who are free
to learn and explore
Openness, not “’onarchy!”
expands, grows, and radiates
When I was a girl growing up, I didn’t live in an open environment. My parents believe, still, that there needs to be a strong boundary line between children and adults, with adults always – always – in the position of power over the children.
Maybe that’s not surprising. It’s a common enough parenting paradigm:
It’s an adage said so often, I wonder if it’s actually considered on its merit, or if it’s simply assumed that parents are meant to keep their children under control.
Personally, I strive to be my children’s friend. I don’t see most things as a strict either/or situation. I can be my childrens’ parent without having to be their enemy...but, in order for this to work, I have to be open.
What does that mean, exactly?
First off, it matters how I define my role as a parent, and how I view friendship with each of my kids. I have to accept that it’s not the same thing as befriending another adult. I am, after all, legally and morally responsible for their behavior, care, and safety. I also have decades more experience in life (I was 32 when my son was born, and nearly 35 when we welcomed our daughter into our family). I’ve got the perspective that goes along with making mistakes, getting things right, and having had the time to see what came of many of my choices.
As an adult, I can also make certain things more possible for them. I have readier access to cash; I can legally drive; and I can authorize things they need parental consent for.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t also be friends. After all, adults turn to friends who have greater skills, and these friends can also be mentors.
That’s the type of friend I am to my children – the kind who offers the benefit of what I’ve lived and learned, free for my children to take – or leave.
But there’s more to it than that. In order to be a good friend, I have to be more than “Mom,” which is more of a role than an identity. What I have to do is to be myself – to share with them who I am as a person. Not just their mom, as though I was never anything before they were born, and will cease existing after they’ve grown.
This isn’t as common in parenting as I think it ought to be. That’s sad, because that kind of honest openness grows and shapes a mutually respectful friendship. Where many parents who aren’t their kids’ friends my need to dictate, enforce, and punish to “keep them in line”, I can rely on this friendship. When there’s a problem, we can address and deal with it peacefully.