Hey Kids, I Don’t Want to Be Your Best Friend (Not Yet Anyway)

by Melissa L. Fenton
Originally Published: 
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My mother is my best friend — as it should be at my age, seeing as how I’m in my mid-40s and her strength, wisdom, sense of humor, personality, and life experiences are something I crave deeply (and need in my life every single day). It’s been this way since about six weeks after giving birth to my firstborn, when at my lowest and most pathetic period of new motherhood I found myself thinking, “Who can I call who will actually understand what I’m going through?”

And before I knew it, I was dialing my mother, and weeping apologetically for the last 24 years of not having a single clue, and begging her to please come move in with me. It was as if I could almost feel her smiling on the other end of the phone, pleased to know I had finally come around and anxious to truly start having me as a best friend.

I want that with my children, and although they are all males and in many ways I know our relationship will never be as close as a mother-daughter one, I still want them to think of me as one of their best friends.

I just don’t have any desire for that to be now, because let’s face it, they are children.

I don’t understand mothers who say their children are their best friends, because in every sense of the words — best friends — there are such deep and soulful connections that I find it impossible that it can be shared within the framework of a parent-child relationship. And honestly, I don’t want to be my kid’s best friend. Mentor? Yes. Confidante? Of course. Counselor? You bet. But while they’re under the age of around 19, a best friend? Nope.

Of course, I can be my teenager’s friend, and we can talk about things both deep and spiritual — politics, school, friends, life goals, as well as the latest song by Drake. But at his age, and at my age, can we truly connect on the best-friend level? On a level where we can tell each other everything without judgment or fear?

There are many things that I have endured in my life that a 17-year-old male is just not emotionally mature enough to hear, and honestly, doesn’t need to be burdened with. There are things he will need to learn and experience on his own terms, without predication, interference, or advice a true best friend may give. As his parent, I’m there to make sure he doesn’t fall off the boat, but I’m not there as his best friend who will take turns driving it.

To be quite honest, his best friend is not going to react the same way I would if I found out he was texting and driving, underage drinking, or cheating at school. A peer his age simply isn’t emotionally capable of fully conveying the dangerous consequences of those acts. And it isn’t their job to do so.

That’s where I come in and need to be the parent, the adult, not his friend.

My kids and I don’t need to be cooperatively making major decisions together like I do with my spouse. One of us needs to be the responsible voice of reason, a rock of security, the mature voice that gets us through the tough times — and that needs to be the parent at all times. In a best-friend relationship, that role is taken on by both, but mother and child? I don’t want (or need) my teenager to be the voice of reason. Because if he was, we would all be skipping school and work and playing video games all day.

If you’re truly able to be your child’s best friend while they are still school-aged, I can respect that. If you’ve managed to forge that close of a relationship while at the same time remaining the authority figure and firmly at the helm of child-rearing, then I give you all the props in the world. I can only hope you’re able to sustain that kind of relationship throughout the tumultuous young adult years, and during the time of separation that occurs when they go to college (or move out).

For now, for me and my sons, our relationship will remain where it currently is, that of a parent and child. We are all very close, but I’m not looking to be BFFs on equal footing with someone who has yet to even put a toe into the deep waters of adulthood. But when that day comes? When one of my children picks up the phone and makes a phone call similar to the one I made to my own mother in my early 20s? I will be there at the ready to answer that call, and thrilled to start a new kind of relationship with my son — the authentic best-friend kind.

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