I know it’s taboo to proudly proclaim you are friends with your kid. It’s my job to be the parent, and not the friend, and I can’t be both, according to many.
Well, I break the mold, I guess. My son and I are best friends, and I’m also his parent. I think it is absolutely possible to be both. There’s a difference between a friend and a pushover. I’m not a pushover, by any stretch.
My son is still young, and he tells me all the time that I’m his best friend. There is no better feeling than having him wrap his arms around my neck and hearing him say, “You’re my best friend, Mommy.” It melts me inside. Of course, I tell him that he’s my best friend too. And I mean it.
He knows that he’s not my only friend. I have adult friends, just like he has kid friends. It’s important to make that distinction. Just because I consider my kid my best friend doesn’t mean that I don’t have adult friendships too. I would never unload my grown-up problems on my kid. That’s placing way too much pressure on a young child. But since we spend all of our time together, we’re going to be close. We like to watch cartoons together during the day, and I’ll play trains with him or color pictures. He’ll come into the kitchen and watch (and chat) while I make dinner.
He knows that he can come to me and tell me everything. If he is unhappy about something, I give him the space to talk about it. If there is any way that I can fix his problems, I will. He can tell me the truth if he did something wrong because I’ve always given him that safe space.
He also knows that he’s going to have to face some sort of repercussion for his behavior. I’ve always made it clear that if he did something punishable that he was going to be punished. Discipline isn’t something that I shy away from. If I think he’s taken something too far, I will let him know. We can play around and have a good time, but when I say it’s over then it’s over. Sometimes, because he’s a kid and he’s learning, he doesn’t always pick up on those cues and then I deal with that. But being the sole disciplinarian doesn’t dissuade me from having a close relationship with him.
So many times, I’ve seen people blame delinquent children on their parents trying to be their friend versus their parent. Lax parenting has nothing to do with the way you want your child to perceive you, and everything to do with the fact that you’re just a disengaged parent. Being my son’s friend doesn’t mean that I’m disengaged or lax; it means that I want him to be comfortable and confident enough in our relationship. It means that he knows he can talk to me about anything. Sometimes we’re going to get on each other’s nerves just like friends do. But we can take a few minutes away from each other to regroup (I mean, you can only be on the receiving end of a toddler tantrum for so long before you snap) and come back to each other.
Unlike a regular friend, he knows that I’m not going to just walk away from him if he says or does something I don’t like. Sure, I may get angry, but I’m still his safe space. And I want to maintain his trust, so I can continue to be that safe space as time goes on.
It’s hard as our kids get older to maintain that closeness. So often parents will force themselves onto their children, and into their lives, in an attempt to stay in the loop. I know how that is, and I don’t want to be that parent. I hope that as my son gets older he’ll see me giving him the space he needs to grow, but also giving him the structure he needs to keep him safe. Only time will tell, but for now, I’m grateful to be his best friend.