Monday, August 20, 2012

Parents to Friends

Today I tackle another question from the Help Me With My Dry Spell post.

I'd like to hear your perspective on the transition from parent as "authority" to parent as "friend" as your children age - how does that work, any specific suggestions on how to 'let go' slowly or does it just happen naturally over time?

I've thought about this question for a couple of weeks now and before chiming in, I'd like to say I have never felt like a parenting expert. I blame myself for any bad habits I see in my kids, but any good qualities I attribute to the grace of God. I can't say I've been an intentional parent. Most days I feel I'm hanging on for the ride, praying God will make good of my efforts. My kids are sensitive, creative, loving individuals, but I can't say it's because I've done A, B, or C. God does good work. Period.

Having gotten that off my chest, I'll offer my observations on this subject. In my experience, this transition happens slowly over time. I remember feeling such sadness when my oldest went to kindergarten. I cried every day for two weeks and he was only going for half days! I realized it bothered me because I was giving up some control over him. I no longer knew how he spent his entire day. I wasn't privy to his conversations. I wasn't there to ensure proper behavior. It was the first step to letting go.

The letting go continues, requiring more as they get older. Sleepovers, walking home from school, driving privileges. The older they get, the less they are home, limiting your control over their behavior. We set and enforce boundaries, but they choose how they will follow.

I find the toughest stage yet to be navigating the parental role as they leave the house. What if they don't do __________________? How often should I remind them? Do you let them learn the hard way? What if they do things you don't like? Is it your responsibility to correct them?

While I don't have the answers to those questions (every situation seems to call for a different response), one thing I find very satisfying and comforting is the relationship I have with each of my kids. They talk to me. Even seem to LIKE talking to me at times. I find this a huge blessing and thank God for it every day. As I think about how that came about, I immediately recall one habit that helped.

I worked hard to have dinner together many nights a week. This gets tricky as kids get into high school and have their own activities. Sometimes it meant we ate early at 4:30 or 5, requiring Kevin to come home earlier than usual. Sometimes it meant waiting for a kid to get off work later and eating at 6:30. It's not always possible, but if I could make it happen, I did. As I look through the years of our family, our best times have been at the dinner table. We didn't prepare deep, spiritual lessons or use the time lecturing them. We were just us, eating, being together, laughing, connecting. This simple habit fostered togetherness and defined us as a family.

We've always been very open with our kids (sometimes I wonder if it's been TOO open), but now they are comfortable discussing many things with us. I've made it my goal to be the same with them as I would be with anyone else. I didn't want to have a "Mom" persona and a "Tami" persona. I hated the idea of them listening into Bible study some night and wondering who I was. I didn't want them seeing someone different outside the house than they saw inside the house. I don't know, of course, but I hope that built respect in them for me and paved the way for a friend type of relationship later.

An added pressure to our family life was Kevin working for a church. At first I felt our kids had expectations put on them because of it. I decided early on I wasn't going to fall for that trap. We answer to God, so my kids never got the "You have to live to a higher standard" speech. I wasn't putting that pressure on them. We did our best to model authentic lives and listen. We let them be who they are, not who church people thought they should be.

I'm of the mindset there is no magic formula for raising kids. Each child possesses a unique gift set, has a different personality. How can there be a step by step plan that works with everyone? My goal is to bring up individuals who love God and their family. Despite my weaknesses, I see that in my kids. Thank You Jesus! So far, so good. Nice work, God.

What are your thoughts on transitioning from parent to friend?

1 comment:

Julie said...

Thank you. This helps! :) {Also appreciated your over-eating post, friend - thanks.}