A parent or a friend?

4 Dec

“I’m so going to smoke pot with my children when i’m older”. How many times did i hear that when i was a teenager? The coolest kids in school had parents who’d sit around smoking pot with them and all their mates, sometimes even buying them the odd can of watery lager from the local cash and carry. I still hear similar stuff from time to time, but now it’s more along the lines of “If they’re gonna do it, i’d rather know about it” or “I’d rather they got the stuff from me, at least i’d know where it came from”. To be honest, i’d rather not know. Or at least i’d rather not see it. Of course my children are going to experiment. To be honest, i’d be more worried if they didn’t. It’s a part of adolescence, a time of experimenting and risk taking, an evolution-supported rite of passage into adulthood. But surely you experiment with your friends not with your parents?

Here’s what i believe:

My kids are going to do a lot of this stuff anyway. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, meaningless, fumbling sex, sleeping in holly bushes outside school because you’ve said you’re staying at eachother’s houses (hmm, ok so that one was me). But I want them to have the right morals so that when it really comes to it, they make the right decisions. Fumble about in the back of a car and try and cop a feel under a girl’s bra when she’s not looking, but know to stop when she tells you to. Eat a few space cakes and giggle childishly with your mates, but know it’s time to stop and take care of them when they’re getting weepily paranoid. Tut at your drunken friend in the corner eating faces with a man a few too many years older, but insist you’re going too if she decides a party back at their place is too good an opportunity to miss. I want them to have enough ambition and self belief to mean that all this experimentation and risk taking is a phase and that ultimately they will want more.

My husband believes passionately that choosing the right friends is probably the most important choice any teenager will make. He always uses the example of Euan Blair. Left on his own in Trafalgar Square by his so-called-mates, too drunk to get himself home, prey to sniggering onlookers and passing journalists. Any friends worth their salt would have walked him the 5 miles home, on their backs and being intermittently puked on if they really had to.

As a parent I don’t need to be part of all this. I don’t want to the one they talk to after a night out and tell all the gory details to. Let them do that in a hushed phonecall while whining “Mum, can you stop listening, am i not allowed ANY p-r-i-v-a-c-y”.

I do believe that there is a line between parents and children. An unwritten code. Children learn appropriate behaviour this way. They just need a secure enough framework to know that when a bit of experimentation goes wrong their family WILL be there to pick them up when noone else can. If they’ve popped a pill and their useless friends have left them on their own with no way of getting home, then I absolutely want it to be me they call, but I want them calling with their tail firmly between their legs. I want them to be expecting a bit of tutting on the way home, tediously repetitive pleading with them “to grow up and stop acting so selfishly for a change”. But despite all that they’ll call because they know they’re loved unconditionally, and no amount of foolish behaviour is going to change that.

I don’t want to be their friend. I want to be their mum. A hip, stylish, wise and super hot mum, but a mum all the same.

12 Responses to “A parent or a friend?”

  1. Lucy December 4, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    My Mum, she was not my friend. But in hindsight, she was a cool Mum. My friends loved her, for all the right reasons. She made us great coffee on Sunday mornings as we fibbed about our hangovers.

    My Mum, for all her faults, gave me a bit of advice when I was about twelve. “If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you experience gut feelings, listen to them.”

    I don’t aspire to emulate her, but I will dish out this advice to my three littlies, when they approach puberty….

  2. rosemary pretty December 4, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    I agree but still maintain that you will have made a success of your kids if they grow up to be your best friends

  3. Mwa (Lost in Translation) December 4, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    I think I had a very boring youth compared to you. And I kind of hope my children do, too. (To avoid the risk of being misunderstood – I’m not saying you did anything wrong, just that I would worry about my children.)

    • marketingtomilk December 5, 2010 at 10:03 am #

      He he no offense taken. I was pretty straight laced compared to many around me.

  4. scribblingmum December 5, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    I totally agree, I have no ambitions to be my kids best mate. My niece is 15 and my sister has drummed it in to her that, no matter what happens, what situation she finds herself in, she will call her mum if she needs her, even if things have gone too far.

  5. MummyT December 5, 2010 at 1:34 am #

    Just wonder how many of your friends who smoked pot as teenagers still smoke it now? From friends whose parents invited them to do E and smoke weed with them, there is *nothing* more calculated to put them off (though I do have a mate who occasionally drops acid with his godmother).

    I think the line between parents and children is one that evolves en route to (and during) adulthood. I possibly over-share with my own parents, but there is a point at which that fine line disappears. Not sure quite when, mind you…

    • marketingtomilk December 5, 2010 at 10:00 am #

      That Is a very interesting point and one my mum picks up on above. At some point that line fades aNd you become equals, friends, but only If you have cultivated that love, respect and closeness first. My mum reads every post I write and I almost never censor myself. I like that.

  6. Jana December 7, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    I’m with you. The super-hot stylish bit and all the rest!

  7. rachel frowd December 7, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    My mum is one of my best friends now (along with my sister and husband), but it didn’t start out that way. I don’t believe it should.

    Parents are there, initially, to guide their children through life; to give them the boundaries they need in order to understand the world, and a moral code by which to live in that world. There’s no way you can do this properly if your main concern is whether your children are your friends, or ultimately, if they like you at any given time! This, hopefully, comes later.

    Don’t get me wrong, I already worry what my children think of me and they’re 4 months and 3 years old respectively! I desperately want them to be my friend and think I’m ‘cool’, but I know this isn’t what my role as their mother should be about.

    It’s very interesting reading these posts, especially that some people want their children to have a ‘boring youth’. I respect that, and understand where it comes from, but it’s completely different from my experience as a teen, and different from the experience I hope my children to have. I’m not meaning to sound glib, god knows I worry about what my daughters will get up to when they’re growing up. Yet surely part of growing up is doing things you know you’re not meant to, worrying whether you’ll get found out, and paying the consequences if you do?! This is a rite of passage!

    I was a bit of a tear-away in my teens. Well, that’s what my mum said! Actually, I was just unlucky enough to get caught out at whatever naughtiness I was participating in. True enough, I was very easily led and did get in with a ‘bad crowd’ . What made the difference to me was having a loving, stable background, where I had learnt right from wrong, waiting for me in the wings.

    I learnt so much about life, about growing up, about the person I wanted to be and about keeping myself safe, during this time, and I would not change it for the world. I want my children to experience this too, but like you Henri, I just don’t want to know about it!

    So maybe when my daughters tell me, with that naughty glint in their eye, that they’re staying at a friend’s house, I may just choose to play dumb and let them think I haven’t got a clue. If my husband and I have done our jobs properly, then hopefully whatever naughtiness plays out behind our backs, will be punctuated with a moral code of sorts. And, if anything does go wrong, I desperately want them to know that I will always be here in whatever capacity they need me.

    • marketingtomilk December 7, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

      i agree. i suppose it’s wanting your kids to get just enough experience to be streetwise. I bet it’s very different when you’re there though. Wanting to give them freedom to make mistakes and actually doing it are very different things.

  8. Muddling Along December 7, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    A great post – I totally agree with you, choosing the right friends is key. I still think that Euan Blair is to be pitied for having friends like that and hope he’s realised that they weren’t proper friends at all (and to have found some, the kind that hold your hair out of the way if you have to be sick)

    I want to be respected and loved by my children, not friends, at least not until they are much older and wiser!

  9. nmaha December 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    I am with you on this. Though at the rate my hudband’s family puts away alcohol when we are all together, they’ll probably be drinking with us way before their peers even think to experiment.

I'm all about the debate. Would love to hear what you think.

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