. Otherwise, you will die alone. Because everyone knows men don’t want wives who are smarter than they are. They want wives who are lovely to look at, wives who can cook and clean and take care of the children.
6. Keep all chaos out of sight
If you insist on being messy, then keep your mess out of sight. Keep your bedroom door closed. And never leave stuff lying around the living room or your dad will take it and store it somewhere and you will never, ever see it again.
7. Let stuff go, even if your mom won’t
Try not to be angry or sad when your mom brings up things from the past, like the time you made her life a living hell 25 years ago, or the time she washed your mouth out with soap because you talked back to her. Be confident in knowing that you’ve evolved since then.
8. Hang out with them as much as you can
Make time to hang out with your parents, even if you’re just sitting in the same room doing nothing together. The nearness is enough.
9. Show them tons of affection
If your dad is generous with his affection, let him squeeze you in his arms and kiss your head as much as he wants. If your mom is cold and unaffectionate, then give her lots of kisses on the cheek until she laughs and pushes you away. The more over the top you can be here, the better.
When you are 80 and I am 100, you will still be my child.
10. Remember that you’ll always be their baby
Even though you’re a grown-up now, your parents will always treat you like their baby. Because that’s what you are to them. Forever. Hold your dad’s hand at the mall, because it reminds him of when your hand was much smaller, and also because he gets a kick out of pretending you’re his gold-digging girlfriend. And let your mom put curlers in your hair and makeup on your face because it reminds her of when she could dress you up like a dolly.
And believe your mom when she tells you, When you are 80 and I am 100, you’ll still be my child.
Also published on Medium.