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I'm 29, and I Love Spending Time With My 55-Year-Old Parents

© Sam Edwards/GettyImages One study found that "parental involvement with adult children has increased dramatically.” This was reinforced for me during a recent road trip with my 55-year-old parents.

By Ashley Tieperman, Oprah Magazine

I’m 29 years old. Is it weird that I consider my parents my best friends?

With our ski gear packed in the trunk, I recently took a road trip from Elkridge, Maryland to Stowe, Vermont, tucked into the backseat of my 55-year-old parents' SUV with my 31-year-old boyfriend.

It was an adventure-that required a lot of togetherness. From planning the itinerary to 18 hours, roundtrip, spent in the car with activities like listening to a podcast about the story of Ben & Jerry’s, the entire trip got me thinking about my relationship with my parents.

When I told friends and family beforehand that my boyfriend and I were taking a vacation with my mom and dad, I got mixed reactions. For some, it was: “Aw, that’s cute.” Others laughed it off like they would never even consider that level of voluntary insanity.

I planned this road trip with my empty-nester parents for many reasons-including, to be honest, saving money. As a millennial, I’m not the only person my age that finds that getting away is not always doable without a little financial help from the ‘rents. According to the Pew Research Center, “Compared with earlier generations, more Millennials have outstanding student debt, and the amount of it they owe tends to be greater.”

Money aside, I also wanted to give my parents some bonding time with my new boyfriend. But as I embarked on this road trip, I knew that my reason was bigger than just saving money or forcing a connection. When I considered the people I wanted to experience Vermont with for the first time, I thought of my mom and dad.

That statement alone is something different than either of them likely would’ve ever said about their own parents. When they were my age, my parents already had babies to care for-but even if they didn’t, I doubt they would have chosen to hang out with their empty-nester parents on a 1,000-mile trek up and down the east coast, just for fun.

Given all of those facts, I found myself wondering if other people in my age range are now more likely to embark on adventures with their parents, too. And I’m not alone: Millennials and their parents are proving to have a special bond that’s unlike previous generations. A recent study by Dr. Karen Fingerman, who specializes in adult development and aging at UT Austin, revealed that “parental involvement with young adult children has increased dramatically over the past few decades.”

In fact, in Thom and Jess Rainer’s book, The Millennials, research found that 87 percent of millennials view their parents as a positive source of influence. And it looks like my peers want their parents involved, with 77 percent of us confirming that we seek our parents’ advice on a regular basis.

87 percent of millennials view their parents as a positive source of influence.

I already knew that, for me, calling my mom isn’t a chore. I look forward to talking to her about little moments, like her new haircut or the soft sweater she found on clearance. But also the big moments, like asking for her advice on my next career move or that difficult conversation I’ve avoided with a friend. This trip to Vermont reminded me of the beauty of our relationship-of how much affection I really feel for my parents-and the constant, gnawing ache I have when I imagine trying to one day navigate life without them.

In our family, my mom is known for her ability to talk all the way to your destination. And true to form, during the entire leg from Pennsylvania through New York, we heard stories about my parents’ ski trip honeymoon. When we finally arrived in Stowe, I looked over at my mom dozing off in her white spa robe in a lounge chair overlooking the snowy mountains. I realized I wouldn’t want to spend that day of pampering with anyone else.

As my boyfriend went off to hit the double black diamonds with my ski-fanatic father, I hoped he was finding a friend in him like the friendship I’ve built with my mother. I'm most myself when I'm with her. Sure, we’ve struggled with the blurred lines between mother-daughter and friendship, slowly re-adjusting our roles over the years. But mostly we’ve settled into a comfort level that can only come from years of history, heartbreak, joy, and celebration.

On our second night of the trip, the four of us met up for dinner to celebrate an important milestone: my parents' 32nd wedding anniversary. Originally, we’d planned to separate for our own individual couple nights; we'd let my parents do their own thing on their special day, while my boyfriend and I did ours. And then, well...none of us wanted to split up.

Throughout the trip, we enjoyed our dinner times together, discovering a new restaurant each night in the historic ski town while catching up on our days-and often groaning together about the difficulty of reserving a table at one of the handful of restaurants that filled up each night with hungry skiers.


There’s a term known as “helicopter parents,” which is sometimes viewed in a negative light for the constant hovering that baby boomers tend to do over their millennial kids. But Dr. Steven Mintz discussed the profound change of parent-child relations in Psychology Today, writing “For all the disdainful talk about hovering, over-involved, and overprotective helicopter parents, the fact is that parents today are, on average, closer to their adult children than in the past.” The study in The Millennials revealed the same finding: “The helicopter parents are more connected to their children than earlier generations.”

And, it turns out, young adults who don’t have such a strong bond with their parents are actually at a disadvantage. A report published by the University of Michigan’s Institute of Social Research shows that “young adults who do not have parental ties face disadvantages such as lower levels of education, poorer health, and more depressive symptoms.”

But it’s not just about involvement-Dr. Fingerman’s study shows a pattern of increased affection between young adults and parents. Affection is deeper than support out of obligation. I don’t just tolerate my parents, use them for money, or drag myself to visit them over the holidays. For them, I feel a tender attachment-a fondness for the two key players who help shape my best life.

© Ashley Tieperman Me, dad, and the boyfriend hitting the slopes.

Of course, I can’t completely romanticize our relationship. Our trip certainly had its moments of parent-child tension. My dad, for instance, refused to let anyone else drive the entire 18 hours-roundtrip-in the car...while blasting KISS and skipping pit stops. Oh, and our departure time? It was at an hour of the morning that my boyfriend and I consider the middle of the night.

But, now in my late 20’s, those moments didn’t escalate into an epic fight like they would have when I was 16. My boyfriend and I simply plugged in our headphone splitter to binge Parks and Recreation in the back seat, tuning out my parents’ bickering about the "right" way to drive and my mom’s argument that they should listen to something more soothing, like Christopher Cross.

The best news that came from our journey? My boyfriend really enjoyed the time he spent riding the lifts up the mountain with my dad. He thinks he may have found his new closest ski buddy. That’s music to my ears, because Mom and I are already planning where to go for another vacation-and I can’t wait to see where we end up next.



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Home Magazine: I'm 29, and I Love Spending Time With My 55-Year-Old Parents
I'm 29, and I Love Spending Time With My 55-Year-Old Parents
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