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Mary Kate Sheridan Headshot

Parents: Adult Children Need You

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"I know my rights! And if you come near my sister, I'm gonna call 911," my tiny voice squeaked down our winding Colonial staircase to my parents below, who burst into laughter at the sound of their five year old taking charge.

Of course, they hadn't harmed my sister at all -- they'd merely grounded her to her room for being fresh. But I had learned about abuse in kindergarten that day, and armed with knowledge, I was ready to protect my sister (who, by the way, was several years older).

I was a fiercely independent child -- a trait I carried into my teen and adult years. Help with my homework? Not necessary. Assistance with the latest try out or extra-curricular activity? Under control. A helping hand with college applications, law school applications or job searches? I got it.

I credit my parents for my early independence. I'm not sure how they did it, but they struck a perfect balance of intervening in my life and giving me freedom to grow and make my own decisions. They never overwhelmed me or nagged me with lectures and curfews -- they trusted. This tactic may not have worked with all children, but it was just right for me.

Of course, the older I got, the more independent I became, probably to the dismay of my parents who couldn't turn back on their established parenting style. But like they had always done, my parents respected my desire to do things on my own to the point where it was assumed that I would take care of everything thrown at me -- I always had.

What I don't think my parents realized -- and probably still don't -- is that I absolutely needed them. I still need them now as a grown, married woman. I'm not talking about bumming gas money from them or asking them to house sit for me; it's an emotional need. It's the feeling of calm the minute I hear one of their voices on the other end of the line. It's the sense of comfort just from being in a room with them. It's the knowledge that they literally have known me longer than anyone else, so their advice means that much more. And of course, it's love.

A few weeks ago, while I was dealing with something tough, I connected with my mom on the telephone. The minute I heard her voice, I lost it. My mom was caught off guard at first -- I don't lose it, remember? I take care of things. But she quickly shifted into mom-mode, mostly listening and occasionally offering her opinion. It was just what I needed: "crying" on my mom's shoulder and being able to release the stress helped me to move on. I couldn't have used just anyone's shoulder for that.

I needed my mommy.

I don't think I'm alone in my grown-up need for my parents. I see it in my friends; I even see it in my own parents. Just because we're not in pigtails and OshKosh B'gosh anymore doesn't mean that we don't need someone to clean a scraped knee or scare away the ghosts under the bed. Don't confuse independence for aloofness, parents -- we may look like we've got it all under control, but we still need you even as adults.

What is your favorite memory of you and your children? How do you stay connected with your children now that they are grown up?