“How about we meet you for lunch, downtown?”
No matter how professional, no matter how successful, no matter how utterly together they have it as senior managers, assistant vice presidents, program officers, partners, associates, interns, presidents, CFOs, or CEOs–the parent visit reduces adult offspring to a palpable state of adolescent dread.
Oh sure, everyone (almost) loves their parents. And everyone (almost) says they love it when their parents visit. But after the first few days of parent-child bonding (and in some cases, I suspect, the first few hours), a mutual desire to break bread at a neutral table results in a family reunion at my restaurant.
Because the visiting parents are driving everyone, themselves included, CRAZY.
Here’s what I hear parents say to or about their grown-up kids:
Your apartment is too __________ (fill in the blank: small, big, expensive, dirty, urban, suburban). Your house is too _________ (fill in the blank with the previous choices). Your kids are too __________ (wild, subdued, dressed up, undressed, spoiled, cranky, tired, or coming down with something.) Your job is too ___________ (demanding, stressful, easy, beneath you, complicated, not paying you enough, paying you so much). You look too ________ (tired, sad, preoccupied, distant, calm, angry, tense, happy). You are too ___________ (thin, fat).
Here’s what I hear adult kids say to or about their parents:
You are too _________ (judgmental, anxious, demanding, careless, clueless). You think my kids are too __________ (wild, subdued, dressed up, undressed, spoiled, cranky, tired, or coming down with something). You look too _________ (tired, sad, preoccupied, distant, calm, angry, tense, happy). You are too _________ (thin, fat).
That’s right, not a whole lot of variation in those accusations.
When I showed one couple to the elevator today, their son said, “They could use the walk up the stairs.”
When I pointed another to the stairs, the daughter said, “They should use the elevator because they never admit they’re tired.”
When a mom-in-law complimented her son-in-law, she said: “He’s a stay-at-home dad, and he complains about all the things I complained about when I was raising his wife!”
When a daughter-in-law complimented her mother-in-law, she said: “She is so good with my kids. I wish I was that patient.”
When a father- and mother-in-law frowned at the way their grandchildren were playing happily around the foyer, I reassured them: “They are so cute! They’re fine. No worries.”
When a mom and dad frowned at the way their parents were frowning at their restless kids, I reassured them: “Your kids are so adorable. How old are they?”
When I reflect on how the days of my parents saying anything are no longer, I want to tell everyone in my foyer: “It’s all good. I’ve got you all covered. Don’t wish this time away. Just accept it, and enjoy.”
Don’t wish this time away.