Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Are You My Friend?

I've come to a startling realization that the world is a vasty different place than what I thought it was back in my little, bitty, comfortable bubble at home.

Worldwide, for the most part, we all have similar values of family. We all want what's best for our children, and we all want them to struggle less than we have, yet live better than we do. We all strive to provide our children with every opportunity to be successful. Broadly speaking.

I grew up in a supportive loving environment with parents and siblings that supported me every step of the way. We all went to each other's events. We spent weekends at the park, dinners around the table together. Financially, it wasn't always roses, but we didn't know the difference. We were loved. We had everything we needed. We were happy.

We loved our parents. Were they our best friends? UH NO! Did we respect them. Yes. Were we afraid of what would come if we broke the rules? You bet! We may have butted the system more than once, but we knew when my dad said something, there was no negotiating. In the same breath, we knew without a doubt that he loved us unconditionally and would move mountains for us. We manipulated my mom a little easier. Played on her sensitive nature. Tried to get our way by wearing her down. Not intentionally - but as an adult, I can look back and see what was happening. She was the softer one. She thought about our feelings and tried to balance that. My dad just stated the facts and moved on. No negotiating. I think the two of them created a positive balance. It was a good place to learn and grow.

My husband and I have tried to create a balance in our relationship with our children. We are a little less cut and dry as far as our roles go. Sometimes he is no-nonsense, sometimes it's me. It depends on what we personally feel more passionate about, or when one of us is about to loose it - the other steps in. We are not perfect by any means, but we try our best and it works most of the time.

One thing we both agree on is the simple fact that we are NOT here to be our children's friends. The relationship between parent and child far exceeds any relationship that you can have with a friend. It is different. It has more depth. It is eternal. If my kid hates me right now because I want them to do homework before playing video games - then so be it. I know that in that moment the feeling of hate is very real, but I also know that feeling is temporary. I'll take it. I'm a big girl. I know that regardless of how much they hate the rules, restrictions, or limits, they will unconditionally love me because I unconditionally love them. Guess what? In that moment of frustration, I'm not too thrilled with them either. Hate is a little strong - but unhappy for sure. Irritated. Frustrated. I'm there to buddy.

I was a part of a conversation with a mother of a 14 year old boy in our school today. Apparently, they hosted a birthday party in their home for their son, only to discover that two of the boys had brought (hidden) their own alcohol and were fairly drunk when they were finally discovered. The host parents took the kids out of the party and proceeded to take them to another room and had them drinking water.

No parents were notified. The kids eventually took taxis home (which is common here) and nothing more was said. This mother was concerned about "telling on the kids" because she wants the parties to be in her home where she can supervise these things. Drinking is a fairly accepted mode of entertainment at parties for children as young as 12-13. Parents allow it.

I was mortified. I told her that if it were my son, I would want to know. I would be livid if it came back to me later that she had "handled it" as if she were the parent. I have every right to "handle it" in a way that I see fit. Granted, my kids are not taking taxis home, and if they get a ride, we meet them and talk with them before they head off to bed. We'd notice if a kid came home intoxicated. But the point is -


I get wanting to be the "cool house" and have the kids gathering there; but are these the kids you are going to allow your son to be friends with? Where is the line? What happened to good old fashioned NO? What happened to parents being able to count on each other to look out for our kids?

I talk to parents whom I respect greatly that allow their high school students to consume alcohol. I understand that in other countries the drinking age is lower. I also understand that drinking is an acceptable form of socializing for many people. However, I do have to say, the message we teach our kids when knowingly allow them to break a law, is not something we should be doing. It is not legal here in Chile for anyone under 18 to be drinking.

In Chile, it is not legal for my children to drive. The legal driving age is 18. In the US, my 17 year old can drive anywhere he'd like. So while in the US, he drives. In Chile, he does not. I believe it is important to follow the laws of what ever land you're living in.

This whole idea of being the "cool mom" or not wanting your kid to hate you - at what point did that become our priority? When did raising our kids become a popularity contest? I hated my parents loads of times when we were growing up, but as an adult I respect them. I respect them for setting boundaries and am grateful for the lessons that I learned because of them. I understand as an adult how to function in an environment where things don't always go my way. I respectfully can have a conversation with someone whom I disagree with and move forward from there. I am not devastated when I don't get my way - because quite frankly, things are not always going to go my way, and I learned that at an early age.

I learned to stand up for myself while still respecting others and authority. I fear what could become of a society that allows our children to blatantly disobey laws and authority. A society where the blame always rests on someone else's shoulders. A society who was raised by "best friends" instead of parents.

As adults are we lacking the confidence it takes to be the bad guys? Do we have so few friends that we need our kids and their friends to love us too? I am not pretending to have all the answers, but I do think that living amongst people with vastly different ideals has solidified who I am as a parent, and as a person. The thing that scares me: I seem to be in the minority...

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