I spent much of my early parenting life afraid.
And although some of my fears made sense — as in, I’m pretty sure it’s a biological imperative and plain good sense to want to keep your child from harm — many of my fears were based simply on the Great Unknown of Parenting. I was afraid I’d do it wrong. Afraid of being too lenient. Afraid of failing my kids and somehow Ruining Them Forever.
Experimenting with parenting, after all, seemed wildly irresponsible. Why in the world would I trust myself with this gig when I might Wreck Everything, you know? So I turned to the parenting books and the experts, and I listened well to, well, anyone who had a formula. A sure-fire way to raise kids correctly. A bonafide fool-proof plan, in which I played the role of the fool who needed to be thwarted. I turned to every Bible-based parenting book out there, because I still believed at the time that the Bible was a blueprint and a rule book and that I was not to be trusted. Which makes me sad now; sad that I missed the Larger Point of the Bible, which is to put relationship and love first — and rules last — and that I missed out on believing I was made in Love’s own image, capable of loving my children in turn and learning from my gut, my God (whose other name is Love), and a compassionate community how to raise them well.
In my early parenting days, I believed I needed to be my kids’ parent and not their friend, as though friendship would undermine my authority and unravel everything I was trying to teach them. But, friends, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I just returned yesterday from visiting my oldest kid at college.
Six days in Hawaii in her condo with her friends…
… and there’s no question I was there as both her Mommy AND ally. Both advisor AND confidante. Mentor AND friend.
We hung out, we ate food, we were baptized by sun, surf and sand, and Abby and her people told me All the Things. The real stories about college. What’s going well and what sucks. What they’ve done and would do again in a heartbeat. What they’ve done and never want to do again. What was smart and what was wildly stupid. They’ve formed a community with each other, they have each other’s backs, and they cracked open their hearts to let me in. I got to say, “Oh my gosh, you all are the VERY BEST,” which is true — they’re remarkable — and I also got to say, “SHIT, that sounds scary — NEVER DO THAT AGAIN,” which they already knew.
They, in turn, were like every friend I’ve ever known — smart, savvy, deeply human, messy, magical, and in need of the occasional reminder that they’re wildly worthy of unlimited love exactly as they already are. Like all of us, right? Every last one.
And — here’s what I need you to hear, friends — I was never more glad I abandoned the notion that I’m only Abby’s mom and embraced being also her friend. I would have missed so much if I didn’t.
So here’s my confession: I’m my kids’ parent AND their friend — all of them. My adult at college. My teenagers in high school. And my preteen babies with their high-pitched voices and sweet hugs and irrational outbursts fueled by hormones on the rise. Parent and friend. Every day. Every hour. Both/And forever.
I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I’m perpetually confused by all the blogs, memes and videos out there in which parents declare they’re NOT their kids’ friend. Like they have to be either parent or friend, instead of deeply, eternally both. You know? Am I the only one who finds this perplexing?
I’ve hesitated to say anything because the “I’m not their friend; I’m their PARENT” bits are so prolific. But perhaps because they’re so prolific, it’s time to say I’m both. And you can be, too. You don’t have to pick, friends.
I mean, I get it on the one hand. There’s an impression somehow that being our kids’ friends is equivalent to abdicating parental responsibility, letting our kids walk all over us, and failing to teach them to be disciplined humans who will contribute to society.
Might I posit, though, that that couldn’t be further from the truth?
Might I suggest that befriending our kids — ensuring they know we’re in this together, we are a team, and we have the same goals of a bright future — is actually a crucial part of the parenting gig? That it’s an absolutely critical part of creating a relationship centered around listening to each other and mutual respect?
And might I also say that equating friendship with letting another human walk all over us is a pretty crappy and unhealthy definition of friendship? Because it is. Like, really a lot. We can do better than that in the friendship arena and with our babies. We can model healthy friendship WITH our kids, not just in front of them.
I asked my kids about this a couple years ago, on a day I was particularly confused about all the online “Parent, NOT Friend” posts, so I’ll leave you with their thoughts in a few videos below, because I think they say it better than I do anyway.
Sending you love,
P.S. I suck at making videos, so we’ll all just deal with the crappy quality, yes? Yes. Just as I thought.
And P.P.S. My favorite part of these videos may be that I was getting ready for work in between making them, so you can see the make-up and hair getting ever more intentional… not necessarily BETTER, you understand… just more on purpose. Ha!
P.P.P.S. Also-also, video #4 is a continuation of #3 because see the first P.S. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
P.P.P.P.S. I’d really love to know if I’m alone here on this Parents AND Friends thing. Thoughts?
UPDATED: P.P.P.P.P.S. Here’s the All-Important Beer Bottle video Cai mentioned in the first vid. #TheMoreYouKnow #HowToHoldABeerBottle