"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Thursday, September 09, 2010

My friend is one... who take me for what I am

"Be their parent, not their friend."

This admonition has been appearing everywhere lately, from parenting columns to TV shows to Facebook walls. Always with the same moral authority, the same dire warnings of children who'll grow up to be miscreants and criminals if said advice isn't heeded.  Be their PARENT.  Whatever you do, do not be their friend!

It should come as no surprise that I gladly ignore most conventional parenting tenants, but few cause quite the same relentless pull at my heart at this one.  It just feels wrong.  I actually think the opposite is true... I think we should not only be their friends, but be their best friends.  Like the rest of us, they need that connection, that peace that comes from a relationship in which you can truly be YOU.  That person you can talk to without fear of judgement.  That person you can fully trust with your dreams, with your good, with your bad, with your so-crazy-you-don't-even-understand-it-yourself.  They need that connection.  And while we'd all like to think of our kids as having no shortage of friendships with others, that may not always be the case.  As parents, we're in a position to be that constant in their lives, that unwavering friend who doesn't back away because they're no longer "cool" (or because they're too different, or because they made a mistake, or because they said the wrong thing, or carry the wrong kind of cell phone)

Kids don't get into trouble because their parents are their friends.  They get into trouble because they're looking for something that they lack, looking for something to make them feel whole, looking for a connection.

"Be their parent, not their friend."

The two are not mutually exclusive.  I am my children's parent.  It is my job to love them, to protect them, to keep them safe, to guide them, to help them, to show them, to take care of them.  Of course, as a parent those things come first.  I wouldn't be a very good parent if I didn't get my two year old a drink because I was too busy discussing the merits of a new PS3 game with the teenager.

I am a parent.  I never claim to be a perfect parent, and God knows I make mistakes, but I'm a good parent.  Still, that's just one piece of the equation.  I have a genuine, voluntary, relationship with my children.  Yes, I'm their friend. 

"Be their parent, not their friend."

Now, maybe the people who say that never had very good friends of their own.  Or maybe their definition of friendship is different from mine.  I don't know how Webster defines friendship (am I dating myself by referencing Webster??)  Wikipedia.  I don't know how Wikipedia defines friendship, but by my definition there is nothing that conflicts with parenting, and everything that enhances it.

A friend is someone you have fun with, to be sure.  Someone you can laugh with, play with, joke with. 

More than that though, a friend is someone who keeps you real.  Someone who accepts you with all your flaws and inconsistencies, and someone who knows the fine line that exists between being understanding and calling you out on your bullsh@t.

A friend is someone you can trust with your true feelings, someone you can go to for advice, and someone who recognizes those times when advice is the last thing you want, those times when you just need to talk.  A friend is someone who understands, who sympathizes, who cares

A friend is someone who accepts your sincere apology when you've wronged them, and someone who apologizes when they've done the same.

A friend is someone who, just by their presence, makes you want to be a better person.

A friend is someone who wants the best for you, and who'd do whatever they could to help make it happen.  A friend is supportive of your dreams, believes in your potential, and encourages you in your efforts.

A friend is someone who lets you be YOU, who wouldn't want you to be anyone else.  Someone who doesn't love you despite all your little quirks and idiosyncrasies but because of them.  Someone who has seen you at your best AND your worst.

Someone who recognizes that you wouldn't be human if you didn't have bad days. 

Perhaps above all else, a friend is someone who, when those bad days come... when your chips are down and you're feeling like all of humanity is conspiring against you... will stand by your side and say,

"Don't worry. I've got your back."

Yes, I am, by all accounts, their friend.  No matter what your relationship with your kids is, shouldn't it at least begin with friendship?


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