Thursday, September 20, 2012

Being My Children's Friend by Real


Something has been bothering me for a long time.  I see the idea postulated in comments to articles.  I read it in blogs.  I see women saying it on facebook.  It's the idea that we are supposed to be MOTHERS not FRIENDS to our kids.

And I think I understand that the point they are trying to make is that it's important to set boundaries and rules and teach and mentor.  I also think they are saying that it's more important to do those things than to...what?  Hang out with your kid?  Have fun with your kid?  Let them get away with whatever they want because you are equals?

But it just grates on my nerves every time I hear that spouted off.  It's a cute little sound byte, I suppose, that quickly justifies a "mean" mom.  And by "mean" I don't mean "mean", right?  When moms are being "mean" they are being strict, holding firm, letting consequences happen.  Not actually being naughty.

But as an actual parental philosophy it kind of stinks.  It's completely meaningless at best and downright false at worst.
John 15:12-14
This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. 
James 2:23
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 
Doctrine and Covenants 88:3
Wherefore I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, even the Holy Spirit of Promise; which other comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
The way I see it, if the Savior of the World is my Friend, and there is a way for Him to call me a friend, then there is no good reason on this earth why I could not or should not be friends with my own children.  In fact, because  "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ"  (The Family:  A Proclamation to the World), it seems of the utmost important that we, as parents, follow the example of God and actually be friends with our children.

Being a mother, not a friend is a false dichotomy.  Either, the person claiming it doesn't really understand what parenting or motherhood is all about, or else they have a false conception of what true friendship is.  I think that being a friend is a very important part of motherhood.  And if we think we are going to get anywhere with our kids without befriending them, we are going to have a lot of problems.  Why would they ever be willing to listen to us if we don't first listen to them?  How will they want to obey and serve us if we aren't helping and serving them?  Why would they want to do anything with the family if we aren't also seeking out their companionship and their insights and their experience?


I may be my children's mother because of mortality, but their souls are just as old and eternal as mine is.  I may have more earthly experience and understand the culture we live in better.  Sheer time gives me an advantage in this temporal and finite existence.  I hope to share that wealth of knowledge with them to make their passing easier and more joyful.  But they have their own take on the world, their own stores of knowledge gained in pre-earthly realms.  It is just as vitally important that I be humble enough to sit at their feet and listen to what they have to teach me.  They are my equals.  I would even go so far as saying that they are actually my superiors in so many, many ways.  


It is right that they should honor me as a mother because of the sacrifice of my life given for them.  It is an additional, sweet gift if I should respect them and listen to them and laugh with them enough that they choose to call me a friend.  That we love each other's company and crave each other's conversation is a beautiful thing that only bonds a family tighter together and makes it more likely that children will pay attention and follow when there is correction that needs to be made or principles that need to be taught or direction that needs to be given.


I count it as one of the greatest blessings in my life that I can open up to my children and talk about things that have been hard on me or that they care to listen when I've had a hard day, or think to ask about it when I've had a great day!  I love getting texts throughout the day where they tell me what's going on and we joke and laugh together.  I also love the serious conversations we have where testimonies are borne and spiritual experiences shared.  It is my great privilege to count these great people as my best friends.



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BIO:  "Real", who blogs at Beautopotamus, is a childbirth educator and doula with degrees in French and Language Acquisition who is a full-time stay-at-home mom.  Despite her job title, she still can't manage to keep the kitchen clean or the living room picked up.  And don't even think about going into the bathrooms!   She enjoys procrastinating doing any real work by running, jazzercising, reading, and making all sorts of plans for the future.  When she grows up, she would like to teach French or somehow get paid to do public speaking, because she's really good at talking.  Real has been married to a stalwart man (who considers himself the lucky one) for 20 years.  They have 8 funny and fabulously unique children who are as breathtakingly beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside.  Real joined the Church when she was almost 16 and has never regretted it for a moment.






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Be sure to check out today's other insightful posts about the Family Proclamation on the following blogs:

  Middle-agedMormonMan  diapersanddivinity

36 comments:

  1. I agree that we need to be our children's friends, most definitely. And I was *one of those moms* who postulated that being a friend to my child was something I would never be. But I was thinking in terms of being a peer. I have seen many relationships where the line between parent and child was so muddled that the child was speaking as if THEY were the parent. They were throwing orders around and it was horrible to see the parent scramble this way and that trying to keep up with the demands. That is the type of parent I do not want to be. The bible gives us parents a guideline to follow as well as our children. (Eph 6:4 ; Eph 6:1) But, now that I have two children, my desire is to be their very, very best friend, ever. We sit and snuggle and talk, we pray together, we take walks together, we read together, we whisper in each others' ears. Yes, I am my child's best friend and I'm proud of it.
    But, (as I am not a Mormon I do not believe in pre-earthly realms) I am not my child's peer. And that's what I meant all those years ago by stating that I would never be my child's friend.
    This was a great post! Thanks for sharing. Subjects like these are very close to my heart and I'm quite passionate about them.

