Friend, parent. Parent, friend. The lines can get blurry at times. There are as many opinions and ideas about how to do this well as there are parents and friends in this world.
One of my five year olds calls her dad and I “BFF.” She writes us notes with BFF and she says BFF at night as we are leaving her bedroom. It’s cute and sweet now but could likely become confusing for her in a few years.
You see, there will be times when we won’t be friends. We won’t be on the same page, won’t see eye to eye on some big issues and probably most of the small ones. We may be at odds over clothing, and actual friends, and curfews and a million other things. Will I love her and support her and want to one day be her friend? Yes. Will she and I be in a common group and have the same common experiences and interests? Probably not so much.
Fast forward to her adult years. Just like that. I hope that we will be friends. As she begins to become an adult, I hope that we really are BFF’s. But the bigger question is between now and then, how do I parent?
I’ve sat through far too many parent/teacher conferences and listened to parents tell time and time again that they are afraid to enforce rules because they don’t want their child to be mad at them. I have to be mindful of my face (and I’m really horrible at keeping it in check) because I really want to have my “Are you kidding me?” look on. I am the PARENT. It is my JOB to parent you. You don’t have to like me all of the time. Parenting often means making the hard calls, the tough choices, and the unpopular demands.
My seventeen year old got home at 1 a.m. this morning from a week long mission trip to Nicaragua. I have no doubt that he is tired and he really needs rest. However, he took a job at a local restaurant about two weeks ago. He was on the schedule for 10 a.m. this morning. Guess what? At 9:15, it was time to get ready for work. I assure you there was a lot of cover slinging as he got out of bed. But, he survived. He honored his word and he worked a 6 hour shift bussing tables. It must not have drained him too badly because he has now gone to the movies with friends. For a second, I felt guilty. I mean…he’s tired. I haven’t seen him for a week. A friend would have probably agreed with him and helped him rationalize why it was fine just to call in (or text in these days – so much less stressful!) to say he wasn’t coming. Hard, unpopular call.
So this is what I pledge to my children as I parent you and move toward becoming your friend:
- I will love you. I will always love you. There is NO thing that could change that. You will always, always have me on your side…even when you might not know which side you are on. I am for you.
- I will always have your best interest at heart. I will try my very best to make decisions that help you to become your best. It might seem that the decisions are unfair and the boundaries are restrictive, but I will try hard to do what is best for you.
- I will mess up. I will lose my temper. I will probably nag. I will be critical when I should be accepting. I will need forgiveness. You will too. I will give it to both of us.
- I will pray for you. I will cover you in prayer because it is the most powerful thing that I can ever do for you.
- When we are friends, I will be the very best friend you will ever have here on Earth.