My kids and I are friends.
I've heard this statement from a lot of different parents. Some I know well, others not so well. Some seem to make everything look so easy (though I'm sure they'd tell me otherwise), others seems to struggle their way through each day.
I'll get the basics of my opinions out of the way so you can get all crankypants, and then I'll go into my reasoning.
So. I think it's a really dumb idea to try and place the term "friends" on a relationship with your children. I think it opens doors to problems, not just between the parents and their children, but in a much larger circle. I think the lines of communication parents think are opened as the result of being buddies with their kids are closed a lot more than they realize. It's just dangerous.
So now that over zero of you are reading this going, "That's total crap. My kids and I are best friends and we always will be. I'm so mad that I'm gonna share this blog with everyone I know so they can gang up on this idiot with me." I'd like to first, thank you for sharing the blog with people! Second, please take a good long look at your kids and your relationship with them and try to really ask yourself if that's true. I think you'll find it isn't, and if you really believe I'm full of it maybe this will be some food for thought.
-"I want them to trust me and tell me about every aspect of their life."
I'm putting this first since that seems to be the first thing people mention when it comes to why they need to be friends with their kids. So I ask the question, does a friendship make this a reality? Trust, real trust, between a parent and child doesn't come from friendship. I'll go into this more in a bit, but let me put it this way, don't you trust certain friends more than others? Ask yourself why you feel that way. Don't let me turn your world upside down, but someone out there trusts you less than someone else they know, too. It's a totally natural thing, so to hang the hopes of having your child "trust" you by trying desperately to be their friend accomplishes nothing. Okay, so you also want your child to tell you all the things that are going on in their life. When people say that, I think they really mean they want their kids to feel comfortable telling them about anything. That's the dream, and I really want that with my kids. Still, I have to ask again, does a friendship make that a reality? See, this just implies an unrealistic expectation of friendship. All your friends know all your secrets? Of course not, but lots of your friends know lots of your secrets. So being their friend might allow you access to certain information, but far from all of it.
My thoughts on this: Wanting the trust of your child and subsequently wanting to put your trust in your child is a universal desire for parents. Believing that being the "cool" Mom or Dad gets you unlimited access to their life is just narrow-minded. Trusting your kids means putting enough faith in them to believe that they'll come to you when they need you, and however sad it might be to think about, they won't always need you. It might be easy for me to say now with my boys so young, but not telling me about every new girlfriend/crush right off the bat is okay, however, I don't want to find out they've decided to make the "big step" by cleaning up condom wrappers. What I hope to do with the boys is designate an atmosphere that is sort of a safe zone. Anything goes and any topic can be discussed. Not this expectation that everything will always be out in the open, but simply that there's no need to shy away from the uncomfortable topics. What I'd rather not do is talk about their latest conquest at the Chic-Fil-A (IF IT EVER OPENS! LET'S GO BOISE! THE COUNTRY IS LAUGHING AT US!) while we high-five and drink milkshakes. If your kids are coming to you to brag about something fairly stupid that they've already done instead of looking for direction before making the dumb decision, your dynamic might be a little off. Create a comfort zone for real conversation, not a time to "Holla at cha boy, dawg." Please, don't ever make me try and write something like that again.
-"I wasn't that close to my parents and I want to change that for my kids."
Once again, does a friendship make this a reality? Truthfully, I can really relate to this. I don't feel I'm particularly close with anyone in my family. That's why I just recently, at age 32, had my first conversation with my Dad about our family's move from Pennsylvania to Florida (which happened when I was 2 years old) and what he did at his job. I like my Dad, hell, I love my Dad but being close is another matter. Friends certainly do not always have a close relationship, and friends, even the best of friends, can fall apart from one another. The problem, to elaborate from earlier, is that the term "friend" can have so many meanings and so many implications. It is such a broad term to attempt as labeling the kind of relationship you want with your child. With all those meanings and with all those implications, "friend" may be as close as you can really get to the relationship we'd all want with our children. Still, I don't think it's right to try and use the same terminology with William and Carter that I use with people I only talk with via facebook. Isn't it easier to disrespect a friend as opposed to a parent? Would you worry about being out too late because your "friend" might get mad? That's the problem, and I'm really struggling to put this into the right words (maybe that's obvious, BACK OFF!). The space between friend and parental figure is far too big to really believe it's possible to have a hold on both sides...I feel like there's a setup for an Octomom joke there.
So I guess, in my opinion, the big problem is digging a hole so deep, you can't get back out. I have seen situations with my friends who try so hard to connect with their kids on this idea of friendship that they forget to be their parents as well. There has to be a line somewhere. There has to be boundaries, and as parents, if we fail to set them, we give up the right to be upset with the outcome. You can't give your child a beer at a party with all your friends around and then be surprised that they go back for more without telling you. Drawing a line in the sand has to be part of the parent-child relationship and there has to be some form of punishment without the threat of hurting the feelings of your "bud."
"Ev? You said something about the problems created in a larger circle? Do you mean the people I've shared your blog with?"
Well, a little bit, and I'll try and wrap this up. You have to know who your kids are hanging around with, cause here's the dirty little secret: If you think your kid's other friends (the ones who are not you) are idiots and a bad influence, they probably are! Know them, know their parents, and in a very self-centered way you need to decide if these people are worthy of your kid. It's another reason there must be that line between parent and friend. It's not my job to judge the people my friends hang out with. They are adults and not my responsibility. Also! If your kids decide that their best friends are your best friends, put a stop to it. Seriously, cause I'm shy as it is and I don't want to have explain that I just don't like them in...that way.
I'm just a little nugget of irresistible.