Every time I hear a parent brag that her child is her best friend, I cringe and think, “Well, that’s too bad.” The job description of parent is mighty long—nurturer, teacher, advisor, consultant, guide, spotter, disciplinarian, consoler, cheerleader. But I am quite sure “friend” is not on the list.
I fully believe that you really like your child, that there are times when you get along like peas and carrots, that you say you can read each other’s minds. But your child, whether young or old, needs you to be her parent. She has enough friends, and so do you.
I know that you don’t get to spend much time with your child; both of your schedules are packed 24/7. So you want what little time you have together to be pleasant. I know it’s just easier to say yes, and everyone will be happy…for the moment.
I was told the story of a 15 year old girl who was invited to a party at a school mate’s house. Her mother, as she has always done, called the party giver’s parents to check on the plan. The father shared that he was okay with beer and vodka, “… but I draw the line at weed.” (No joke!) His response to the supervision question was, “I’m not the kind of dad who checks on the kids all the time, but I will be at home.” Upon hearing the news that she would not be going to the party, the girl was furious, really furious. It lasted many hours. But the next day it was as if it had never happened. “In fact,” Mom said, “she was unusually friendly and warm.”
Being a parent requires you to make some tough calls, to be unpopular, even hated sometimes. You will be the meanest mom in the world and threatened with a child who wants to live with another family, maybe run away. You will feel like a salmon swimming upstream when you’re told that alllllllllllll the other kids’ parents said they could, and you still say no. But this IS your job.
Children are not like self-basting turkeys; they just can’t grow themselves. Children will seek all the good stuff they can get—be it extra tv time, cookies from the platter, or minutes at the mall. And they count on you to stop them, to rein them back in. It is their job to test the limits; it is your job to stop them. And as children get older, more than ever they rely on you to be their brakes, especially when faced with peer pressure. “No, my dad will kill me if I get home after curfew.”
Your child needs to know that you love her so much that you will tolerate her explosive protest when you lay down the law and you will not change your mind because of it. Nothing can be more important to you than her well being, her safety, and her learning the rules of the road.
This is the job of a parent…not a friend.