As we get older, our relationships with our parents change dramatically. It’s an inevitability that somehow manages to be both painful and wonderful at the same time; although beginning to interact with your parents as an adult is rewarding, it hurts to leave that parent/child dynamic behind, especially the almost-heroic quality our parents can have for us when we’re kids. In adolescence, we all experience that fairly traumatic moment when we realize that our parents aren’t perfect after all, but, while that revelation can be world-rocking, it’s also the first step in developing a more honest, adult relationship with them.
In my own life, I’ve loved the way that my relationship with my mom has evolved over time, away from childish dependence, and toward something that more resembles a deep friendship. And, as satisfying as that is, developing a more grown-up relationship with your mother doesn’t mean that you lose your childhood bond with her completely — every time I get sick, I still find myself wishing I could lay on my mom’s couch and let her feed me grilled cheese sandwiches.
Not everyone has a great history with his or her mother, of course, but difficult relationships can change over time, too. Some parental relationships are toxic, and the best thing you can do is to distance yourself from them, but others may improve as you get older. Simply being able to approach your mom on your own terms, as an independent adult, may do much to relieve the tensions you shared during childhood. Keep reading for nine ways that your relationship with your mom is changing as you get older.
1. You discover that your mother is a real, flawed human being.
“Flawed human being” may sound negative, but I really don’t mean it that way. As we get older, we are more able to see our mothers as multi-dimensional, real people — people who are imperfect and who have their own sh*t to deal with. We learn that our mothers won’t live up to our romanticized expectations of the “perfect mother” because they are human, just like we are. But in shedding our childhood idealism about our mothers, we are able to get to know them as they really are — which is, ultimately, the basis for a richer, truer bond.
2. You realize that you and your mom are more alike than you thought — and that may not be a bad thing.
On TV, it’s an old joke for female characters to lament, “I’m turning into my mother!” How you might feel about that depends entirely on the kind of relationship you have with your mother, but, personally, I feel like there are a lot of worse things that could happen to me than becoming more like my mom — because she’s awesome, and I admire her. When you’re an angsty teenager, it’s natural to try to separate yourself from your parents — that’s a part of becoming independent and developing your own identity. But as you get older, you may find that the similarities between you and your mother that you used to downplay or deny altogether become aspects of yourself that you love — perhaps especially because you recognize them in her, too.
3. You drink wine together.
I feel like my relationship with my mother really shifted when I grew old enough to hang out and have a glass of wine with her. The wine wasn’t the important thing (although it was certainly a bonus!): the essential part was the bit where we were hanging out. Just for the hell of it! Not because I needed her to take care of me, or because she felt the need to do so, but because we realized that we honestly enjoy each other’s company.
And while wine certainly isn’t essential to a strong mother/daughter relationship, it doesn’t hurt either. Seeing one’s mom get sloshed for the first time can do a lot to untether her from the mental category of “My Mother, Who Used To Ground Me,” and move her closer to the “Super Fun Lady Whom I Honestly Like” label.
4. You become friends.
The bond between a mother and child is precious and beautiful, of course, but there’s something incredibly rewarding about growing up and actually becoming friends with your mom. When you start spending time together, not from a sense of obligation, but through choice, a new dynamic develops in your relationship with her — one that has you both on more equal footing, approaching each other in a more mature way. (And when I say “mature,” sometimes that means “giggling uncontrollably over really inappropriate things while drinking wine.”)
5. You see more of the “behind the scenes.”
When I was a kid, I always expected my mother to have everything basically in hand, because she was my mom, and that was her job. It’s only now as an adult that I can look back on my childhood and think “I can’t believe you managed all of that. Your life must have been CRAZY, and I had no idea.” Seeing how my mother coped with three kids, a husband, a career, way too many pets, and aging parents of her own, I have two thoughts: First, she, and all moms like her, are incredible multitaskers. Second, if she was able to handle so many wild challenges being thrown at her and survive, maybe there’s hope for me yet.
6. You realize that she didn’t always have things figured out — and that was OK.
You may remember your childhood an marvel at how much you mother was able to juggle, but you may also find yourself looking back and realizing that, though you may not have realized it at the time, your mom didn’t actually have everything figured out when you were a kid. Through the lens of adulthood, you may see that, as you were in the throes of adolescence, she, too, was working though problems she didn’t know how to cope with and doing her best to keep her head above water. And that’s an important lesson: Most of the time, despite appearances, people are figuring things out as they go along. And that’s OK.
7. You seek out her advice, and you actually listen to it.
I spent a lot of time as a teen insisting on some angsty variation of “NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME (except maybe Alanis Morissette),” and refusing advice from my parents, but now I know better. My sister summed things up perfectly when I asked her about it: “As a teen it’s hard to take your mom seriously because you think ‘How could she know?!’ And then you get older and realize she already made it through this bullsh*t successfully, so you should actually listen.”
8. Sometimes you’re the advice-giver.
As you get older, your relationship with your mother becomes more reciprocal. You still ask her for advice and guidance, but that’s a road that works both ways. She knows that you’re a grown up, too, with your own life experiences to draw on, and she’s willing to ask for your advice and take your opinion seriously.
9. You can be more honest.
When you’re an adult, you and your mother can both be more open about what’s going on in your lives: You don’t need to worry about shocking her sensibilities, and she doesn’t feel the need to shield you from reality. You can both be more honest about who you are and how you feel.