I’d like to tell my sons — I’m your friend first.
Too often, I read or hear some variation from parents – especially parents of teenagers — that I’m your parent first or I am your parent and not your friend. This is usually peppered with some justification for essentially stalking and suspecting and intervening when trouble comes.
I take exception to this rule. While I’m not one of those parents who regards myself as a peer — I will not borrow your clothes or relive my childhood at your expense — I do regard myself as something more intimate than a disciplinarian or a authority on all matters of your life. I respect you. I recognize I am not you and cannot put a stop to all the mistakes you will make. I cannot protect you from all that could go wrong. So I may let you fail; I may let you experience heartache, disappointment, and consequence. None of this takes away the fact that I am your friend first. By friend, I don’t mean general acquaintance, good-time pal, or cyber connection. I mean a loyal, sincere friend for life.
As your friend, I must tell you right away that I like you! That’s right, you are cool. You are the type of person I admire and appreciate. Believe me it’s true. I like that I see pieces of my younger self in you. I like that I see your father in your eyes, your nose, your lips, your stance and gait. I like watching you take on characteristics of your aunts, uncles, and grandparents. I like how you interact with your brothers and cousins. I like how you make friends with your peers and also mingle and fit in the circles of the community and world. I like that you smile; I like how you act; I like how you work hard; I like how you dream and wonder and learn. In short, I think you are neat and I like being around you.
Second, I’m here for you always! Even when I can’t physically stand beside you, I hope you carry me in your heart and remember the feelings of the times we have shared. I hope you understand that I am just a phone call away. I’m here to see your triumphs and struggles. I’m here to cheer on your many pursuits and give you high fives when you succeed. I’m here to caution you against danger. I’m here to hold your hand both literally and as you grow figuratively as you bravely try new things. I’m here to dry your tears or lend a shoulder to cry on. I’m here to comfort you when you are sick. I’m here to celebrate with you as you reach milestones: holidays, birthdays, graduation, marriage, athletic achievements, first car, or your 4.0. I’m here when you feel all alone. I’m here for you when you feel you don’t need me.
Third, I know you! I am watching you grow. I enjoy your stories – and lived through many of them. I have been at your side when you tried something new. When you fell or failed, I knew just what to do. I know that cowlick in your hair. I’ve seen your birth mark and your underwear. I know what capacity you have. I know your favorite food and your eye color too. I know your memories. I know what makes you happy and how to cheer you up.
Fourth, I want to spend time with you! I think it is fun when we go to the zoo. I’ll even try snowboarding or skiing if that is what you want to do. I’ll read the same books 1 million times to have you sit by my side. I watch the guy action-flick movies, or a cartoon that teaches counting, vocab, or friendship. Heck, I’ll even sit for Duck Dynasty. I’ll play baseball, basketball, hockey, or catch. We can fish and camp and take a bike ride. I’ll paint with you, draw with you, and talk with you too. We can play board games: Candy Land, Go Fish, Connect Four, Sorry, Monopoly, Risk, and Clue. We can make cookies and dinners and messes too. We can rake leaves together or fold laundry. We can shop together and try something new. As you get busy, I’ll understand – so while you are out, I’ll scrapbook the memories we made. We can listen to music – I know the lyrics from Raffi and Tom Pease, to Gangnam Style and Nicki Minaj we can dance. I’ll slip in some 80s and 90s — maybe some classical and jazz. The point is no matter what we do, the time I like best, is the time passed with you.
The fifth piece of friendship, I share with you! I share my knowledge and experience, my time and my talents, bread at the table, and sweets before bed. I share what I can, but not all I have. There needs to be room for myself and your dad.
So sons, please remember — I am your friend first! I have this family, because I wanted you. You exceed my expectations and truly have become my very favorite people to be around. Now also remember, I am your parent and because of this, you may sometimes forget that I’m your friend. You may hate me when I take away your smart phone or place you on the bottom step in timeout. You may question my insistence that you sometimes wear a tie and always must sit up straight. You may resist my firmness on cleaning your room. You may question the curfew I have set for you. Your bedtime may be earlier than you would like. You may wish I would take you on more trips or buy more expensive shoes. Please remember, I’m doing the best that I can.
My plan is for you to make good choices so you can have a lifetime of friends and companions. But always remember, you have always been my friend first and I was your very first friend.