Parents can be really annoying. Especially when you don’t know what the f*ck you are doing with your life. It’s only because they care. And sometimes because they are overbearing. But deep down it’s because they want us to feel good about ourselves. And they know when we don’t.
Parents often attach our growth in life to our paycheck. Because that’s what their parents did. But especially today, our so-called jobs are only a small part of what we can be learning. And they need to know that.
They won’t always understand. They will treat us like we are twelve as we roll into our thirties. But there are ways to prove our adulthood to them without just saying, “I’m an adult now. Stop asking me if I took out the garbage.”
The funny thing is, you probably didn’t take out the garbage.
1. Help Them With Technology
Your parents are worse than you at technology. There are things they need help with. Are they still using an AOL email address? Please help them.
Maybe they need to see how you can share a Google Calendar with them. Maybe they need help setting up their Pinterest account. Or maybe they just need to know how to use their favorites on their phone. Help them.
They will be stubborn when they are in the middle of “this stupid thing doesn’t work.” So when you know they need help, plan to swing by one night just to make sure you can get their Apple TV set up. They will appreciate it.
But they will call you an hour later to tell them what you just showed them, again.
2. Send Them a Book
Instead of trying to get them to watch The Handmaid’s Tale (which is totally valid by the way), do something better. Is there something they have always wanted to learn how to do? Send them a how-to book. Is there a world figure that they have always been interested in? Send them a biography.
They may read it, they may put it on a shelf and hope to read it. But it’s a gesture that kids don’t make. Take the time to really think of something that would enhance your parents life and then have it delivered to them. All they have to do is open it up.
Extra points if you order it to yourself first and then handwrite a note inside the front cover.
“Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well.”
— Mark Haddon
3. Surprise Them By Showing Up
My kids are 17 and 15 right now. In a few years, if I am home one day and the doorbell rings and it’s one of my kids just stopping by to say hello, without warning, I can tell you for sure that I would smile a smile like no one has ever seen.
It’s great to show up on holidays. Or pre-planned gatherings. But it’s another thing to surprise your parents with your presence. Just to be there. Even if only for a few minutes. It won’t just make their day. It will make their month. And they will forget that you don’t know what the f*ck you are doing with your life.
Because kids don’t do that. Adults do. And this is part of the transition from selfish to selfless.
4. Ask Their Advice
Once we hit the teen years we pretty much tell our parents every day that we know everything. We try to be nice (not really), but every ounce of our struggle for independence tells them that their views aren’t ours. We want to traverse our own path.
But they want to parent us. Once in a while, give them the opportunity to do that again. Something a little off in your life? Give your parents a chance to give you advice about it. No one says you have to take their advice.
But by reaching out to them to ask their opinion, you are telling them indirectly that everything they ever told you actually wasn’t bullsh*t. That there is value in what they think. Even though you are an adult now.
“Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.”
— Harper Lee
5. Buy Them a Meal
When you are struggling to make a life for yourself, getting unlimited comped lunches and dinners is pretty awesome. It’s really what our parents are there for. To feed us. Forever. Whenever we are hungry.
But no matter how much money you are making, it sends a clear message of appreciation the first time you surreptitiously pick up the check when you take them out for a meal. They will appreciate it so much more than you know.
Pro tip: Go to the bathroom mid-meal and find the waiter to give them your credit card in advance. Just to make sure your parents don’t snake the check and ruin your surprise good deed.
It doesn’t matter if it’s lunch at Subway or a fancy dinner, it’s about the act of giving. Adults pick up checks for people they care about. Not to get anything out of it. Because it feels good to treat someone. Especially your parents.
6. Take Them to an Event
Remember when you used to force them to drop you off so you could see the coolest new movie with your friends? Well now it’s time to return the favor. Figure out what type of events they like going to. Then act.
Take them. Square the time away. Confirm it with them. It could be as easy as a farmer’s market on a Saturday morning. It could be taking them to a museum for a couple hours. Or a play.
Think about them. Or bring them to something that you really like, to enlighten them. Take them to The Moth in your area. They may not get it, but they will appreciate you opening up the door to them.
7. Ask Them Questions About Their Childhood
I can’t stress this one enough. And this one is really for you. Because one day it will be too late to ask them all the questions you should have asked them. So spend the time now doing it. You won’t regret it.
If you spend one hour asking your parents questions about their childhood, teen years and young adulthood, you will learn more about them than you have your whole life — guaranteed. And they will love telling you.
Don’t you want to know what your parents were doing when they were exactly your age? It may help them understand that it’s ok that you don’t know what the f*ck you are doing with your life right now.
8. Call Them Just to Tell Them That You Love Them
Not when you need money. Not when something bad is happening. Just pick up the phone one day with the only intention being to tell your parents that you love them. That’s it. Then hang up.
The brevity is what makes it so important. The longer you stay on the phone to talk, the more the message will become lost. So just say you had a couple minutes and just wanted to call to tell them that you love them. But then you have to go. And it’s over. And they may never forget it.
And it was one minute out of one day for you.
9. Take a Weekend Trip With Them
You can literally combine most of this list with one weekend trip. It’s better when they are all separate, but we all don’t live near our parents. And they aren’t always the easiest people to be around if we do.
But what if you committed to one weekend a year where it was just you and them? And you planned it. It could become a great tradition. With Airbnb nowadays you can all have your own space.
Find a small town with some things to do nearby. Small town equals lower prices and less to choose from. Which makes meals and daily plans easier for everyone. Especially if the thought of an entire weekend with your parents doesn’t sound so good.
It’s for them. Remember that.
“Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”
— John Steinbeck
10. Write Them a Letter To Say Thank You
Imagine you are older. And your child is off living their own life now. You are happy, but you wish you could see them more. Because you raised them. And you miss them.
But then you go to your mailbox and there is a handwritten envelope addressed to you, from your child. That’s weird. Unexpected. What could it be?
What if it was just a short letter of appreciation. A handwritten thank you from your child to you. Nothing else. Just love. And admiration.
Imagine how that would make you feel?
So, go do it.
Some of us don’t have parents anymore. I don’t. But this list can be applied to any close relative. Or friend. It’s about learning to be selfless. But also allowing ourselves to learn from others.
Even if you do one of these things this week, it will have a benefit for both you and your parents. Because this list is made up of things that can only bring good.
Some parents are difficult. Some parents are just a**holes. But find someone in your life deserving of your selflessness. And then give. And as you give to them. You will receive as well.
Because even if you don’t know what the f*ck you are doing with your life, it doesn’t mean you aren’t growing.