We live in a world gone mad.
Childhood obesity, behavioral problems, and sexual activity among younger teens are on the rise, while parents profess to be powerless to control the eating habits, behavior, and social mores of their children.
Meanwhile they’re responding in overwhelming numbers that being a “friend” to their child is a primary goal in parenting.
Perhaps it is time to consider that perhaps things worked better when friendship was for the kids and parents were grown-up about the job?
It’s a job. If our friends are spoiled, selfish, disrespectful, dishonest, unhealthy, or ill equipped to face the world, it’s a bummer, (and we definitely will want to refrain from loaning them our cars and credit cards), but it’s really not our problem.
If our children are, it most certainly is.
As parents we have a responsibility to fulfill, and we can’t let this “friend” business overshadow our resolve.
So listen up kids! We, as your parents, love you deeply and completely in a way that caused the world to revolve differently the moment you were born. You are our sun, moon, and stars. Our reason to live. And the only people on earth we can imagine willingly stepping in front of a speeding bus or bullet to protect.
This does not, however, make us friends. It makes us parents.
Get it straight. Let’s get a few things straight. We are not going to be your friends when you insist that you can to jump off the roof with a sheet tied around your neck ala Superman. And we’ll cope somehow when you hate us for not letting you try.
We will flex our parental muscle when decreeing that you cannot eat a diet consisting entirely of fast food, snack cakes, and soda; swim in the deep end unassisted; or roam the mall alone.
To stay in good parental shape we will correct you when you are rude, and send you to your room when you are nasty.
Properly primed from early practice, we won’t be your friends when we make you get up out of a warm bed to go feed the dog you swore you would take care of if only we would let you keep him.
Or when we make you return the candy you stole or pay for the window you broke. And most definitely not when we insist that you stick with the team because you made the commitment.
Even if you do spend a lot of time riding the bench, the coach favors the other kids, and the uniform makes you itch.
Up to the task. As you grow to your teens, we will continue to love, adore, and support you. Yet your friendship will likely elude us.
You are going to expect a lot from a friend at that age and we probably aren’t up to the task.
Your friends will be the fun types who propose that you stay out until all hours of the night, date someone seven years older than you, and think it a fabulous idea to ride in a car driven by someone who has had their driver’s license for all of 15 minutes.
This is because friends, particularly at that age, don’t have nearly as much invested in insuring that you stay whole and healthy as we do.
By the way, only if we suffered some irreversible head injury would the argument that we should just go ahead and let you smoke or drink alcohol because you are going to do it anyway make sense.
Unless we somehow could also presume that we should drive the get-away car because you are just going to knock off the bank anyway.
Let’s clear up right now that we are the people who are going to “just say no” and mean it.
We accept that you are going to grow into people who sometimes slam doors, pout, and profess your deep and undying disdain for us – at least when we won’t drive you and 15 friends to the movies on a school night.
It’s a risk, however, that we will just have to take. Because friends don’t let friends grow up with friends instead of parents.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt is planning to be the subject of the book Confessions of a Mean Mommy. She welcomes reader mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 39, Salem, Ohio 44460.)