I believe in mindful parenting. I believe that Kris and I are not raising girls, we’re raising women. As such, we need to be able to converse with them in ways that both respect the stage they’re in (childhood), and honor the stage they’re walking toward (adulthood). It can definitely be tricky, particularly because one of our core values as parents is the prioritization of our girls’ emotional wellness. We want them to be able to explore and express themselves in both needs and deeds, but we also need them to respect the boundaries we set.
For certain, we’re not disillusioned enough to believe that our daughters will respect those boundaries at all times, and we also don’t beat up on ourselves too much when we recognize our shortcomings (i.e. egos) in parenting. He and I have our own relationships with each of the girls. We’re on one accord, but we communicate in different ways. I thought it might be helpful to share one particular point of self-expression that comforts me in my work as a parent. It’s sharp-soft, like the rest of me, and it’s an assertion that serves my need to be both honest and compassionate with my daughters.
That simple assertion is WE ARE NOT FRIENDS.
I know you’ve either personally experienced or witnessed the friend-parent. The parent who is doing their best to manage their child’s feelings while they do what they feel they need to do as parents. They want their children to be happy, and that desire even extends into wanting their children to be happy with they choices they (as parents) are making for their children. I don’t think that works. I’m open to talk about it (via comments or direct email), but so far, I think that’s more about a parent’s fear than a child’s wellbeing.
When my girls were younger, I looked forward to them being able to talk using words that I understood. Then I looked forward to them being able to verbalize their interests. After both of those stages came the realization that I needed to be clear about my relationship to their interests and desires. In our household, we prioritize desire, we advocate for outward expression, and we encourage our girls to speak up on their own behalf. That way of parenting can sometimes blur the line between what Marley and Sage want, and what Kris and I will allow. Because of that, we are very firm about friendship being a non-factor in our relationships with our daughters. I state, in no uncertain terms, whenever I feel the need arises, that friendship is not part of our flow. Here’s what I usually say:
One of my girls: …but why? I want…, and it doesn’t feel fair that I can’t…
Me: *what my first inclination prompts me to say* Wha di raas yu a tell mi dat fa? Wha dat haffi do wid anything? Yu ting life fair? Iiih? Iih? (For me, some levels of emotion can only be fully expressed using Jamaican Patois, but if you want the English translation, just let me know.)
Me: *what I actually say* I’m glad you’re able to access and express that emotion, Love; but that’s for you to manage, not me. I am not your friend, I am your parent. My job is not to make you happy, or to keep things fair. My job is to do what you cannot do for yourself, which is to parent. Use your journal to write out how you feel, but make sure you do that AFTER you do what I told you to do.
Then I accent my last sentence with my best *don’t try me, girl!* face, because I believe in intimidation tactics. I’m raising the type of beings that will need to be square-eyed when you want to get all the way live with a point. I see this already, and so I practice my mean-mug, and I wield it like weaponry. It used to be that they didn’t care about my mean mug, either. It had no effect on them. But over time, and after a few instances of follow-through (read into that however you like), they got the memo.
So, what’s your “one radical assertion” when it comes to raising your child(ren)?