I've been thinking about a discussion we had at the mom's group I lead last Monday about being friends with one's children. I was talking about how thankful I was that M. was back from Samoa and that she had had a good experience. This mother then asked me if M. was my best friend. Now, I know she had the best of intentions behind her question, but since I still have not learned to curb my immediate reactions very well, I immediately answered, "No! That's not her job" with perhaps more force than was really necessary.
My response between now and then hasn't changed, but I think I could have done a better job in explaining myself. Like many things, it is mostly a matter of semantics. According to Webster's dictionary, a friend is someone attached to another by affection or esteem. So far, so good. If we were to use just this definition, I have no problem agreeing that all my children are also my friends.
But is this all we mean when we use the word "friend" nowadays? I don't think so. Friend also implies a confidante, someone to whom you pour your troubles; two people who are of equal status. It is this connotation of the word friend to which I objected so strongly. As much as I love and like my daughter, admire her, enjoy her, and value her opinions, I am still her parent.
Too many times I hear about parents trying to be their children's friends and forfeiting their parental role in the process. By elevating the children to the same status as the parent (or the reverse, lowering the status of adult to that of child), the parents abdicate any authority they might have had over them. If the child's opinion becomes as important as the parents, why should the child give any credence to the adult's words? And this at a time in the child's development when parental guidance could save them so much heartache.
I think, also, that we have a Biblical mandate to be parents worthy of the fifth commandment. Children are to honor their parents, and whether our culture likes it or not, honor requires a difference in status. Parents and children are not equal members of the household and family.
Yes, a child in the teen years is more mature and capable than they were, but the scope for making poor decisions with lifelong implications is correspondingly greater. Teenagers (and if you know my opinions on that term, you know I use it somewhat disparagingly) need parents and not more friends.