Some advice on parenting from a man without kids

OKay, okay, before anyone hits me with the “you don’t know because you don’t have kids” rebut, let me be clear. In no way am I saying that I know what it’s like to have children. What I do know, is what it’s like to have parents. So this is what’s been deduced from watching my mother grow as a parent, in relationship to my siblings and I.

So here it is. (A rant indeed.)

I believe the thought process behind “I’m your mama, not your friend,” is a bit underdeveloped and misguided. I recognize that as a child is growing you need that child to respect you, but not just because you’re a parent, but also because that child has to learn respect in general. But there has to be some sort of balance between parenting, and actually allowing yourself to be a friend to your child. Parents are overseers. Managers. They instruct, and teach, and discipline, usually out of fear that there child will step out of line, and do something to terribly affect their lives before having a shot to live. This fear is normal, and it’s healthy, but parents really have to keep a handle on it or their child will grow up to fear life. This is when the parental friend has to step in. For balance. The parental friend understands that they were once young, that mistakes HAVE to be made, that their child’s life doesn’t belong to them. Once parents humble themselves, children begin to listen more, and a discourse, an honest one, commences. It’s in this discourse that a different kind of trust (from I trust you with my life, to I trust you with my emotions…way different) is formed and a true friendship blossoms. It has nothing to do with a parent “acting young,” just “remembering young.” It’s about empathy, and courage to let your child be an individual. Courage to let your child take a risk. Courage to let your child express themselves no matter how uncomfortable the conversation. Courage to let your child fail, and learn on his or her own, that way he or she can develop their own wisdom to bring back to the friendship table and compare. The parental friend is non-judgemental (or silently judgmental) and selfless enough to not always impose their insecurities onto the child in some perverse form of discipline masked as love (the fear always shines through.)

Like I said, this takes humility. The child has to be taught it, and the parent has to exercise it. Though there was drama in my house, my mother did this. She didn’t smother my thoughts with her ego, or stifle my dreams with her fear. My mom was terrified when I told her I was going to be a professional writer. But she worried in private, and rooted for me in my face. She let me say what I wanted to say as a kid, as long as it was respectful. I could voice my opinion, and it would be taken seriously. I could disagree with her, and we could debate without escalation (she never said, ‘because I’m your mother, that’s why!’) She respected me as a child, and still does as an adult, no matter what I do with my life. We can laugh together, cry together, share secrets. She takes my advice the same way I take hers. We can gamble together and drink together (not sure why I added this, but it’s true, and it’s awesome) and hang out arm in arm as homies for the rest of our lives.

I know every (good) parent has kids and says “I want them to contribute something to society,” and I’m with you 100%, but along with that, have you ever thought about how amazing it is to think that you may have possibly birthed your best friend(s)?

What an opportunity.

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