Being a Parent, Not a Friend

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This week has been kind of unique because I’ve been super connected with my oldest child which is a rarity in my house these days. Being a developing tween, about to burst into the world of puberty, it seems that we hardly ever connect.

In fact disconnected may be a complimentary characteristic for what she’s been going through as of late. Always in her room, absorbed in a tech world, entertained by pop culture, showing no interest whatsoever to interact with our family.

It’s been about consequence and reward and fighting lots of battles to get her to do what’s expected of her and not enjoying what little time we have together.

A mom shared some words of wisdom with me the other day at a school function. She said, “Don’t worry, I went through the same thing with all my tweens, I went through periods of time where they hardly ever wanted to interact. The best advice I could give you is to make every conversation you have with them a positive one. Only talk about the good things, only talk about what they’re into and only give them positive feedback.”

I said, “Thanks for the advice.”

And then when I processed it, I thought, this mom is either completely out of control or completely insane. Because one of the things that I’ve always struggled with, raising a blended family, going through a divorce and raising three girls – thank God I have a hands-on husband – but one of the things I’ve struggled with is learning how to be parent and not friend.

And one of the most important values – something that I pride myself on – is teaching my children to be decent human beings. Which means I’m all over them when it comes to manners, when it comes to being conscious of the world around them and other people, being considerate people, and learning how to be responsible human beings.

Which means I’m always on them, reminding them, whether it’s posture or chewing with your mouth closed, doing your homework, speaking nicely to their siblings, being a kind friend, not being fresh – I feel like sometimes I’m preaching to a choir that can’t even hold a note, but that’s my job as a parent. And even though they don’t like me for it right now, it’s my job to make sure my children grow up to be decent human beings.

So I don’t know, I must be doing something right. Because when it comes down to it, and the things that matter most, I hear them teaching their younger siblings correct life lessons. And making them accountable for their actions and teaching them right from wrong is more important to me than hanging out with them and filling their head with a bunch of BS because that’s my idea of quality time with my kid.

I think being a parent is much harder than being a friend. And being willing to sacrifice that pitch and catch, give and take exchange of love is really hard and really painful at times. But I’m hoping that when we look back at this phase in our life, that it will be for the right reasons and they’ll know that I taught them valuable life lessons.

But it seems that the harder I am on her, the more I get what I want out of her. And don’t get me wrong, I break the rules. I’m all about staying up until the sun comes up, planning the most amazing ditch day of school when she gets a straight-A report card. When her behavior is right and there’s something she wants, I give all the privileges in the world but I only give them when they’re earned.

And when she calls on me for something she needs, I’m the first one in line. I’m the first one there and I hope I’ll always be the first phone call she has to make. That’s what’s important – that I’m there when she needs me.

It’s kind of like Nanny McPhee, as corny as that is, I’m there when she needs me and maybe not there when she wants me. But that’s just the challenge of parenting. It’s easy to be a friend when your heart is in it. It’s really hard to be a parent when your heart is breaking.

I imagine that’s the challenge and one of the hardest things about being a parent is one day being able to walk in the shadows and follow your child’s journey without interfering. I think that’s my goal, rather than leading them and often times walking beside them but being confident enough that I’ve done everything I can to teach them and the right life lessons so that I can linger behind and watch them navigate through their own life story.

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