What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see or hear the word, “Friends?” For my younger son it would undoubtedly be the TV-series that aired for a decade on NBC, because he loves it so. For others, it might be that Bette Midler song. Maybe it would be something from Sesame Street? Friends enrich our lives. And, like that famous saying, “We don’t choose our family, but we do choose our friends,” we actually have some control over who is our friend.
Nobody promised that being a parent would be easy nor were we assured that we’d get kids that were easy to handle. If you’re like most of us, you face regular challenges to your authority, your rules, and the way you expect your kids to behave. As with much in life, there’s room for compromise, but with parenting I suggest that if you stick with your rules it defines your values and teaches your children valuable lessons. The first rule must be that you tell the truth.
It’s a simple idea to tell the truth, but not always so simple to execute in real-life family situations. For instance, what do your kids really hear when you say something like, “If you do this fill-in-the-blank thing, you’re gonna be grounded” with stern parental authority. Most kids will interpret that to mean, “Well, I sure hope you won’t do that, but I’ll forgive you when you do because I love you so much and want to be your best friend.” The result? You haven’t told the truth or stood by your word. The kids then know they can manipulate you.
I recently visited my best friend, who moved from L.A., to a small town in the Northwest. He built a home, from scratch, supervising every detail, and with his wife, they created their dream home. I found myself feeling a tad of envy, as he took me on the tour of the house, pointing out all the beautiful details.
As we’ve been renting for several years, the pride of ownership is just not part of our lives and our belief is that the practical choice is to stay in rent for the near future. Our choice, certainly. But, as I reflected on my own bout of envy, I thought about my boys and how often they’re comparing themselves to their peers.
We just returned from a boys trip to Vegas. By “boys,” I mean my two boys, who are almost 16 and 13 and me, the oldest of the “boys” (according to my wife). I had to consider, yet again, the dilemma we confront as parents today, with the constant assault on our values and the non-stop sexual and violent imagery our kids face. We can’t fully shelter our kids, but what should be the limits?
My best friend’s son, his youngest, has been house and teen-sitting for us. He’s 20 now and he’s really grown up in so many ways. It seems the alien pod has left his body and the sane human being his parents raised has returned. Such a relief, as it gives me hope for my two to know that they do grow up!
When he was my teen’s age I remember an incident that really stuck with me, when his family moved. I had offered to help and was horrified at how they allowed and indulged their youngest to basically sit around and do nothing, while we worked tirelessly. He was that self-absorbed.
What happened to kids listening to their parents? It seems whatever I ask my boys to do, the response is always some sort of “No,” whether it be questioning why I won’t do it myself or saying “later.” Am I missing something or have I just become a total wimp of a dad?