Being a parent is without a doubt one of the highlights of my life, at times it has also held a few of the lowest points in my life. I never received a manual or “how to” book on raising children. But then who has? Everything we do as parents is a direct result of how we were reared by our parents. Some of it may even be attributed to a few of the television shows we watched. I prefered “Leave it Beaver”, in my fantasy family Ward Cleaver was my dad, Wally and the Beaver were my brothers. Yeah born a Cleaver how great would that have been?
Out of fantasy land and back to the real world!
I have been known to pick up and peruse the occasional parenting book written by one of Oprah’s top pick guru’s looking for answers. I have also been known to hold up the grocery store line a time or two while turning the pages on more than my fair share of “parenting” magazines. Then there are the times I have been patiently listening to the endless stream of unwarranted advice coming from the endless gaggle of distraught moms and dads purging their souls at church of school functions. And as referenced earlier I can’t leave out the wonderful advice given to me time and again by my parents. The same people who apparently live in a fantasy world when it comes to recalling exactly how I was raised. Yes that’s right in their eyes it was all snow cones, marshmallows and ponies for yours truly.
Yet with all this second and third-party knowledge floating in my head, for some reason (unbeknownst to me) it is still a day-to-day challenge ensuring my child is being raised properly. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing many parent/child relationships grow and flourish; I have also seen the unpleasant side of the same relationship failing miserably. A relationship failing so badly one cant help but stand back and wonder what the heck happened? How on earth did this child grow to be in charge of the relationship? Why is this child demanding, disrespectful, and belligerent? The answer is simple; the parent opted to become the child’s friend.
When I was younger I would daydream about what my children would look like, how they would behave and most of all, I would wonder what kind of relationships we would have together. I thought about all the normal scenarios, like if it was a boy we would go hunting and fishing, play baseball together, camp in the backyard, go on bike rides and build a tree house! Work on cars in the driveway and farm equipment out back. Nothing a couple of MEN can’t handle, and nothing is better than working side by side with your son, your friend.
If it was girl, she would be my little princess, the apple of my eye, and mom would dress her up in the cutest of clothes. I would be her protector, her daddy, the man who would melt at her smile all while cleaning my shotgun as her first date arrived. Now don’t get me wrong I also have plans to teach her about hunting and fishing, keeping her girly with a little tomboy thrown in for good measure. Of course this will prepare her mentally as she begins taking care of herself against those awful boys she’ll encounter, due to her stunning beauty. But at the end of the day, she will be my little angel and we will always be friends. Boy or girl, it didn’t matter, we will always be friends… Or will we???
What I have determined over time is this; I am not my child’s friend. I will never be my child’s friend. I am something way more in-depth, and incredibly more important than a friend. Whenever I hear an adult say “me and little insert name here are best friends”, I cringe and instantly think oh gosh you are so wrong, and inevitably when I finally have the opportunity to meet that child it is obvious who controls the relationship. (Hint: it’s not the parent). It really is sad to see a parent bowing to the will of a 6-year-old all in the name of friendship.
Maybe Ward Cleaver had it right?
Ward solved every problem with a calm cool disposition. He never wavered and was always fair in distribution of punishment. His children loved him and his wife adored him. Now I know this was Television. A writers idea of what family life should be. But did they really have it wrong? And why was Wards way of doing things so effective? Why?
I have thought about this long and hard coming to only one logical conclusion. He was not his childrens friend. I have also found my parenting style somewhat the same for I too am not my childs friend; I am my child’s parent. That’s right I said it! In this feel good, words hurt, everyone gets a trophy, nobody loses, you need to express yourself society I have chosen to not be my childs friend, but instead focus on being the best parent I can possibly become!
Now let that sink in for a moment.
So I know many of you are saying “that’s bunk”! Some of you may even ask yourself “is there a difference”? We’ll let me tell you fellow readers, I believe there certainly is a difference! To me (my opinion only) its like this….
Friends come and go, friends can be spoken to in anger then if all is not patched up, friends can be discarded like yesterdays trash, no longer being called a friend. Yet a new friend will take the old ones place in a matter of time. (And yes that statement is a generalization) A friend is just that, a friend an acquaintance. They travel through our lives like the wind, coming and going only to reappear when ever and where ever they choose. Don’t misunderstand what I am implying for a true friend can in fact be an important part of your life! Someone you may grow to rely on, someone who may be an important part of who you have become or may become. Someone who stands by your side for most of your life. We all have friends we have known since childhood, some we may even trust more than family members. When it comes to raising a child though, you need more than what friendship brings to the table. Your child needs strong, loving parents providing guidance in every facet of their life.
Heres the shocker! (once again my opinion)
Parenting means telling your child NO and meaning it, standing by it, never wavering. Parenting means letting them make mistakes, even though you can’t stand to see them fail. But fail they will and you will be right beside them, guiding them to an enlightened outcome. Parenting means punishing them when they have done wrong even though it’s an inconvenience for YOU! Yep that’s right, I can’t tell you how many times I have seen parents throw down the stern “this is how its gonna be” only to back pedal a few seconds later because it hurt their little ones feelings! Parenting means loving them unconditionally without question, regardless of what or who they have become. Parenting means sticking your nose in their business when they become teenagers, continuing to screen, observe and learn about every aspect of their lives and their friends lives as well. Parenting means teaching them the importance of a job well done along with the repercussions of a job unfinished or done poorly. Parenting means making mistakes yourself, recognizing those mistakes then apologizing afterwards. Even though you want to be perfect in your childs eyes they will respect you more for your imperfections and ability to rebound from those mistakes. Parenting means sometimes you need to cry when they cry and laugh when they laugh, even though you may not think what they were experiencing was worth crying or laughing over. Parenting means teaching them how to give and receive love unconditionally. Of course this is done by example. Good parenting will give them more emotional stability and knowledge about who they are than any parent/friendship. It will also give them the skills needed to grow, eventually becoming strong adults along with great friends themselves.
Parenting your child will always be one of the most challenging ventures undertaken. But in the long run its an investment well worth the risk.
I am very proud to say I’m a parent to my children.
Side note: I also believe once your children are adults you never stop being their parents. But because they are now adults, it is a little easier developing a more “friend like” relationship if you so choose.