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Learning in Freedom

Welcome to Learning in Freedom, a blog all about the learning adventures (and mishaps) of the Allen family. My four children are unschooled, following their interests and passions every day and living the lives of their choosing. The purpose of this blog is to share our every day lives (and my not-so-humble opinons) with anyone interested in stopping by. We hope this will give a glimpse of how natural learning unfolds from day to day......

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Being your child's friend

I remember a moment very clearly from my teen years. My Mum and I had another of our screaming matches and I had stormed off to my room, slamming the door while crying those big, heavy, uncomfortable sobs. I was still sitting on my bed a while later, trying to find some comfort in my space when she knocked and asked to come in. She had cooled off a bit and was trying to reach out. I remember telling her, through all the snot and tears, "I just need you to be my friend". Her response? "I can't be your friend, I'm your parent".

She wasn't trying to be mean, she was buying into the conventional "wisdom" of that time. I remember so well the feeling that solidified for me in that moment. I knew I couldn't trust her. I knew I wouldn't tell her certain things or reach out to her in the same way again. Those words rang in my ears..."I can't be your friend". It stuck. We weren't friends again for a very long time. I loved her and she loved me, always. But the friendship didn't come until I had lived away from home for many years.

This topic came up at the Always Learning list today and I want to share what Pam Sorooshian wrote on this matter. As usual, she put it in such a clear and poetic manner. I will always be my children's parent AND friend. One can be both.

(note: The picture and quote are swiped from Sandra's website.)

"As we get older and our kids grow up, we eventually come to realize that all the big things in our lives are really the direct result of how we've handled all the little things." —Pam Sorooshian, June 4, 2007


Something that has rattled around in my head for
years is the line, "You're the parent, not their friend."

I was just reading a news article and someone was
quoted as saying:"Your kids don’t need a 40-year-old friend.
They need a parent,"

What a tragic dichotomy that one little line sets up!
Every single time that line has ever entered my head,
it was leading me in the wrong direction. Every time.

What is a friend? I'm not talking about the schoolmates
teenagers go out partying and drinking with. Not talking
about the 5 year old kid your child happens to play with
at the park that day. I'm talking about real friendship.

1 a*:* one attached to another by affection or esteem

Knowing what I know now, with my kids grown, I strongly
feel that one line, which permeates parental consciousnesses,
should be quickly and actively contradicted and rooted out
like a pernicious weed every single time it sprouts up.

Instead of "You're the parent, not their friend," substitute,
"Be the very very best friend to them you can possibly be."

Do your kids need you to be their "40 year old friend?" YES!
Children do need to feel attached to their parents "by affection
or esteem." What better connection is there than by affection
and esteem?

AND, what's more, parents need their children's friendship too.
Some people seem to think there is something wrong with
parents "needing" their children. They act like being mutually
attached to each other means children have not become
independent enough and parents are being a "burden
to their children."

A 40 year old friend isn't going to have the same
relationship with a 5 year old as his/her 5 year
old friends or 10 year old friends. And parent-child
friendships evolve over the years until they are,
eventually, adult-with-adult friendships.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be your child's
friend. Do what it takes to earn their friendship - be supportive
and kind and honest and trustworthy and caring and generous
and loyal and fun and interesting and interested in them and all
the other things that good friends are to each other. Be the best
40 year old friend you can be (or whatever age you are).

People use "I'm the parent, not a friend," as an excuse
to be mean, selfish, and lazy. Instead, be the adult in the
friendship. Be mature. You've BEEN a five-year-old and
your child has not been a forty-year-old, so you have an
advantage in terms of long-term and wider perspective.
Use that advantage to be an even better friend. You know
how to be kinder and less self-centered and you know how
beneficial it is to put forth the effort.

I can honestly say that my children and I are friends. I know
they'd say the same. I'm not trying to act like I'm 18 or 21 or 24
-- I am 57 years old. They're having a "Halo" party at someone
else's house tonight and will stay up all night playing video games
and I'm not going to go and hang out with them all night and play
Halo. I'm going to make a huge platter of deviled eggs for them
to take over there, but I'm going to stay home and watch a movie
with my husband and go to bed early enough that I'll feel good
tomorrow. I'm not 18 and I don't recover as quickly as they do
from a night with no sleep. I didn't go to the midnight showing
of the Terminator movie the other night, for the same reason.
But I was certainly invited and welcome.

My kids are not spoiled brats because I've tried to be their friend.
They hold jobs, they manage money, they make good and responsible
decisions. We are very strongly "attached by affection and esteem."
I wish I could wipe that expression out of everybody's minds and replace
it with "Be the best friend to your children that you can be."

Pam Sorooshian


Anonymous Candy Cook said...

Thanks for sharing. I feel the same way.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Amy Dingmann said...

Thanks for posting this and spelling it out for me. I come from an extended family where you simply can't be a friend to your child or you're not a good parent. My husband and I don't quite fit in :). Family picnics are a riot, to say the least.

Thanks for the reminder and clarity.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

I love when someone puts into beautiful words what I've been feeling/thinking/contemplating! Thank you Ren (and Pam!)...thanks for posting about this. :)

11:10 AM  
Blogger Madeline Rains said...

Beautiful. I was always criticized by my friends for being such good friends with my mother. They just didn't get it or were jealous. I am so grateful that we had that degree of trust and closeness since our relationship was cut short.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I so agree with all of this. Kimi's friends have started to confide in me a whole lot of stuff that they are not comfortable sharing with their own parents. I'm able to give them the adult perspective without judging their behavior when things get tough & a friend's high-five when things are going well. Parents who dismiss friendship with their children (& their children's friends) are shutting themselves out a huge part of their children's lives.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Heidi Snavley said...

Aaahhh, thanks for that post; all the words that I want to say but never quite have the right ones to share with people. The other day there was a post on facebook, a mom angry at her kids for not doing their chores and she said, "No one said they had to like me!" It made my heart sad. They don't have to like you but it sure makes for a wonderful, joyful life. I'm SO thankful for my friendship with my kids!!

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Chasey said...

My first daughter's twin sister died in my 31st week of pregnancy in 2000.I had three early miscarriages thereafter.In 2005,I gave birth to my second daughter.
I am not only grateful every second for my two beautiful daughter's,I am as well grateful that I have earned the wisdom of understanding what it truly means to CHERISH my daughter's.In cherishing them,I couldn't imagine being a Mommy who treats them like they are beneath me,instead of beside me.Or to send them away from me everyday,instead of watching them grow and blossom,every second of everyday.I couldn't imagine NOT being their FRIEND,as well as their Mommy.Too many parents treat their friends,far better than they treat their children.I will always do my best to treat my daughter's,as my BEST FRIENDS.But then,they already ARE.My Mom has always been the one person in my life,whom I've always been able to talk to,about anything.That is how I always hope my daughter's will think of ME.

3:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happen to be at the other end of that.. My mom wanted to be my friend and she was..
However i needed a mom...
Its a fine balance and if you happen to be the one who can do this god bless.. I have yet to meet to many people who can for the line always seems to be a haze and the kids don't understand...
So I choose to be a mom FIRST.. However I'm not my childrens friend but they can trust me and they know it because I know to not even try and make a line..

9:53 AM  
Blogger Ren Allen said...

I think it's too bad that you can't see that being a great parent also means being the best friend to them that you can be.

2:36 PM  

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