Should parents be friends with their kids? Advisor, writer and mother of three Orla Breeze shares her thoughts in our Rated PG parenting column.
It’s not because I don’t like them. They’re good people – smart, funny, kind – exactly the kind of qualities I look for in a friendship. But my kids and me? We’re never gonna be friends. No way. No how. In fact, they’re the last people on Earth I would ever choose to be friends with. Why? Because we signed a contract not to go down that path. Yep! You read that right – an actual contract. And I agreed to it wholeheartedly. What’s that? When did we sign this contract? Before they were born – actually before even I was born. Allow me to explain…
So there I was, hanging out in – I don’t know, let’s call it The Other Place. The one we generally assume is above us, not the hot, fiery one below. Just to be clear. But there I was, floating around on a cloud, minding my own business when another cloud carrying three beings I didn’t recognise floated into view, then stopped dead in front of me. Which, to be fair, was a pretty impressive feat. Clouds are pretty tricky to drive.
The tallest of the three leaned forward, and pointed in my general direction. “You,” he announced, “are going to be our mother.” Normally, I wouldn’t take that kind of ordering around, but I’d been floating about on that cloud for aeons and I was bored. Proper bored. Anything would have been better than being left to spend even more time trying to steer a big fluffy white thing around the Universe. I sighed, just to give the impression that I wasn’t that big a pushover. “Oh, all right then,” I said, “when do we start?”
“Not so fast,” the smallest one declared. “You can’t just jump in without preparation. You’re going to be our mother, not our dog!” “Yeah!” shouted the middle one in agreement. “Preparation?” I asked, unimpressed with the suggestion that I needed any; “Next thing, you’ll be saying I need to sign a contract!’ They looked at each other. “You know,” said the middle one, “that’s not a bad idea.”
Before I could protest, the trio had huddled together discussing something they clearly didn’t want me to hear, and after what felt like an age, they turned back towards me and handed me a piece of paper. I glanced at it, expecting to see hundreds of complicated clauses but surprisingly there was only one: No friendship allowed under any circumstance. “No friendship?” I asked. “But I don’t understand.”
It was their turn to sigh. The small one looked at the tall one. “You tell her,” she said. He floated their cloud a little closer to me then said, “Definitely no friendship! A friend wants you to like them, and appreciate them, and be nice to them. And once you do, you get to become partners in crime, taking risks and trying things that you may not yet be ready for, but you try them anyway because your friend says ‘Why not?!’ But that’s not what a parent does. A parent doesn’t care if you like them or not, or even if you appreciate them. That has nothing to do with their purpose. A parent sets boundaries, says yes when appropriate and no when it’s not, regardless of whether you like them for it. A parent guides you through your childhood safely. The two have nothing in common.”
I thought for a minute or two before saying, “Guess we’re not going to be friends then.” “Never!” they replied.
This article first appeared in the Feb/Mar edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!
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