Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Friend or fear?

"I'm my daughter's best friend."

This is the statement that bought a girlie catch-up I was at recently to a screeching halt. The woman speaking has a teenage daughter, and a quite permissive relationship with her, something that has been commented on by us to her before.

She stated this in the context that she was never going to be able to stop her daughter getting up to all the hi-jinks she did as a kid; drinking, going off with boys, experimenting with drugs etc., so she would rather have the kind of relationship where her daughter felt safe enough to talk to her about anything she got up to.

Another friend of mine, with a daughter the same age, piped up with, "Well, I'd rather my daughter was scared enough of me she didn't do it in the first place".

Many swift and silent glances were exchanged between the rest of us, quickly followed by a quick gulp of champagne as we gleefully settled in to watch the fireworks fly. I know, terrible aren't we?

Suffice to say, a spirited exchange of views ensued.

It got me thinking though, about the type of parent I want to be as my daughter grows older and hits those perilous teenage years. I think the groundwork for these years is being laid even now at three years old. My Gorgeous Girl really is a pretty good kid, but she can really turn it on when she's feeling feisty; backchat, tantrums, throwing, hitting out at me - you name it.

And already I have decided: I don't want to be her friend.

I want to be her Mum. I want her to realise just how slavishly devoted to her I am, how desperately I love her... and that I will not hesitate to send her to her room when she's acting bratty.

I would love to have the kind of relationship when she's older where she will still feel she can talk to me about whatever is going on in her life, but I think there needs to be a background of respect there, and that starts now. She will learn she can trust me, there is nothing she can do that will make me love her less, but that she will be held accountable for her behaviour, she will know what is right and what is wrong, and I will expect her to make good choices. When she doesn't make good choices, I'll be there to help her fix it, but she will have to take responsibility for her actions. God, I hope I can live up to this ideal in reality.

I remember back to when I was a teenager (and a bit of a hellraiser myself). I had friends with Mums who wanted to be liked by their daughters as a friend, rather than loved like a Mother. Although now my relationship with my Mum is more like friendship, back then she also wasn't interested in being my friend; she was my Mum. As much as I loved her, wholeheartedly, and knew she loved me, she wasn't scared of saying no and having me hate her (briefly) for it. Thank God. I got up to a fair bit of trouble as a kid, was never into drugs luckily, but did the whole teenage rebellion thing fairly well. I shudder to think what I would've done had I not been terrified of the wrath of my parents!

I had a friend at the time, the only child of quite eldery parents, who were so grateful to have a child, they let her get away with anything. She was boasting to me once about how her parents were about as tough as bunny rabbits; they let her go out late at night, aged 14, to meet up with older boys, they never questioned what she got up to, where she was going, or even whose house she actually stayed over at when she said she was at mine. As she was boasting about this, all I remember thinking was, "God, don't they care about you at all?".

So, for me, my views on motherhood are a bit less bunny-like and more like a lioness: I will love you fiercely, I will fight tooth and nail to protect you and I will raise you to be a mighty creature to be reckoned with in your own right, but I will also not hesitate to roar at you and show my claws when needed.



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  3. Great post. My mother was most definitely my mother, as opposed to being a friend, although she was that too. But I was too afraid of disappointing my parents to get up to too much mischief.

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  5. Hi guys! I love a good debate on just about any topic, and see some great points on both comments above, but let's remember respect is a two way street...
    In the words of the illustrous Samuel L Jackson: Be cool Yolanda.

  6. I think one can have a mixture of both and be an effective parent. It all lies in the balance of what your child learns. We want them to have the safety and security of coming to us with anything, but the ability to know that when they do mess up they have to face me. I would like to think that my disappointment in their choice would hurt them more then the punishment it comes with..

  7. My views are identical to yours Quix. I totally believe that my daughters need me to be their mum first and foremost. They can have lots of friends, but they only have one mum.

    I believe parents have a responsibility to be PARENTS to their children. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Children/teens desperately need boundaries to feel secure, to feel loved and to find their way in life and it's parents who need to set these boundaries.

    I hope that by laying this foundation of love and security we can develop an adult friendship.

  8. You know what? i think there's no hard and fast rule on this. And I have no kids, so feel free to delete what I say as irrelevent and idealistic. It's just that I've seen both styles work and both fail. I would prefer to be a parent than a friend when I do have children, but I know that's not a guarantee to success. Everyone is different, everyone responds differently to different things. Maybe sometimes it's just a stroke of luck what works and what doesn't?

  9. Kids need rules. I know I did! And every kid is different. Some kids may need a more "friendly" parent, but deep down, they still need rules and know what to expect. Otherwise, why at 2 and 3 do they test us so much? Because they are looking for those boundaries.

    [As she was boasting about this, all I remember thinking was, "God, don't they care about you at all?".] And I'm sure your friend, although bragging, was deep down thinking the same thing...

  10. Hi everyone, thanks as always for all your comments. I received an email from Andrew in regards to his original comment before, and he very graciously apologised for possibly causing offence to my readers (which I really don't think he did, he was just stating his personal stance on the issue) and asked me to remove it. I don't like to delte comments, as I value you them all, and I really don't think he was out of line, the remark I made was because I could see it possibly developing into a conversation that might cause offence, not that it already had. However, since he was such a gentleman, who am I to refuse. Unfortunately, I hit delete on the wrong one, and deleted Epeskee's first comment. Sorry, Luddite at the controls. I then also deleted Epeskee's reply to Andrew, as, well, it wouldn't have made much sense without the first two comments!

    Thanks again, and you guys really are cool!

  11. LOL

    Andrew is a true gentleman, as I received an apology from him myself.

    I have to say though, that I wasnt offended at all, and was only clarifying my intital comment, as I thought (as is all too easy on teh internets) I must have been less than crystal clear and had given him the wrong idea to start with.

    However, since you have deleted my comment I now know that in fact you hate me and are sending me a giant bucket of worms as we speak, so that I may sit in the corner crying, singing the song and eating them!


  12. Thanks for the excellent post -- it's something I'm thinking about a lot these days, even though my daughter only just turned one!

    BTW, I love the Saroyan quote . . . how true.


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