From An Adult Daughter’s Perspective . . . Part I
Whenever I hear so-called parenting “experts” parrot the opinion-du-jour regarding child rearing, my ears prick up -I have to stop and listen – to see if their profound advice matches my experience. I do this purely for entertainment purposes now that my two children are “off-the-teet and out the door” making their own way in this crazy world.
Dr. Phil often advises parents of troubled teens that they can not be their children’s best friends and their parents too. Obviously, this advice is situational and mainly targeted to those parents who lack basic parenting skills and have kids who are out of control. But way too often, that advice is taken out of context by other child psychologists – relayed as a blanket statement – and the message people hear is black and white. “Parents, you should NEVER attempt to be your child’s best friend.”
Upon hearing this …my blood pressure goes up and the little hairs on the back of my neck rise up in protest! My visceral reaction to this kind of one-size-fits-all psycho-speak is because – not only was my mother my parent and boundary setter, she was definitely my best friend. In fact, not only was she my best friend, but also the trusted confidant of many of my friends (unusual, I know). So, I surmise – perhaps, it is the child psychologist’s use and definition of the word “friend” that is lost in translation, when they actually mean buddy or pal. Truly, we all know – as adults who have survived adolescence and beyond – a buddy is most definitely not always a friend.
Since I lost my mom to cancer when I was only 19 years old, I have to do a bit of exploring to understand how she was able to accomplish that delicate balance. What I discovered upon delving into my earliest memories, was it was “safe” to tell my mother anything without fear of retribution, judgement or even worse….the brush-off. When I was only eight years old, a 13-year-old big sister of my neighborhood pal decided it was her duty to tell me all about the birds and bees (childhood equivalent of an earthquake). In shock and horror I ran home, tears streaming down my face and questioned my mom…”mommy is it true..is it true..is that how babies are made?” She sat me down and calmly explained, that was indeed how I was created, but (as she always did) she retold the story with tender precision, educating me with the proper medical terminology and context for which sex would be appropriate. Her answer both comforted me and helped me store that bit of info away for another day – just like that I was back outside riding my bicycle without a care in the world (…well maybe a few “aftershocks” of …gross..really? come on).
The impromptu sex-ed talk would lead to many more provocative discussions between my mom and I over the next decade. Each confidential conversation sealed more deeply, my confidence in her wisdom as a parent and her “I’m here for you under any circumstances” attitude. She had been there..she had done that…she had inherent wisdom to share with me on the subject that my teenage girlfriends were clueless about. She listened without making me feel stupid for asking “silly” questions, she encouraged me to trust my own instincts and learn how to trust my gut in confusing situations, she loved me unconditionally. Thank you Mom, for preparing me for the toughest job in life. I miss you today and every day.