Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Eyes of A Child, or, A Friend Does Not Have To Be a Peer

People have long said that there are two sides to every coin. It's a cliche that's probably been used for about as long as the coin has existed (perhaps I should research that one day). Call the two sides what you will. Heads - Tails. Good - Evil. Yin - Yang. Whatever.

People have also long said that there are two sides to every person. For me, the two sides of the coin most often at war with each other are the Parent - Friend sides. Unfortunately, we live in a time when children seem to, on a more and more frequent basis, be completely bereft of any parental guidance whatsoever. Take a look around you and prove me wrong. I dare you to try. I think that one of the most unfortunate consequences of this cultural shift has been our unwillingness to find any middle ground at all with our children. Another human fallacy seems to be the propensity to take things too far. We either swear that our children "will not behave like that" so we clamp down so much they have little to no freedom whatsoever (often only delaying the inevitable rebellion) or we just depend on them to develop themselves into well-rounded individuals through things like "active-listening" (thanks, Raymond!) or other such philosophical/psychological methods. Not to say that any of these are bad in and of themselves, but again, it's meant to merely make a point: we tend to be one way or the other.

One thing you hear a lot these days (at least in terms of raising children) is that you "are not your child's friend, you are their parent!". It's even popular in Christian circles (and maybe especially so).

Well, I disagree (so what else is new?)!

A friend and I were talking recently about this very topic (no idea how we got on the subject) and the topic of our own childhood came up. Not to belabor a point, I was quick to point out that when it came down to my feelings about my own dad, I had no trouble differentiating between my dad the parent, and my dad the friend. He was ample parts both. My dad the parent ruled the roost, taught me right from wrong, disciplined me, and let me know who was boss. My dad the friend taught me how to ride my bike, how to catch, watched baseball and football with me... well, you get the idea. Was he still my parent while he was doing those things? Of course. But I can still remember the child-like glee in his eyes when he did many of those things. I still see that look now when we're watching certain movies my mom can't stand. My dad knew how to successfully tread the line between being a parent and a friend, and I always knew which he was at any given time.

I want my own sons to know the same thing. I don't want to come down on them like a hammer 24/7 for their own good to keep them out of trouble. I also don't want to be just their friend. I want to be their parent, and their friend. I want to walk the line, and I want to do it successfully like my old man did.

And when we do things together that we both enjoy, I want them to know that the glee they see in my eyes mirrors the glee I see in their eyes, and that it's genuine from a man who is both their parent, and their friend.

I think that my pictures speak for themselves.