Wednesday, July 23, 2008

are you more parent or more friend?

and can you be both?

Recently, a young man that I know got himself into some legal trouble -- and his parents who live apart, were asked to come in and talk to some sort of counselor at the juvenile detention facility to help in determining if which parent he is placed with would have any effect on his behaviour when he is released.

The dad was asked "are you more of a parent or a friend?" -- he answered 50/50.
The mom was asked "are you more of a parent or a friend?" -- she answered 50/50.
The son was asked "which of your parents is more of a friend and which more of a parent?" -- he answered 50/50.

So I was discussing this with my mom (you remember, we are the only people with brains large enough to solve all the world's problems, or so we think during our morning conversations)... and, my first response was "what do they mean by friend?"... I believe I am a friend to my kids, we talk about silly stuff, we laugh together, we cry together, we help one another, we are friends. WE ARE NOT PEERS -- I do not go buy the same clothes as my daughters, I do not go to their parties, I do not act like a peer. I had some adult friends growing up, the neighbors who had no kids, I hung out with them, they were friendly to me, I was friendly to them -- they were still adults, and I was still a kid. My parents were and are my friends, they still, even though I am an adult now, are not my peers. I can count my good friends quickly -- in my world, a good friend is someone you can call when you are several hours away and you are in some sort of trouble -- your car is broken down, you need someone to cry with, you are sick... and they will drop what they are doing and come to your aid. In my world, you can call your good friend at 3am and say, I really need you, and they will be there for you. I have lots of other friends too, people I don't feel badly calling from 9am-9pm and saying, hey, next Thursday I have this project that I don't know how to do, but I know you do know how, will you come help me teach my girl scouts how to knit baby booties? Or, hey, do you have a blah blah that I can borrow for two days?... I have a lot of those friends. Then I have acquaintances, people I know from school, sports, etc. People who if I were sitting at a ball game with them, we might share sunscreen or sunflower seeds, but who I wouldn't dream of dropping in on at their homes. People that I would never call to ask if they would help me teach girl scouts how to knit, even if they knit at the games all the time. I might however call them if I were doing a special project for the activity that both of our kids are involved in. I want to be more than someone who shares sunscreen when it's convenient with my kids, and different than someone I would call up and say "hey, I'm invited to this bachelorette party, and I don't want to go alone, will you come be stupid with me for a few hours?"

What are you? -- am I wrong, can you not be a friend to your kid? And was the interviewer wrong, should he have been asking are you more a parent or a peer? Is there a difference? My mom and I thought that it would be interesting to poll other parents, so I did ask two moms... at baseball... they both immediately and without hesitation gave their answers -- so it was interesting. Now that we have this post below, that brought so many responses (it was pretty exciting for this little quiet blog to have a little party going on for awhile) -- and someone suggested you should make your decision by putting yourself in the position of your adult child's peer... I thought of this topic.

oh yeah ps. I hope my adult child's peer has no interest in whether or not he has an 'intact' foreskin -- ewwwwwwwww... "whatcha lookin at my pud for?"

By the way -- to all the baseball mom's out there -- I used baseball as an example, probably should have used swimming, because over the years, some of the baseball families have grown into other categories, and I would easily call them at 3am and say "hey, I need you" and they would be there for me. Also, many of them are near the top of the "will you go be stupid with me for a few hours list -- because they are so much fun to be stupid with!".


baseballmom said...

What a great post--and you are totally on the money with the kind of friend that you want to be with your kids. If you are a peer, you are considered an equal, and therefore, have no say in their decision making. I want to be someone that my kids can have a good time with, be silly, confide in, but also know that I am the parent and therefore, the decision maker. I think if you rule by fear, or intimidation, your child will never trust you or confide in you, and what kind of a relationship is that? My kids know who the fun parent is, but they also know that they have to listen to me. For some reason, though, I doubt if those anti-circumcision guys will be here to read this post, because it's not their 'thing'...

moosema said...

Good topic! And still they insist on continuing the previous argument. Wow. I knew men were sensitive about their penises (believe me, I suffered more when my husband got snipped than I did with childbirth -- oh God, now the vasectomy activists are going to attack!) But, Holy Cow!

Anyway, I've thought about this and I think it is hard to be a good parent if you aren't also your child's friend. As you said, not a peer type friend, but a friend that has some common interests (even if you have to work hard to find them) and someone they know they can confide in and depend on. I know a few moms who brag that they are the "Parent" and never a friend and those are the ones whose kids sneak off and hide things from them. I'm not so naive to think my kids tell me everything, but I know they tell me most things (and everything else I pick up with mommy radar). Hell, even my older son's best friend confides in me. Of course, if he were doing something illegal or dangerous, I would do something about it .. but he's not and I think it's important that there is an adult type friend in a kid's life, especially a teen's.

laughingatchaos said...

I think if I ever want to be my child's friend, I first need to be their parent. Right now we're heavy into the parent stage, with occasional burst of friendship. And that's appropriate for right now. They're little kids! I think my parents were more parents until I was well into college, though we were also friends. But now we are definitely more friends than parents, and I think that's because they were parents first. Interesting topic. :)