I Am Your Parent Not Your Friend
Why is My Child Making Bad Choices
Since becoming a mother 24 years ago, I have had this reoccurring idea. If I knew where to begin, I might actually follow through with it. We in the US, require mothers to take Lamaaz classes before giving birth. This is to teach women and men what to do during the birthing process. If we can require mothers to take classes on birthing, then why can't we require them to take parenting. No matter how great of a parent you are, you don't know it all, that includes me. So, why would I not be open to picking up a few things that will guide me in the process of becoming the best parent I can possible be. Our children didn't ask to be born. They deserve the best chance of leading a successful life. It is our responsibility to make sure they have that. Since they are not born with a handbook that gives us all the information we need and we are not all-knowing, we need to be open minded to the fact that maybe someone can give us what we are missing even if it seems like we have it all!
So, this is where I begin. When my daughter was born, I was 19 years old and ill equipped to be a parent. No offense mom, but I only knew what I had been taught. My daughter had night terrors until she was approximately 6-7 years old. I had no idea how little patience I had until our first experience with these constant waking, screaming, non-stop for hours middle of the night episodes. There really is no cause or I should say, no one has a cause that has been proven. Needless to say there is no proven cure. I cried because of the lack of patience. Then one day she had a tantrum in the bathtub, and this time she was awake. I lost it! I spanked her so hard on her wet bottom that I left welts. This was a wake-up call that I needed help! I signed myself up for parenting classes.
Now what does this have to do with being friends with my child. The fact is that when I took parenting classes, not only did I learn what to do when I was losing patience. I also learned one of the most valuable lessons of the course. I am not my child's friend. I am her parent. It is my responsibility to teach her how to be responsible, to keep her safe and how to make the safest choices she can. This is not just physical safety, it is emotional, spiritual and mental safety. That is the nature of our relationship.... I have a different relationship with my friends than I do my daughter. And, because this is my baby girl, my cub, my job.... it is!!! my job to keep her safe and teach her. If I don't then who will? And, seriously do I want anyone else, do I trust anyone else? Plus the simple fact of the matter is... I chose to bring this innocent child into the world and keep it. It is my responsibility to make sure she has the best possible chance to have the greatest life she can and be happy.
I am not her friend! This use to make her mad when she was younger. At the same time, I could see in her eyes the relief that someone was there to protect her. That someone cared for her enough to keep her safe was what truly mattered to this innocent little girl. But she was a child and just like all of us, we want what we want and we want it our way. So, when my daughter came to me with a want, I had to ask myself some simple questions. Not what did I want to do because it would be convenient for me, or give me freedom (I was young). The first question was always was it safe? Did I know where, when and who she was going with? Was it appropriate for her age? To me, an 8 year old is not old enough to make proper decisions to keep themselves safe at the mall no matter how many there are. Was it appropriate and conducive to her daily schedule? If she was going with other people, did I have all their information? Did I trust their decisions? I watched people constantly with their children, their interactions, their responses and their demeanor. If I didn't think that they were responsible enough to keep their own children safe, I would not send my daughter. No matter what looks they gave me, what crying evolved, what a bad mother people thought I was, it was my responsibility to keep her safe. I mean can you imagine, making a decision to let your child do something because you didn't want someone to view you as a negative parent, over strict, that was going to scar their child or whatever else people think. Then God forbid something terrible happens to them. Who has to live with that decision for the rest of their life? Not the person who was judging you! You do!
Children are not born with the knowledge to maneuver through life safely, with compassion for others, and regards to the fact that they are not the center of the universe. I think of it this way. My daughter was born as a blank sheet of white paper. She had resources standing by to become a person, but no written instructions on what to do. I was the primary resource whose job it was to help her decide how she was going to use those resources if she chose to use them. My job was to guide her to fill up her blank paper with experiences, and help her make the right choices about the experiences she wanted on that paper. I as a mother wanted as many positive and safe experiences as possible. If they were negative I wanted them to be something she would learn from so next time, if there was one, it would not be negative.
This is one of the most important lessons I learned as a parent. Today my child is not perfect, but she has resources to live life and be happy. She has a job that will keep her financially secure enough to do whatever she wants in life. She likes her job. She is a wonderful woman. I love to be around her. And, most importantly, she knows that it's ok to not have all the answers. She knows there are resources out there that she can use to help her find the ones she doesn't have.
My daughter is my hero! I look up to her! I watch her make decisions and overcome fear to be the person she wants to be. Now she is 24 and although she is an adult I still give her guidance. Today not only do I guide her, she is such a strong person that I learn from her decisions as well.