My three-year-old, with springy curls and mismatched florals, bounds up our backyard and whispers to me, “Mommy, you my best fwend!” With Mother’s Day just behind us, I’m reminded that one of the best gifts I could ask for is to be called my child’s friend, even when such phrases are as fickle as you’d expect a 3-year-old’s temperament to be. However, I had to work through some tension before I could embrace that phrase for all it’s worth.
You see, I’ve heard a lot of well-intentioned, seasoned parents and teachers herald the mantra that “You are not your children’s friend. You are their parent!” The same is often said for the teacher/student relationship. I see their sentiment. Our society likes to make a lot of absolutisms as a way to overcorrect. But, first, it’s built on a faulty logic that we only obtain friends by trying to win over people. As well as the faulty logic that parenting and friendship are mutually exclusive. It also runs counter to one of our main image-bearing functions: to be relational (Need I go on?!).
Parenting in a busy season is certainly hard and wearisome, but it’s full of redemption and adventure because I’ve learned to embrace my small children as friends.
Part of my story is that I’ve experienced the newbie, outsider perspective for a near decade amid our many moves. In the comings and goings, I’m reminded that acquaintances, rooted in the comforts of whatever community we’re passing through, fade from the background. Yet, my beautiful children are handpicked for me by the relational, triune Creator Himself. And, they remain. I’m also reminded that my children aren’t here for my security and happiness (which is a dangerous tendency to be aware of amid instability), but that how I engage with them to reflect God’s authoritative and relational image in this moment is far more permanent than any superficial interaction I’m denied or embarrassment that I may face.
When I finally embraced that “These children are my people. My friends. My tribe,” I tapped into an unexpected joy and energy during these wearisome residency years. One might say it’s just semantics, but I definitely get more pep in my step when I wake up thinking, “I’m not just parenting these children, but I’m doing life with my friends.”
Yes, indeed. I can be parent and friend. In the very same way that God created Adam to both rule over the earth and walk with him in the garden. The right semantics do make a difference.
So, on the Mother’s Day that is really every day, I want to thank my children for not only being the free-spirited, yet needy, crew that propels me to drink absurd amounts of coffee and wish for bedtime; but also for being the always-maturing friends who point me to life’s greatest truths. For reminding me that I’m indeed their parent. But, come what may, I’m also their forever friend.
(And, you know I can’t leave a post without a book review, so here it is: The Whole-Brain Child just rocked me world. While Parenting gave me a big-picture, theological context; this book gave me the most practical tools to better understand my child and thus have an even better awareness of when/how to show grace.)