Parent Trap

“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.






12 responses to “Parent Trap”

  1. Junior Avatar

    My Parents don’t ask those type of questions… I was blessed with a beautiful, loving, devoted set of parents.. and I’m a Bartender/Musician… how hard is that for some parents to see? 2 non-conventional jobs that don’t allow me to fulfill the “American Dream”, yet they still smile and enjoy the things I’m doing as long as they know I’m happy.. bless their hearts…. thanks for making me realize what I have…

  2. juniper Avatar

    Good Lord, I’m bringing my folks to your restaurant next time we’re scheduled to connect!

  3. Jeannie Avatar

    My mother rarely criticizes anything I do since I told her: Mom, I’m over 40 now, I’m an adult. I can do whatever I want. (That was in response to her umpteenth comment about my colouring my hair the shade of the month).

  4. jali Avatar

    My parents are no longer here and I wish I could share a meal – I’d take all those pointed remarks with a lot more grace if i had the opportunity.

    You are a good person.

  5. Waiter4you Avatar

    Gee, how long are the waits in your lobby? Or are these comments you pick up casually breezing through your restaurant to seat other patrons? Can you really pick up these kind of discussions merely by seating people? Wow – the groups you have dining there, it is sad, so sad.

  6. Restaurant Gal Avatar

    Waiter4you–The waits aren’t long. People like to talk. I like to listen. It’s not sad at all.

  7. Serdic Avatar

    I have my good visits, and my bad ones. Still, I found I became friends with my parents, only after I moved out and started supporting myself. I love my family, I just can’ t live with em anymore. =)

  8. saltymissjill Avatar

    Thanks once more for the thoughtful post! When my mom would come visit me, she was uncomfortable eating anywhere besides TGI Fridays or a similar joint, despite the many fabulous places my city has to offer. I wish I would’ve appreciated an entire deep-fried menu while she was still here with us.

  9. Phil Avatar

    If we all got along with our parents like best friends, we’d never move out of the house.

    I’d say my relationship with my parents improved greatly once I was out on my own, and I am thankful for all they did for me, and continue to do for me.

    Nice post, RG.

  10. tom Avatar

    Beautiful sentiments, restaurant gal. I wish I could tolerate parental comments as well as you suggest. I just cringe when the comments about appearance, jobs, etc. start pouring out. I try to console myself with the fact that people who are happy rarely feel the need to criticize constantly, and it is very clear that my parents are unhappy people.

  11. Waiter4you Avatar

    By sad I meant the conversations – not your ability to eavesdrop.

  12. Restaurant Gal Avatar

    Waiter4you–I knew what you meant. And I also meant that not all the conversations are sad. As for eavesdropping, I don’t have to hone that skill much–most of the time my customers talk directly to me, sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    –The Gal