I come from one of those small historical UK towns that are hard to spot on a map. One of those quaint little villages that you would drive through and think was incredibly picturesque. You may even promise yourself that you will come back for a pub lunch sometime, but end up forgetting all about it. As with all small towns we have our age-old honoured traditions that the whole town gathers together for. Our tradition is called the town proclamation and involves a town elder riding around on a horse drinking whisky and milk at six am (yes, small towns are simultaneously charming and strange). One year, when my family attended the annual proclamation in the bitter chills of six am, I heard a voice I didn't like, whilst enjoying the festivities. It was Ethel from school. She had seen me holding onto my Mum's hand in the busy crowd and decided that this was the perfect thing to mock me to her friends. Luckily my Mum picked up on the mocking and pulled me to the other side of her whilst giving me some gentle words of encouragement of not letting Ethel get to me. That year I didn't enjoy the proclamation as much, not down to the bitterness of the cold or the bite of the wind, but due to Ethel and her unnecessary mocking.
Fast forward a few years and my parents were dropping me off on my first day at university. It was a Saturday in September and I was so excited to move away from my small town and have a massive campus to explore. The accommodation section of the campus was so overwhelming to me at first, as it was probably the same size as my quaint little home town. I eagerly unpacked my things into my new room, as I was ecstatic for my cool new campus life to begin. The only annoying part of that day was my parents. I wanted them to drop me off and leave, but they wanted to get lunch, tour the campus, chat in my room and do countless other activities which did not involve them leaving. Looking back now I understand why they wanted those precious last few moments with me, as it was their little girl leaving the household, but at the time it was beyond irritating. When they finally left I sat alone in silence in my room for the first time. I looked around my accommodation block for other students, but there was no one around. I found out later in the day that ironically during this time my future flatmates were all having lunch and final farewells with their families.
Now let's discuss a not-so-good memory. It's ten pm on a cold Wednesday evening in January and I have just driven for what felt like an eternity to my parents house. I haven't eaten in hours, I'm shivering with fear and my face is wet with tears from where I have been crying for the entire journey. My heart was heavy and aching with pain. The type of pain that only parental comfort can help to heal. I finally arrive at their house and dash out of the car into the chilly evening air and knock on their door. I am an unexpected guest, utterly hysterical and wet through but I just needed them. The door is opened by my Mum in a dressing gown looking confused and dishevelled. She sees me and instantly wraps her arms around me and almost starts crying too. This is swiftly followed by my Dad arriving and placing one of his bear paws on my back. I'm okay again.
So why have I just told you three randomly and not connected personal stories? Well, the thing is they are connected as they all display parental love and support at different life stages. I think when we are younger we don't understand what a big deal we are to our parents and how much they love and care for us. When you truly learn to love and appreciate your parents as people and not just as parents it opens up a whole new world.
Realising that parents are your friends too starts a whole new relationship with them. This past year I started going on coffee dates with my Dad and having wine nights with my Mum. Like any friendship, both friendships took time to blossom. But parents are like onions, as you have to peel back the Mum and Dad layers to get to the person inside; as that's the person that can be your friend. My Mum and I swim and go to the gym together to discuss life and what she was doing at my age, whereas my Dad and I play chess, drink whisky and talk about his crazy trip to America. The best time is when all three of us get together and walk their beautiful puppy, Bella, at the park. I think I like that the most as I can see how much love they have for Bella, and that must be a fraction of the love that they must have for me. I read somewhere once that we only accept the love that we think we deserve and I think that is true for every relationship, not just romantic ones. It is certainly true for me in understanding my parents and my relationship with them.
After the initial start of the friendship and becoming closer as grown adults, they started to go up my call list. You know that secret mental list we all have when something good happens, or we have some gossip we just need to tell someone? It started to become that I would always ring or tell one of them. I think I truly realised that we had become best friends when someone would ask me, 'What are you doing on Saturday,' and I would loudly and proudly state 'going to the gym with my parents'. And that is coming a long way from the little girl in the first story.
I think it's important to remember that not everyone is lucky enough to have parents with friendship potential, so if you are you should cherish it and make the most of it. Just peel back those onion layers, as parents are just people too. People who love you unconditionally and just want to support you. Who wouldn't want a friend like that? So I guess this is my written confession: My name is George and my parents are my best friends, and I couldn't be prouder.