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    1. You are a great example of that...I'm remembering this post for example! :) http://beinglds.blogspot.com/2011/03/creating-jesus-culture-at-home-by-misha.html

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  2. good point that our souls (moms) and their souls (our kids) are equally as old as forever. So yes we should be friends. But in being mom, setting the example as good moms allow the kids to discover their own relationships with a heavenly parent. Lovely post.

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    1. You were the best friend a kid could have...but in the true sense! :)

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  3. I agree with East Coaster. I show the same love and respect to my child as I would a friend but I am not their peer. I don't think we are equals - I think they are asking to learn from me, someone who has experienced more life than they have. Maybe because I am not Mormon and don't see my kids as old souls. I don't want them to fear me as some suggest, I want them to respect me and listen to what I ask and heed what I say because of love and respect, not fear. I do think sometimes that parents want their kids to be their friends in a selfish way when kids just want to be children and not be a social outlet for their parents. Parents need to have peer friends, just as their children should

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  4. good post. as a grandmother it's easy to be friends with the grandkids and listen, encourage and love them. I find facebook important for keeping touch with them...

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  5. This was beautiful, thank you Real.

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  6. I love what you say here...especially how you remind us what a TRUE friend is...a Christ-like friendship is what is required of parents and mothers especially. In a way, I see the title of Mother as something higher than friendship...it includes the virtues of true friendship, but also includes the aspects of a mentor, of a creator, of someone who will take your hand and lead you along until you come in to your own. In our world, there are lots of "friends", "frienemies", BFF's that turn out not to be so. So of course, when people say "be their mother, not their friend" they really mean that children have enough false friends...be a true friend...be a Mother! Great post, and thanks for the very important reminders, Real!!!

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  7. The definition that you explain above is right on, in many ways. The love and friendship that the Savior describes is exactly what we should share in a family unit. Who lays down their life for their friends more than what a mom does for her children? Unfortunately, the world uses this "cliche" term: "Mothers not friends" to describe scenarios feared, by looking at say, Lindsay Lohan and her mom.

    However, as much much as I love and respect the spirits that house the bodies of my children, words like peer and equal are words that will be saved for my adult children. (Then again, perhaps still not with equality. So much wisdom comes with life experience. Although I see my mom-and other elders, as my friend, I do not see her as an equal. She is wise and knows best. She is at a different level in all realms.) While still under my stewardship, my children can't be described as equal or peers. (Atleast as using definitions found in the dictionary.) It is my stewardship to teach, to nurture, to oversee. This is not something that can be done on equal ground. The past few months I have found myself depending on the friendship of my children more than ever. I need to know about their life. I want them to know about my life. I want to hear about their faith and how they can be strong, even though they feel uncertainty. I want them to hear my faith in God. I want them to know where my strength derives. I want them to find security in the love that they find within the walls of thier home. There are still boundaries and lines that can't be crossed as a parent. There are conversations that I have with peers, (Adult women) that I just can't have with my non adult children. I am grateful for the definition presented above that is based from verse found in the scriptures. Although their spirits may be superior to mine in many way, I was given the responsibility to come to Earth first. I was given the responsibility to come first as their parent, which to me, includes being a friend. (As described above.)

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  8. I love your thoughts Real. I also agree with others who have commented that being your child's friend is not the same as acting like their peer. I also love the insight from Jocelyn that the title of Mother is kind of all inclusive. It signifies the deepest of friendships and the title of mentor, creator, and guide. But beyond that, the Proclamation teaches that it is our greatest responsibility to teach our children. If we have become our child's greatest friend, then those moments of discipline and mentoring become great learning experiences and only strengthen the bond of trust and love betweeen us. Our children need strong parents who know why they are the parents, and part of that is definitely building strong family relationships. When my girls were all very young, I had many people WARN me how horrible the teenage years were going to be. I have to say...I LOVE the teenage years. I highly recommend it! It has been the greatest for me so far, as I am such good friends with my daughters. They come to me and tell me their deepest secrets, we laugh, we hang-out with their friends, and we guide, mentor, and discipline when needed. It is the perfect balance! Great post..thanks for making us all think about this!

