Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Question of Friendship and Sharing

I hear a lot of mothers touting that they are not friends with their children, and that we mothers shouldn't be friends with our children. I also hear an assumption that single moms are too close to our children, that we share too much with them and make them grow up too fast.

I think both of these statements are far too oversimplified.

I thoroughly enjoy my daughters' company. (Most of the time, of course.) When we get along, we get along great. We laugh a lot, we enjoy many of the same things, Sylvia and I even share a fondness for Johnny Depp. I am friendly with my girls most of the time.

This, however, does not stop me from limiting Sylvia's Facebook time, saying no to Riley having a Facebook page since she's not yet old enough, or saying no to either of them for things they may want, but do not need. They have endured many lectures from me. They have been given many time-outs and other consequences. I always maintain veto power for any and all family decisions. They may not always like it, but they respect my position of authority.

I have enough evidence of them doing so to know that this is true. I've heard Sylvia repeat back things I've taught her to friends, Riley becomes very anxious at the thought of not doing anything exactly as directed. Other people tell me things the girls have told them which come straight from me. They are incredibly good about asking permission for anything they want to do that I've not expressly said they could do at any time. They are both very good girls.

I think, actually, that their respect for my authority is why we can enjoy each other's company so much. There are things that happen every day when we're away from each other that we can't wait to share with each other. We laugh at ourselves and each other every day. We can talk about the sublime and the ridiculous, and everything in between. And I do believe that when they are adults, we will still be close and share the highs and lows with each other often.

I think the misconception that single moms share too much with their children is because when there's a dramatic divorce, particularly if dad becomes absent, the circumstances themselves are responsible for a child knowing and feeling things far beyond their years. It's not what I've said about their dad that has made them have to comprehend loving while not depending upon their dad, it's because he didn't show up for their birthday party, and he was 3 days late for a visit. Yes, I've had to frame it for them, but it's to help them get through these things.

Children of domestic violence victims, children of parents lost in a war, children that have suffered under unimaginable circumstances all have to grow up too fast. (I'm not necessarily trying to compare an absent, jailbird dad with a fallen soldier, but at least the soldier has a valid excuse for missing their child's birthday party.) The parents and other loving guardians that are left to pick up the pieces of a child's shattered world aren't responsible for the damage; we just do the best we can to repair it.

The girls may not qualify as my friends, but they do know me as well as (if not better) than my closest friends. They may know a lot of truths about their dad that they wish they didn't, but it actually got easier for them once they did understand that it really wasn't them, but him.

It's anything but simple, and I'd be lucky for them to call me their friend.


Tara R. said...

I've always thought kids do best with boundaries, and you can't set those, let alone enforce them, if you're more concerned about being their friend and not their parent.

jenn said...

I like the way you've described being friends with your kids. I agree that parenting should trump friendship, but I don't think that means that your kids have to hate you and never want to spend time with you. I think it is possible (as you have described) to be the parent and set and enforce boundaries and still have a good relationship with your children.