I’m proud to call my child “friend”.

I’ve heard so many times in so many different ways that you should be your child’s parent and not their friend.  And i always agreed.  Then i became a parent.  As my child gets older i’m realizing that we were wrong.  We SHOULD be friends with our kids.  Whoever thinks otherwise has a pretty messed up version of friendship.

Dictionary.com defines friend:

noun

1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?
4. a member of the same nation, party, etc.
5. ( initial capital letter  ) a member of the Religious Society of Friends; a Quaker.

I think we can all probably agree that the definition that fits best for common usage is one and three.  So here’s my defense for being my child’s friend:

1.  i am greatly attached to him and have great regard for him.  He is smart, funny, compassionate, thoughtful.  Who DOESN’T want someone like that as a friend?

3. why in the world would anyone not want to be on good terms with their child or wants to be hostile with them?  This doesn’t mean that you’re always going to get along.  In any healthy relationship, people don’t always agree, but can still be on good terms.  Sure, there are people who can’t be on terms with people who make them angry, but who wants to be friends with people like that?

i will always advocate for my child.  i will not always agree with what he does.  i will discipline him with love.  i will offer advice and guidance.  i will cherish my time with him.  i will be his friend and confidant.  i strive to maintain his trust.  He might not always like me.  some days i don’t like him.  but is that what friendship is really about??

I think that when people say we should be our children’s parent and not their friend what they really mean is that we shouldn’t seek their approval or make decisions just to please them.  Well, we probably shouldn’t be doing things for our friends’ approval or to please them either.

Maybe many people have confused friendship with co-dependency.  i could argue that the books we read, movies/tv shows we watch, and music we listen to has perpetuated this confusion, but that’s a whole other post. (and if i ever write it and it gets popular Disney will probably sue me for defamation, so it may go unwritten…)

Instead of saying that we shouldn’t be friends with our kids, i think we really need to re-evaluate what we mean by friendship.  Certainly i wouldn’t confide in my son all of my secrets, but i can only think of one person that i would.  i certainly have more than one friend.  But i don’t share my deepest darkest secrets with all of them.  i divulge information based on what i think is appropriate at the time.  i’m sure sometimes i overshare, but i try not to.  When it comes to sharing things with my son, i do so based on what is appropriate for his age.  If he shares something he’s struggling with i relate to him a similar situation i’ve been in.  isn’t that what we do with our friends?  we share life together.  we bond.  we have moments and inside secrets and sometimes we want to kill each other.  we yell and scream, but at the end of the day we love each other and wouldn’t trade it for the world.  i love my son.  and i am proud to be his friend.

The little things.

Since I’ve been spending so much time focused on school and my own sanity, I have not been as focused on work as I need to be if I want to make money.  Fortunately I’m blessed to be in a situation where it isn’t a dire situation (thanks, mom).  But there are things that i miss — like spoiling Caleb with extras.  I miss the ability to escape to a coffeeshop when i need a break.  I miss the financial freedom of going out with friends.

This year, i was particularly worried about Christmas.  I’ve been working really hard on steering Caleb AWAY from video games and into other things.  There are two areas he is discovering he is equally as obsessed over as video games:  cooking and music.  Due to his impulsivity, i’m hesitant to introduce him to too much in the kitchen just yet.  And instruments can be pricey — particularly to purchase for a 6 year old who may or may not end up being all THAT interested in it, after all.  My first thought was to get the cheap kiddie-style instruments, but decided that idea was wrong for so many reasons:  first of all, if i’m going to hear awful noise coming from my child’s room, i’d like there to be a *chance* for it to sound good someday.  Also, i think that not having the genuine article might end up not drumming up the desired enthusiasm necessary for the stick-to-it-iveness necessary for learning anything worthwhile.

It occurred to me that I had an almost full-size keyboard *somewhere* in the garage, and a guitar that needed to be restrung and a general tune-up.  I convinced Caleb’s dad to get him bongos for Christmas (to remain at my house, of course — i wouldn’t subject anyone else to the possible torture that is inevitable).  I decided to dust off the keyboard and purchase a wall adapter for it since that had disappeared into the black hole.  The guitar will wait until his birthday.  It was still fairly humbling.  I felt like i was *cheating* at Christmas gift-giving.

Of course, Caleb still got video games for Christmas.  There’s no avoiding that since I cannot control what other people (particularly Santa) purchase for him.  He ended up with a pretty damn good Christmas.  I knew that there would be immediate excitement over the instruments, but figured it might wear off quickly.  He has zero interest in lessons.  He likes us to play the bongos while he plays the piano.  He’s trying to play things by ear — and doing a pretty decent job.  I’m enjoying every.moment.of.it.

