I recently had a super horrible week. Friends demanding time and favors and becoming upset when I could not come through, paperwork and questions from insurance people after a recent accident, and an extra stressful time at my job. The worst was when one of my dogs ran off, cutting short my plan of a relaxing evening at home.
I was drained and exhausted and ready to cry. And who was the one person who came to my rescue? Who was the one person who instinctively knew I was at my breaking point when no one else could tell? My teenage daughter. Critter ushered me into the house, made me some tea, and insisted I relax and watch my current guilty pleasure movie (I won’t tell, but it has Keanu Reeves). And because of her, I was able to re-charge and face the start of another day.
This was not the first time Critter has come through for me. And it has brought up that question of whether it is appropriate to be your child’s friend. I hear a lot on this topic and am often warned to not be her best friend, to be a parent.
I do want to stress that I am definitely a parent. There are rules, there are boundaries, there are fights and struggles, and there are definitely days we are far from friends.
But I not only love my daughter, I love the person she is. I love that she can make me laugh and teach me about classic rock despite our ages, that she can sense my moods and I can tell when she’s had a particularly trying day. There is a trust there between us, and while there are secrets, for the most part, Critter comes to me with problems and questions. We do not always agree, but I am comforted by the fact that at least I know what she is going through and how she might proceed.
We have movie nights and television show marathons. On any given winter weekend, you can find a Gilmore Girls episode playing on our television and a Yahtzee game in progress. She texts me cute pictures of bulldogs and I share those adorable videos of penguins.
Often, it is just Critter and I at home, and I’m not sure how to not get to know and enjoy the wonderful person she is. I’m not sure how not to be her friend. I’m not sure what it means to not be her friend and just be a parent. Is there a certain coldness I am expected to exude? A particular sternness that should be present?
I have no problem setting and enforcing rules. There is not an issue with demanding respect. Critter is a good kid and although she rebels as kids often do, she knows the rules and respects my authority. She has her friends and I have mine. And yet, there is a connection between us that I have no doubt with only strengthen and grow as she gets older. And I refuse to apologize for the friendship we share. I am a parent that happens to share a closeness with her daughter while still honoring my rule as her guardian.
How do you distinguish the role between parent and friend? What steps do you take to ensure that you do not cross any lines?