Remember when the nurse handed you your bundle of joy, the little baby that looked up to you and snuggled into your arms. In the there-are-no-words-for-how-happy-you-are, tear-filled haze, you said, "Hello, my love...I'm Mama (or Daddy or insert whatever it is your kiddo calls you)." Perhaps you whispered how you will love her forever, you will keep her safe, you will be there always.
Think hard. Notice you probably didn't whisper, "I'm going to be your BFF!"
I loved watching the candid chat (the first of many!) between Andrew Shue, his mom-in-law Joanie Robach, and best bud Chuck Nice (find out more about them here). I could totally relate. I see it all of the time with some of Kiddo's friends...heck, I've done it. I've stepped into that "I'm your buddy" puddle, and let a usual hard-and-fast rule slide because I've wanted to seem like a "cool mom" or not want to make my kiddo angry or unhappy. Those moments, well, they leave me and my parenting mojo with wet feet and soaked socks (sometimes figuratively, other times, yes, literally). Not good.
But, as Andrew pointed out, we -- the moms, the dads, the parental figures -- have one mission on this parenting journey: to guide our kiddos through these early years of life so they can learn to be the best version of themselves when they reach adulthood...which means teaching skills to help them become capable, resilient adults.
Dang, that sounds huge and lofty and deep....and how do we do that again exactly?
There's no guidebook here and I'm no expert, but, as the trio mentioned, it probably involves setting limits when your kids don't want them (or possibly can't see the value in those limits at the time), perhaps keeping stricter house rules that other families may have, saying "No" when that word is the LAST thing they want you to say...basically a lot of stuff where you will hear the "But, Moooom!?!?" or "That is SO not fair!"
During these times, trust me, you are definitely not "cool" and your kids are thinking you are anything but their friend...but remember, you are doing something infinitely more important than being cool. You are being a parent. And I've read it over again and I'm sure you have too: your child has lots of friends, but only one mom or dad.
It's crazy to think about, but the relationship between you and your child may be the longest, most involved relationship you ever have. Eventually, as they get older, it will morph, build, evolve into a friendship. In the meantime, there are ways, right now, you can still connect and bond with your kid without trying to be their "buddy." Here are some ideas how to do it:
-- Be there. It sounds simple, but be there at the kitchen table when she's doing her homework or be there at the soccer game or be there as the chaperone for the afterschool pizza party. Being there as a consistent force in your kiddo's life emphasizes security, building the foundation so she knows you are always there for her, even after a big blow-up about those rules.
-- Teach and model respect. Respect your daughter and her ideas by listening and discussing them. You have the "final word," but respect her right to share her views with you. Same goes for you respecting adults in your universe -- your spouse, your ex-spouse, the teachers in her life. By modeling respect for others, it is easier for your kiddo to see how it works. Then, enforce manners and rules so that she shows the same respect to you, as well as other adults.
-- Share a special hobby. Could be baking, gardening, or rooting for Syracuse basketball. My husband and Kiddo love to play games on the iPad. Sometimes it's chess, sometimes it is helping Ohm Nom get the candy in Cut The Rope. As they play, they always end up talking about something that happened at school or some Random Life Topic.
-- Have family rituals built into your routine. Kids (and adults) like routines as they give us a much-needed feeling of control over our unpredictable lives. Whether it's a Sunday evening mani-pedi while watching a movie in your favorite pajamas or a jazz-playing-on-the-iPod, waffle-making Saturday morning, have some set, always happens at this time of the week family time to connect.
-- Remember you are doing your best. Some days will be easier than others...for you and your kids. Forgive yourself and your kids when you don't have a stellar day.
Have you ever fallen into that "buddy" trap? Do you know other parents that do? Share how you feel about this topic!