Live Through This

Meet the Parents

How to be loved by your friends’ folks.

Illustration by Emma D.

Every time I see my best friend Diana’s mom, I greet her the same way I greet my own mother: by saying “Bendición.” What it means is that I’m asking for her blessing, and it’s the way that most kids in Puerto Rico (where I grew up) greet their elder family members when they see them. And why wouldn’t I greet her the same way? After all, I pretty much spent all of my childhood summers hanging out at Diana’s house, which of course meant that I spent a LOT of time with her mother.

Having a best friend often means acquiring an adoptive family. Whether piled in Diana’s mom’s room watching Jerry Springer or away at the beach for a mini vacation with her grandma and extended family, I always felt at home with my second family. And not only because they were nice to me, but because I could always count on them to make fun of me for dumb things I said or did the same way that my mom or my uncles would—with love in the face of total ridiculousness. Now that I’m an adult we are all Facebook friends and the love is still going strong.

I’ve always gotten along with my friends’ parents and siblings, and I will tell you the secret. And no, this isn’t like the Don Draper guide to being awesome where it’s all like “BE DON DRAPER AND SMELL LIKE DON DRAPER,” it’s actually quite simple. The secret to being loved by your friends’ parents is just to be polite.

I know you’re all probably polite and respectful already, of course, but you know, if there’s a mom or a dad that’s been giving you grief or thinks that you’re a “bad influence” on your friend (whatever THAT means) they’ll have nothing to stand on if you always greet them when you see them and thank them after letting you stay over for dinner or a sleepover. Sure, those are kind of a given, but now extend your good manners to less obvious things. Stop rummaging around in their refrigerator, for example, like it’s yours. I know you basically LIVE there, but you don’t ACTUALLY live there, and nobody likes an entitled teenager. Or an entitled adult. No one likes an entitled person in general!

Take your cues from the way your friend behaves around their family (within reason—just ’cause your friend cusses in front of her mom doesn’t mean you should!): if your friend always washes the dishes after she’s done eating, then offer to do the same. It’s the little things, you know?

When talking to your friend’s parents, gauge their tone and sense of humor and go from there. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their day and make conversation! If at the beginning things are a little awkward (aren’t they always?), know that little by little your friendliness will have the desired effect. Being respectful and having a sense of humor (which is not the same as being funny all the time!) can really go a long way, and the more their parents see you as a cool person, the better everything works out for everyone. Your relationship with your friend’s mom or dad can become sorta like the one you might have with a cool aunt or uncle—they’ll give you good advice, but since you don’t live with them it might be easier to talk with them about sensitive subjects than it is with your parents.

These things all depend on family dynamics, of course, but the potential for a great relationship is almost always there for you to make the best of it. And if you ever say or do something out of place, don’t think twice about apologizing. One story that Diana and her mom like to tease me about all the time involves the three of us being in the car listening to the radio. At some point during our ride “Malibu” by Hole came on and ALLEGEDLY I shushed Diana’s mom so I could listen to the song! I obviously have no recollection of this happening—I am a nice girl!—but I was so embarrassed that I could be so careless that I STILL apologize when it comes up. And it’s been over 10 years. And that counts too! Taking responsibility for your mistakes is “very mature,” you know, so whether you shushed your friend’s mom or were the mastermind behind that time you guys snuck out and got caught, know that redemption is still an option. Just like with your own parents, it might take some time to gain back their trust, but if you stick with your prim-and-proper-ness, the world will be your oyster! The sky will be the limit! And other original phrases that mean that nice guys might finish last but nice girls are loved by parents all over the world. ♦

14 Comments

  • Claire October 14th, 2011 7:17 PM

    Luckily, I’ve been blessed with friends whose parents are generally awesome…but the thought of a Hole song ON THE RADIO excites me more than it probably should…

  • Pashupati October 14th, 2011 8:52 PM

    The illustration is awesome! (and I might need these advices some day, so thanks in advance!)

  • Leslie October 14th, 2011 8:56 PM

    While my best friend (of 15 years) is away at college, I still go to her house down the road and visit with her parents. I love them so much and they are as important to me as my own parents. It’s a really special relationship to have.

  • diny October 14th, 2011 9:27 PM

    yeah, like to go to my friends house. it makes me feel close to them. know their family, their room, and their collections of stuff.

    one (or some?) my friend(s) mom called me ‘pretty girl’. it makes me believe that i am pretty (on my very own way).

  • marypee22 October 14th, 2011 9:41 PM

    I could probably write an essay on how to be hated by your friend’s parents… which is exciting in its own way. But this is good solid advice!

    • giov October 15th, 2011 6:29 AM

      I could totally write that essay. Not that I am proud of it or anything, but in my angsty days I sure had a problem with authority and parents in general. plus, my friends’ parents were not that awesome at all (some have changed since, thank goodness).

  • Jamie October 15th, 2011 1:45 AM

    SELLOUT

    just kidding i love parents. too much. like a weird amount.

  • flowerpunk October 15th, 2011 8:10 AM

    The most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me -ever- was when I accidentally caught my best friend’s mom NAKED. Well, it wasn’t really my fault, I just went upstairs to get something, and the mom thought I was my friend and came out of the bathroom completely naked before I could even say anything… I know.

  • cancercowboy October 15th, 2011 8:57 AM

    taking responsibility for one’s own mistakes isn’t just very mature (though lots and lots of adults don’t do it), but the appropriate way to deal with them

  • Tessa October 15th, 2011 5:38 PM

    I seem to have extremely good luck with people’s parents. I have also weaseled into the hearts of most parents of the guy’s I’ve dated, especially my current counterpart’s. I can tell you though, I’ve had a few moms hate me, but that’s just because I was never afraid to call them out on their bullshit. Even back in 6th grade when I stood in my friends kitchen and argued with her mother over her ridiculous rules.

    For the most part, meeting people is a breeze for me, I feel very lucky for that.

  • Whatsername October 15th, 2011 8:48 PM

    All of my friends’ parents love me, which is odd because all of my friends are Asian and most of their parents are somewhat racist toward white kids. However, I always be as polite as possible, so they all think I’m a great kid despite being a different race.

  • seaponny October 16th, 2011 5:34 AM

    I’ve always had really bad luck with friend’s parents, especially my female friend-folks. I’ve got things like “russian hooker” thrown in my face by middleaged men with children, because of the fact that I soetimes wear blue lipstick and seethrough tops. The only parents I know, apart from my own, that really like me is my boyfriends and I cannot be enough thankful for that due to the fact that I spend almost every living minute in his home with them!!!

  • insteadofanelephant October 16th, 2011 6:39 PM

    cool article! i like that you went beyond just please and thank yous. parents are just people, get to know them!

    instead of an elephant

  • natasha October 16th, 2011 6:57 PM

    Mh, my friends parents dislike me..always. When we meet I’ll be polite, I’ll be friendly and I’ll be quiet. I’ll try to fit in, basically I’ll do all the advice given here and nearly always (one exception) after the first to second meeting my each friend will tell me that their parents were a bit spooked by me, that I was too weird and a bit damaged maybe and they didn’t want me to ever visit again. Sometimes the parents will also forbid my friend to stay friends with me, but sometimes they’re okay with me staying friends, if they just don’t need to meet me again.
    It’s very disheartening, but my boyfriend’s mother likes me, which is a huuuuge relief, because I care more about her than any random friend’s parents.