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    1. I agree with you about teens, Susan! We have 4 teens right now (18, 16, 15, 13) and I had heard all the same awful things about teens and how hard it was going to be. I was prepared for the worst! Only I have found it to be so incredibly rewarding and fun! I love having teenagers and we haven't had any sort of trouble that everyone has been trying to scare me about since we became parents!

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  9. Oh, Amen!

    I've consistently wondered about the deal with telling us we are raising the "Saturday's Warrior" generation . . . by which I surmise must mean they are at least somewhat more valiant beings that the rest of us, if not superior beings entirely.

    So, my being "superior" to them in any way (other than physical time on earth - which . . . time in the Lord's eyes . . . anyway) . . . to think that is just sort of confusing.

    My parents, as far as I knew, taught us what wasn't good for the kids, wasn't good for the parents. So if the kids couldn't watch a show or movie (whatever rating) then the parents shouldn't watch it either.

    My parents listened to us, most of the time, like equals. I don't know that I ever heard, "You will do it because I'm the mom/dad, and I say so." They always took the time to reason it out with us, explaining the points - provided we were willing to have a reasonable and rational conversation about it.

    So, while I would love to be my kids friend - even more so than my parents were to me and my siblings, I feel a little inferior sometimes when I'm dealing with my kids - who by all accounts are more intelligent and possibly closer to the spirit, in some respects. I feel that all I have to offer is to share my knowledge and experience with them, and hope they can extrapolate something useful for application in their own lives. I can share my testimony (of many things - spiritual and temporal), but in the end, I agree - they will have to choose for themselves.

    Mostly,
    I just feel my kids have been better friends to me (more loyal, helpful and supportive) than I have been or will ever be to them.

    Humbling.

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  10. I think the main problem with the 'friend vs mom' debate is that the parenting styles. Those parents who want their children to always 'like' them or are very permissive can fall under the 'I just want my kids to be my friends'. Those parents that have some boundaries, set and enforce rules are considered the 'moms'. I think that these terms have just become a norm set to define the different styles while really creating the wrong ideas. I have had many instances were I go from the 'worst mom in the whole world' to the 'best mom ever' in 5 minutes!! Children do need and should expect guidance and be taught to respect their elders but I don't think this means we should 'Lord over' or 'master' our children. As children get older, that friendship line can become closer as they are more responsible for their actions and choices. While I am close to my mom and consider her a good "friend"- she always will be my "mom" first. :)

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  11. Great comments. I also agree that we cannot be our children's peers. I've seen way too many wayward children whose parents are afraid to be the patent because they think their child will not like them. Have fun with your child, play with them, hang with them, but do not forget to parent them!

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  12. This post gave me a lot of food for thought. I will always be my child's friend but I don't want to be their peer. They need a mom just like I need a mom who now happens to be one of my best friends because she was my mom and not just a peer.

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  13. I have a different view than others (at least those I associate with regularly) of parenthood. I have the privilege of guiding my son through this life. I have my own mission here on earth, but part of that is him. I am his sister. I just get to be called mom here. I have the awesome responsibility to teach. Sometimes I don't have to be caught up in the moment of teaching and guiding. Sometimes, and these are the best times, I get to enjoy his sweet and sassy and obnoxious 12 year old attitudes and just be great friends. Those are the moments that I truly cherish. I must admit I have gotten caught up in the whole don't be friends with your kids movement, at least in the most negative way. Then I relaxed once I realized that parenting isn't stress allllll the time. Once I loosened up, I really started enjoying the journey. That was 10 years ago or so. Thank you Real for putting these thoughts into such a great post.

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  14. You have articulated the things I have been trying to do in my family so well. Our families are about love and love is friendship. Thanks for a beautiful post.

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  15. Wow, I really love this post! I agree with statements made in other comments as well. Because we have more time and greater experience in this life, we are called upon to be teachers and leaders to our children. We therefore must have respect from our children. They need to look up to us. However, you are absolutely right in that we also NEED to be friends with our children: for joy, for support, for love. We are that we might have joy: we need to have fun together. They need to know we understand what they're feeling, that we've been there before and that they can feel comfortable to talk to us about anything! Every once in a while, my children will make an offhand comment to my husband and me that they enjoy having a relationship with us that many other kids don't seem to have with their parents: we talk more, we enjoy doing things together more, we joke and laugh together. I'm truly grateful for that connection of friendship we have. It makes the other part of parenting SO much easier.

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  16. Hmm. I don't think I agree with post at all but I don't have time to discuss it because my NOT-friend is tearing around the house after the cats.

