The other night my 4 year old son Dylan, put his hand over his chest and said “mommy, you’re my heart”. Moments like these produce instant waterworks for me because I’m way more sappy than I lead on. He went on to say “you’re my best friend”. In that moment, I realized something about the whole “be a parent not a friend” adage. I realized that it’s seriously lacking in sound advice.
I do believe that what that adage was trying to express is that in attempting to be friends with our kids we end up losing authority by making them feel that they are equals either by going down to their level of understanding, or expecting them to come up to ours when they clearly lack the emotional and deductive reasoning to do so. This this is parenting that may not end well. Kids are not our equals, and we shouldn’t want them to be. We also shouldn’t bend to their will so to avoid them being mad at us because making them mad every now and again means that we probably saved them from doing something dangerous. Ergo the “don’t be your kids friend” thing. However, I had an epiphany about a different way;
Personally, I do believe that it is ok to be best friends with your children. Best friends are very open with one another about personal and emotional struggles. Best friends count on one another for sound advice, they trust one another. Best friends have the ability to air grievances in a safe space, after which both parties build an amicable resolution that is mutually beneficial. When both people feel valued for their talents, personalities, and even faults, a working and organic relationship ensues. Where the aspect of parenting comes in, I believe, is creating the environment that nurtures the above to be able to happen while we still have control over their world and experiences. Once we show them this, they’ll be able to do it for themselves for the rest of their lives.
However, anyone who has ever had a best friend will tell you that there will be major disagreements and fallouts. That’s just human fact. Yet best friends have the ability to apologize for and learn from their behavior when they hurt the other. An authoritative parent with friendship as their ongoing agenda, would be able to use this as a teaching moment and do their part to reconstruct the relationship to be stronger than before. They can break down in conversation why actions and reactions happened and can suggest a way to grow from it.
This all sounds easier said then done doesn’t it? It is, and then it isn’t. Ultimately it comes down to us as people ourselves. How confident are we in who we are? What kind of person are we, and how fearful are we of the world ourselves? How do we behave in the face of adversity? When I find my parenting faltering from my high ideals, I always realize that the underlying issue is with me…not him. He only knows what I introduce him to. He’ll be fearful if I am, and he’ll be confident in himself if I show him what that looks like. Parenting is the ultimate mirror, only they also have their own personalities to contend with. Parenting is like God handed us a rubrics cube that lasts for the rest of our lives. It isn’t impossible, but it isn’t easy…but it isn’t meant to be. Anything easy isn’t worth it…remember that the next time your kid is melting down at the most inopportune time.
I don’t know if I was just born different, but since the second I met him I have had the utmost respect for my son, and framing parenting this way granted me many skills in parenting that I didn’t know existed before. I believe that we chose most of our circumstances in life before we incarnate here. Not everything goes according to our plan however, we must contend with the Free Will of other people, but we mostly get our chosen circumstances to learn from. In that vein, Dylan chose Michael and I, and to date I have never viewed that as a responsibility, only a privilege. Respect and privilege are two lost words in parenting that need to make a major emergence. Perhaps we would crush our kids less, and teach from the experience more.
As awakened person, I allow this privilege and respect to drive me to parent Dylan as the free and sovereign being that he actually is. While we can, we create his surroundings, we don’t allow them to be created. We grant him experiences with nature, people, responsibility, business, and guide him through them. At a very young age he understands that for every action there is a reaction. I remember how I felt when I was young, or when I got angry and frustrated, and I guide him right through these same emotions using empathy and open it to a conversation about feelings not being facts. When he becomes older, I’ll do the same for parenting him right around my past mistakes by being very honest about what I’ve been through and what I’ve learned. He will know how to handle bullies and I will empower him with the knowledge as to why people who willingly hurt others are the way that they are. Instead of revenge, he will hopefully have empathy and compassion and ignore them if he can’t help them. And when he is old enough to explore love relationships, I will tell him all that I learned about my previously failed marriage and what I did wrong in order to have the experience that I did. Ultimately however, it is his life and he will have to experience it on his own. That’s where being his best friend will come into play. I’ll be able to count on my parenting, and the fact that he will be confident in coming to me when he needs to talk…to his best friend.
Alas, it is nearly Mother’s Day, and while sleeping in and breakfast in bed sounds wonderful, I couldn’t have those experiences if it weren’t for Dylan. As such, I leave you with a letter that I wrote to him when he was less than 2 weeks old. It is a promise to my son as his life long guardian, friend, and mother.
Happy Mothers Day to all.