I had a good mother. I still have her really, she’s just no longer on this earth. She’s in my heart forever. She’s in the way I live my life and the way I mother my own children. She will forever be my moral compass. My Mom and I had a special relationship that has remained even after her death.
When my much older siblings got married and moved away, and my Dad passed away, all within the same year, we went from a family of 5 to just my mom and me. I was twelve and my Mom was 50. We made a great team and accomplished a lot, with very little, while making memories that will stay with me forever. Were we close? Absolutely. Were we best friends? Absolutely not. You see I had one of those “mean moms”, you know the ones who set rules and make sure you abide by them. The ones who make sure that you do what’s right and not just what’s popular. The ones who make sure you wear appropriate clothing and not just what’s in style. (A quick aside…I will probably never quite get over the fact that my Mom would not relent and let me get white Go Go boots back in the 60’s when everyone else had them; some things are just too mean to forget) J.
The importance of being parent to our children, and not friend, cannot be overstated. Parenting and friendship are two different things, something my Mom clearly knew very well, but many parents struggle with today. So, what is the difference between the two? Well, you are a parent when you are willing to say no, later or never, even though it is likely to upset your child. You put well-being above happiness and choose what is best even at a cost to yourself. You are a friend when you let the desire to be liked control your actions and are scared or reluctant to cause negative feelings.
Did I like my Mom? Not always. Did I love, respect and have deep gratitude for my Mom? I sure did! My mom never seemed to care if I liked her. She had a job to do and being liked along the way didn’t seem to be one of her goals. Of course, deep down we all want our children to like us. We even hope they think we are cool, fun and one of the best parents around, but these hopes should not come at the cost of maintaining parental boundaries and authority. After all, giving children their way is no guarantee that they will like us. In fact, it often has the opposite effect. Trying to be our child’s friend, so they like us, usually backfires and it hurts.
A child psychologist reports that “a whole generation of children are growing up badly behaved because their parents are too afraid to discipline them”. Our children need and want us to be the boss. They instinctively know we are the boss, and they are looking for us to take charge. Anything less leaves our children pressured into making decisions for themselves that they are not yet equipped for. Being in charge is just way too much responsibility for them at such a tender age. Friendship in lieu of parenting brings confusion and insecurity to our children right into adolescence and young adulthood. Our children shouldn’t feel pressure to act like a grown up simply because we are afraid to parent them.
So, the next time our children tell us they don’t like us, cry when we give them an answer they don’t want to hear or consider us the meanest parent around, we need to remember we are
choosing what’s right over being liked. We are choosing parenting over friendship. We are not ruining their childhood we are simply doing our jobs.
I am so grateful that I had a good “mean mom” who wasn’t afraid to parent and provided me with a firm foundation to flourish and grow amidst all the storms that life can bring. I had tons of friends, but I only had one mother, whom I miss every single day. I always felt loved and respected by a mother who supported me and was my biggest cheerleader but who also held me to high standards and led by example. Her absence in my day-to-day life has left a huge void but she prepared me to live on without her. What more could I ask?
Happy Mother’s Day. Stay strong, Mamas. Your children will only love and respect you for leaving the “friending” to others.