When I was a young mom a few decades ago, I kept over hearing moms with tweens and teens say “My child and I are best friends!” I immediately thought, this is what I want to be able to say. I want my child to talk to me about every single thing. I want to make my child’s life as easy as I can. I want to be their “best friend.” Fast forward 18 years and I’m happy to say that I am NOT my child’s best friend! Here is why…
First and foremost, I am their parent!
Parenting is the hardest work you will ever do. It takes time, love, patience, energy, creativity, tears, sweat and sometimes even blood. Being a parent means telling your kids “no” when they want things or want to do something harmful. Saying “no” to someone who holds your heart in their hand is the hardest thing you will ever do. But telling them “yes” all the time may feel good initially, but it will make your heart hurt in other ways down the road.
Parenting is not called “friending!”
Being a parent isn’t being a friend. Oh sure, you can be kind and “friendly” but those human beings are your responsibility. Parent them. Don’t be-friend them! Can you image having a friend who “parents” you? A friend who tells you you can’t do something. A friend who schedules your day, shops for your clothes, food and toys. A friend who teaches you things that you can not learn on your own. I don’t know about you, but that person would not be in my life for very long. As parents, we are in our child’s life til the end. You will have time to be more of a “friend” than a parent when they are able to make proper decisions on their own.
I’m not a bank.
Let me be honest. This one is harder as your kids get to be tweens, teens and beyond. Of course you have to pay for all the things kids need when they are little. I’m not talking about that. What I am referring to is when they get older. Don’t pay for all of their “extras” when they go out with friends and for heavens sake, do NOT pay for 100% of their college tuition. My husband and I have talked to our financial planner, as well as friends who do this for a living, and they say the same thing. Their words are “the biggest mistake parents make is paying 100% for their child’s college education.” Why is this so bad? The experts say “because the kid doesn’t have any skin in the game. They need to have some responsibility in knowing that their higher education is for them.”
I am their teacher and their guide.
Our kids know full well that we have “X” amount saved for them. They apply for as many scholarships as they can (even the small ones). And when all of that is gone, they apply for student loans. Read that again… STUDENT loans. It’s not called “Parent-of-student loans.” Don’t take a second mortgage or another loan for them. Seriously. As a child who paid for the bulk of my college and nursing school (with scholarships or loans), I know it sucks to pay back that money. But, it’s an important lesson to learn and it sets the stage of knowing to save for a car, house or vacations. If they get things handed to them til they are out of college, how will they know what it takes to “live on their own?” And, that’s the goal, right? To raise strong, independent human beings who can support themselves and give back to their communities?
I know that in the not-so-distant-future when my kids are out of college and are in the “real world”, I can then become their friend. They can ask my advice about things I’ve been through. They can call me “just because” they wanted someone to talk to. They can share funny stories and introduce me to people in their lives that I do not know.
I’m really looking forward to that time in my life. A time where I can say, all the times I said “no” were worth it. All the times they said ” I hate you!”, were worth it. All the times they rolled their eyes because they didn’t like what I was teaching them, was worth it. All the times they could’t buy something because THEY couldn’t afford it, was worth it.
Until then, they are my kids. Not my BFFs!