Why I'm Thankful I Never Had The 'Cool' Parents Growing Up

by Alicia Cook

My father called me "just to talk" while he waited for my mother to come out of the grocery store.

He didn't call to offer fatherly wisdom or make sure I had my tires rotated. He called “just because.”

He simply wanted to "shoot the breeze" with me.

I have these moments with both of my parents often. So, when exactly did my parents and I become "friends?"

I would estimate it wasn't until after I graduated from college in 2008, when I experienced all the other adult milestones.

My parents naturally shifted from authority figures in my life to their current roles as life consultants, confidants and friends.

I go to them for advice, but we all leave the conversation knowing I am ultimately going to do what's best for me.

They respect that. They trust I can make sound decisions and still take into consideration their opinions.

Growing up, however, it was another story.

I was the eldest of three children. It was very hard for me to break barriers and gain permission to do the things my peers were doing with ease.

I wasn't allowed to date.

I had a ridiculous curfew, and I was rarely allowed to sleep away from home.

There was a very clear parent-child divide. They were my parents, first and foremost.

This is not to say I didn't "get away" with things.

Like most teenagers, I mastered the art of stretching the truth.

Getting one over on your parents is just a common milestone in most teens' lives.

I snuck alcohol into soda bottles.

I changed into a shorter skirt once I got to a friend's house.

But more times than not — even if I sighed heavily and slammed my bedroom door while screaming, "This is unfair" —  I did not disobey my parents regularly.

I never had the desire to rebel. In hindsight, I'm pretty sure their rules for me were in my best interests in the long run.

As I grew up (hopefully making them proud and becoming a functioning member of society), I naturally began to make my own decisions, for better or for worse.

I never had to say to them, "I am X years old. I am going to make my own choices now. Back off!"

It was organic.

I didn't get the look of death if I slipped and used profanity in front of my father. I began talking to my mother as if she was another one of my girlfriends.

We talked about real-life situations, and some of them were not pretty.

It was during these intimate conversations that a true friendship was formed. I realized my parents were regular people who were my age at one point.

They crossed the same bridges and made the same mistakes. The invisible parent-child line began to dissolve as they saw I was also an adult, just like them.

These days, I find more and more often, parents are "pals" right off the bat with their children.

That might work for some, but I don't think that would've worked for me.

I am thankful my parents did not become my friends until later in life.

During my most formative years, they were my parents, plain and simple. They were the ones who had to say "no," even if they knew I would be let down.

My parents weren't afraid of not being my favorite people that day if it meant forbidding me from attending a three-day prom party.

A lot of my friends' parents were considered the "cool parents." They were a bit younger, wore fashionable clothes and got their nails and hair done regularly.

They supervised house parties involving kegs and promiscuous activities before their children even held valid drivers' licenses.

We all know those parents.

They seem to be trying to live vicariously through their children.

Although I wished my parents would have swayed a little bit when it came to some of their rules, I never wished my mom and dad would be like the "cool parents."

I'd come home after spending some time with those other parents, and I would hug my mom a bit tighter.

I was so happy she didn't rifle through my closet, looking for a mini skirt to borrow. (I have a younger sister for that.)

I am relieved my father wasn't buddy-buddy with every idiot I dated growing up.

He was, and still is, my protector and the one person I never want to let down.

Today, I find myself thankful for the boundaries and expectations my parents placed on me.

Now, I'm not saying these "cool parents" didn't have expectations for their own children. I'm not saying they didn't love their children.

I'm simply saying I needed my parents to be the kind of parents they were while I was growing up.

I needed rules. I needed boundaries. I needed not to be told "yes" all the time when I was an impressionable kid.

They prepared me more than they realize to become the independent individual I am today.

Rules, boundaries and not getting your way are constant parts of everyday life.

It seems when we are kids, we can't wait to grow up. But when we grow up and attempt to travel back to those days, it's too late.

It's as though childhood innocence, imaginations, beliefs in mythical creatures and the idealized models they epitomize have an even more limited shelf life than ever before.

Humans are rapidly growing up before they should, before they even master the art of being children.

I am thankful my parents and I did not become friends until I was an adult because their rules helped me remain a "kid" for a little bit longer.

It took some time, but my parents are the "cool parents" now. I love hanging out with them.

I take a sincere interest in their lives, just as much as they care about mine.

They are more human and real to me now than they ever were before, but my dad still manages to be my hero.

My mom is still the best, most selfless person I know. They have instilled in me the importance of not rushing through life.

I hope to instill in my children the same appreciation for the saying, "Everything has a right time and a right place."

Then, one day, after they are grown and have lives of their own, I will call them "just to talk" while I wait for my husband to get out of the store.

I really hope they see a "friend" calling and answer the phone.

A version of this article was originally published by Asbury Park Press in Alicia's home state.