This morning, as we were on our way to school he said with great enthusiasm, “I can’t WAIT to tell my friends about my keyboard!! They won’t believe it!!!!”  I was stunned.  It wasn’t the video games.  It wasn’t the cool legos he asked for (and got).  It was the present he got out of my desperation to make it a good Christmas for him even though i couldn’t afford to buy him much.

I’m so grateful that the last year led me to a place of such desperation — financially and emotionally.  It’s easy to do simple when it’s all you have.  Hopefully we can keep it that way. 😉

 

my little alien bee

children scare me.  all of them.  let me say this one more time: children scare me.  terrify, actually.  They move in these awkward shifty ways and it’s difficult to know where they’re going to land.  like bees — which i’m also terrified of.  get them in a group and it’s even scarier.  it’s less like a swarm, though, and more like a stampede.

their brains are just as shifty and awkward as their movements.  they say the strangest things.  sometimes it’s like listening to an alien that’s learning not just English, but human.

terrifying.

somehow i ended up with one of these alien bees.

but he didn’t start out that way.  he started out as this cute helpless little thing. This most amazing little thing.  my greatest accomplishment.  This thing that taught me what unconditional love is.  This most amazing treasure in the world.

i realized very quickly that i had absolutely no freaking clue what i was doing.  i remember within the first 24 hours still not being able to figure out how to change a damned diaper on such a squiggly thing.  this was completely different from the perfectly still stuffed animals that i had mastered diaper-changing on.  (note: i’m not entirely sure that i ever actually did practice on stuffed animals.  i know only that it would have been a good idea and that even if i had done this, it would be completely different than on a real, live baby that could fall to his death at any moment if i din’t grow another pair of hands so as to both hold down the squiggly miracle and keep the diaper in place and attach the tabs in the appropriate places.)

soon enough we got the whole diaper thing down.  we got breastfeeding down.  we got bathing down.  i started to feel pretty confident in my abilities as a parent.

and then he grew.  and grew.  these cute little noises started coming out of him.  i couldn’t wait for him to talk so i could hear what his voice would sound like.  (when it did happen, however, it wasn’t long before i prayed for deafness.  or to be stabbed repeatedly in the eardrum.  whichever.)

my exhaustion also grew.  and grew.  this mamma used to be able to pull all-nighters for school. (or partying).  i could pull off 12+ hour work days on 3 hours of sleep and still keep going.  how was this little treasure wearing me down?!  where had all of my energy gone?!

exhaustion turned to frustration turned to resentment. bitter.

they say there’s a thin line between love and hate.  it’s true.  and it’s awful.

i mourned the loss of my independent carefree life.  i began to fear that i was incapable of being a good parent.  there were stretches where i thought that he would be better with anyone BUT me.  There were days that broke me.  completely.  there is nothing so confidence-shaking as being a parent.  i constantly questioned if i was doing the right thing.  what would the long-term implications be? will his therapist judge me? (because i am fucking this whole thing up and there’s not a whole lot of hope that he won’t end up in therapy with a mother like me…)

and then, when he was about 9 months old, i thought i was going to lose him.  in those dark days, the darkest days i have ever had, God gave me strength.  And it was clearly God because i had zero reserves left.  not even fumes.  i was empty. dry. lost.

Today we are both still alive.  And i am thankful.  i wouldn’t trade my little alien bee for the world.

i still fret over his tomorrow.  i see how naturally manipulative he is.  i see how he gets obsessed over things so easily.  i worry for the consequences of his choices.

but i’m learning slowly that there’s nothing i can do about any of it.  all i can do is love him.  i could worry all day long that i’m being overprotective.  other days that i’m too permissive.  and you know what?  it doesn’t matter.  i cannot change his future any more than i can change the weather.  all i can do is love and support him. no.matter.what.

and so parenting for me today is like everything else – one day at a time.  and i can’t do it on my own.  i will be lost. dry. empty — if i try to do it in my own strength.  So today i can forgive myself for being an awful parent at times and know that i’m doing my best.  It’s all in God’s hands.

This, too, shall pass…

Today I feel broken.   Not hopeless or helpless, just utterly broken.  This journey with Caleb is breaking my heart.  I am doing everything in my power to help him out and yet he still struggles.  I’m working on getting him in to see a counselor.  It breaks my heart that he is so sad and struggling so hard internally to make good choices.  I see so much of myself in him and I know what that pain and heartache is like.

However, it is giving me the opportunity to shower him with love.  There are still consequences for his negative behavior, but he’s definitely been getting more grace than punishment:  he’s been punishing himself enough.

I’m still wresting with guilt.  Even though i know in my head that i didn’t cause it and i can’t control it or cure it (see, al-anon principles apply to lots of things…), i’m still going through feelings of insecurity and doubt.  What if i had been _____ kind of parent instead.  Have my outbursts contributed?  Have i been modelling the proper behavior?  and the answer is “no, i haven’t”.  and there is nothing i can do to change it.