Societal views can be black and white, but a world without gray is a world without balance — a world without acceptance. Whether it relates to body image, political views or relationships, there appears to always be something negative for others to dwell upon and complain about.
The same thing goes for parent-child relationships. Our grandparents were ridiculed for giving their children too much freedom. Our parents are condemned as over-involved “helicopter parents.” We, too, are criticized for seeking close peer-like relationships with our parents, with boundaries that are larger than in past generations.
According to Indiana University psychologist Chris Meno, kids today are much more likely to consider their parent to be their best friend. She sees this as dangerous and constricting of our efforts to seek new relationships — “friendships that could over time be a source of lifelong happiness and support.”
Anna Almendrala of the Huffington Post questions our sense of independence if we use our parents as resources. Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College, says that students don’t take risks and directly blames our parents for our fear of failure.
Incoming freshmen are constantly reminded that college takes some time to acclimate to. Schedules, habits and responsibilities are vastly different than those in high school. Even though our parents are not adapting to living in a dorm miles away from home or being surrounded by an overwhelming sea of strangers, they are also transitioning.
Still, not all parents adjust at the same rate. Sometimes the tables must turn and children must be the ones to guide their parents. They must be reminded that hovering over us and advocating on our behalf is no longer necessary, appropriate, or in our best long-term interest.
But why does maintaining a close relationship with our parents imply that we are not self-sufficient young adults? Having a parent as a best friend is an honor — not a constriction. Meno says she “counsels over-parented students in much the same way [she] addresses addiction,” advising students who call their parents a few times a day to strive to limit it to once a day.
This generalization is insulting. Calling parents while walking to our next class or while getting ready to go to dinner with friends is not an addiction, but rather a convenience and a means of staying connected with our lives away from school. Speaking with them doesn’t have to interfere with our relationships with our peers, as the conversations can revolve around the times when we are with our friends.
Even if parents are like best friends, we live productive and enriching lives at Elon without them by our side. I find it irrational to minimize our efforts and accomplishments as independent people due to the fact that we stay connected with a little piece of home.
It is fair to analyze behavior, but it is not fair to pass judgment and discourage close, fruitful and mutually beneficial parent-child relationships. While scholars frame our parents as controlling villains and us as weak, doomed children, we must acknowledge the benefits of our closeness. We know that only one person can navigate a helicopter, but why can’t mom and dad be passengers every now and then?