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  17. I love this! Especially because I always hoped I could have a very close and loving relationship with my children - my mother was very much the type to be a mother, not a friend, and we weren't always very emotionally close. I think there can be a middle ground, for sure.

    Cartwheelingdowntheaisle.wordpress.com

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  18. I am a mom that feels I am their mother first and then their friend, in that, my first responsibility is to guide and teach them. I have the same responsibility to my friends, but not on the same level. I appreciate your post and agree with your thoughts, but also feel that when you hear mothers say this, they often mean they are not their child's peer, not that they are not their friend. A mother who says they are not their child's friend, usually just means that they will not be the type of parent who will forgo their parental responsibilities in order to ensure that their children like them. I know that is what I mean when I say I am their mother first and then their friend.

    The Happy Wife/Danielle Garcia
    Ldsmom2201 (at) yahoo (dot) com
    http://juanshappywife.blogspot.com
    Twitter: The_Happy_Wife

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  19. I so agree with your post! I have 12 children. We have been through a lot of very tough times. We've dealt with drugs, death of a child, adopting kids with attachment issues, 3 deployments,and are in the middle of some very difficult choices. I am so grateful for my relationship with my children. We can talk and share and support each other. I could probably be stricter, but that's not me. We do feel respect for parents is very important, but being able to open up to each other without "distance" between us is vital.

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  20. Love your comments today! I do feel its so important to have our children feel understood. You have to be a friend to really connect with them. Well done :>

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  21. I really love this post and also needed it today- Thank you- Real

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  22. Amen. To this post (LOVED IT!) and to all the comments made, thank you! (I don't think there is anything else I have to add---thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts!)

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  23. I was an only child of a single parent. Every night we always had the same exchange. "You're my best friend; it's true." "No, you're MY best, friend; it's true." It went back and forth a few times. As an adult, I really feel like my mom is my friend. That she knows me, counsels me and even troubleshoots with me. Her respect was very empowering to have confidence in my ability to make good choices which I really believe perpetuated the "good choice" making in my teen and early adult years.

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    1. Amber, me too! Only child of a single parent. My mom is not LDS nor does she even have similar standards (which I often regretted as a teen--I joined the church when I was almost 16). But I love how you said, "Her respect was very empowering to have confidence in my ability to make good choices..." Because even though she wasn't LDS, she did respect me in the same way you describe. You've made me look back with a new perspective and think for the first time that even though she didn't raise me with the standards I would have liked, maybe the way she did raise me gave me the strength for me to decide up on those standards for myself anyway. Thank you!

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  24. I love my children and have their love in return. At times when I need to be firm with "tough love" I'm reminded of the conference talk by Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy, October 2010 entitled "Courageous Parenting".

    "Elder Joe J. Christensen reminded us that “parenting is not a popularity contest.” In the same spirit, Elder Robert D. Hales has observed, “Sometimes we are afraid of our children—afraid to counsel with them for fear of offending them.” Elder Lawrence says, "What the world really needs is courageous parenting from mothers and fathers who are not afraid to speak up and take a stand."

    I am very close with my 5 children and I know how to have fun and laugh and be silly. However, I also know when it's time to be the parent. I see many of the parents of their peers acting as their children. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between who is the parent and who is the child, even among our friends at church.

    My older daughters say that their mother is their best friend. Maybe because they know they are loved and cared for and unlike most friends (peers) I want what's best for them always and am not afraid to have an open, honest relationship with them based on gospel principles. I have said the phrase "I'm not your friend, I'm your mother" and this post has made me think about what I'm really saying. I believe I'm saying to them "What I'm going to do or say will not be popular, but will be what's necessary at that time." I guess it's really more food for thought.

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  25. I love this post and was just having a discussion with my mom about this and how this believe has shown up in verious ways in our family. A lot more food for thought and maybe finding way to help my brother understand this concept.

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  26. I LOVE this post J! SO SO SO TRUE! It breaks my heart when I read posts where Moms say how they "actually played with their children today!" Seriouslly? Do you give them any attention other then to scold them? I hope more people learn from this post because it is a FANTASTIC POST! :o)

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  27. Great thoughts. Being a mom and being a friend need not be mutually exclusive.

    =)

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  28. My most cherished friendship is the one I have with my own mother. I hope to have the same kind of close and open relationship with my children. Your thoughts are so true. Thank you for sharing them.

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  29. Thank you for this wonderful post. My most cherished friendship is the one I have with my mother, and I hope to have the same kind of relationship with my own children. I don't believe that can be accomplished without nurturing the qualities embodied in being a good friend as well.

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