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I'm 22, and now I realize: These are 6 things my parents did right

The teen years can be rocky, but now that I'm out in the real world, I see everything my parents got right.
Randi Richardson and her family.
Randi Richardson and her family.Courtesy Randi Richardson

Now that I’m adulting, I have a newfound appreciation for my parents.

I’m in awe of how they raised two rambunctious kids while climbing the corporate ladder between vacations, basketball games, band concerts and everything else my sister and I put on their schedules. Meanwhile, I’m pooped after a day of working eight hours, and cancel my plans so I can go to bed early.

I often think back to my upbringing as I grow into the independence of having my first job and my own apartment, while also mourning the incredible childhood my parents so intentionally made for me. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but now my parents are my favorite people.

They did six things that set the foundation for our present day relationship.

Randi Richardson and her family.
Randi Richardson and her family.Courtesy Randi Richardson

1. They made childhood fun

My favorite memories are of us doing stuff as a family. My dad used to take me and my sister, Rani, on midnight bike rides to the local Walgreens. It was a couple miles away and we took the back roads with hills, potholes and fallen tree branches. I felt like I could do anything during that pseudo obstacle course. Rani and I would pedal as fast as we could while my dad just tried to keep us in eyeshot after working an 11-hour day. No matter how tired my parents were, they always had enough time and energy for us.

Another staple was roadtrips. We would hit the road for 10-hour trips regularly from our home in Michigan. We still remember the songs we would improvise to the beat of the rhythm of the car, making up lyrics to roast or love on each other. When we got to our destination, it felt like a second vacation after the car ride.

Randi and her family during a road trip.
Randi and her family during a road trip.Courtesy Randi Richardson

2. They had my back

It’s an understatement to say my parents unconditionally supported me. What was important to me was important to them. They attended all my games, weekend tournaments and events. Year after year, they paid for school supplies, clothes and equipment, all the way up to cars. For nine years, they helped move me and Rani in and out of dorms and apartments. They always encouraged me to ask questions and share my opinions. Other adults and teachers told my parents that my sister and I were disrespectful for “questioning their authority,” but our parents defended our intellectual development.

3. Patience during the growing pains

I’ve always been a daddy’s girl. But I vividly remember asking my dad why he was breathing so loudly. I asked him to chew more quietly when he was eating a carrot. And I used these little annoyances to push him away to a point I thought would keep him at a distance. But he never gave up on me. He loved me through it. And now, he's there to enjoy life with me.

Randi and her dad, Recco.
Randi and her dad, Recco.Courtesy Randi Richardson
Randi and her dad, Recco, at her college graduation party.
Randi and her dad, Recco, at her college graduation party.Courtesy Randi Richardson

4. Mastering the hard talks

I always knew I did something wrong when my mom hit me with, “Now Randi, you know I love you, right?” And then she’d ask why I still smelled after showering. We had the hygiene talk at least a dozen times until I finally learned how to wash myself properly. My dad would point out something I did by saying his clients were doing it (he’s a children’s therapist). I’d brush it off, wondering why he was bringing up this random anecdote, only to realize he was, in fact, teaching me.

Randi and her mom, Rene.
Randi and her mom, Rene.Courtesy Randi Richardson

My parents did particularly hard talks together. When the economy fell out in the mid-2000s, they sat Rani and me down with all the bills. They walked us through our bleak financial situation and asked if they could take the money they’d been saving for our college education to get over the hump. Consulting us on decisions increased my trust in them and deepened our relationship.

5. Opportunities to adult

My parents mastered giving me responsibility without putting pressure on me or rushing me to grow up. Both of my parents worked full-time, demanding jobs, so I started doing my own laundry around age 8 and I got more responsibility as I aged.

The first time I felt like an adult was at 16. I was driving a new car to all my commitments. I did the family grocery shopping and cooked our meals. I cleaned the house. We agreed this arrangement was better than regular take-out as long as I maintained straight As in school (I did). This experience in making time for errands and basic life routines made it easier to transition to college and my professional life.

6. Respecting my newfound adulthood

Moving away for college was the first time it dawned on me that my parents only know what I tell them. Being in each other's lives is now purely by choice.

My parents respect my autonomy and privacy. They ask before posting private information about me, sharing my contact information or committing me to stuff. They ask questions without prying and they maintain the intimate trust we built over years.

Learning who my parents are as people is one of the greatest joys of my life. But sometimes I wish I could restart it all from the beginning, not because I’d do anything different, but just to experience it all again.

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