The other day, as I drove to my yearly dermatologist appointment, which as all moms know as with any kid-free appointment, it felt like somewhat of a vacation. The words of this post filled my head and I couldn’t get them down on paper fast enough! These thoughts have been rolling around in my mind for weeks.
My oldest child just turned eight years old. Based on my graduate studies of early childhood, this is when a child indeed begins to leave “early childhood” and enter “middle childhood.” My baby will also be one in just a few short weeks. Normally, this is when we would be starting to discuss when we would have our next baby. Four has been our number, so we hoped and prayed that after the first, second, and third baby, another one would be coming fairly soon. With our fourth baby approaching his first birthday, I no longer feel those feelings. My days of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and night after night of interrupted sleep somehow feel like a distant memory. As I think about the future now that our family is here and “complete,” I feel a vast sense of openness.
My role as a mom in my children’s lives is changing. Three of the four of my children are needing me less and less for their physical care. They can dress themselves, use the bathroom themselves, fix themselves a snack, and sleep through the night. I’m feeling my role shift and in many ways it’s exciting and limitless and full of so much opportunity. But there is a side of me that also is feeling worry, anxiety, and uncertainty. Most of this I can attribute to my knowledge now as an adult to the complexities of the world.
Recently I answered a poll asking about my most recent mama bear moment. Honestly, the ones I could think of were my own feelings of wanting to be fiercely protective of my children’s hearts, childhood, and innocence. I have already walked with my daughter as she as dealt with more “big kid” issues. It hurts my heart to know that the trials she (and my other children) will face in this life will be much greater and of deeper significance than her favorite show leaving Netflix.
One of the most often repeated parenting phrases I have heard is, “Be their parent, not their friend.” And if I’m being completely honest, at this current moment, I am struggling with this phrase. As I see how quickly the world is moving, changing, and forcing children to grow up quicker than we would like, I can’t help but feel that as a parent I need to strike a balance between parent and friend. Don’t get me wrong, my children have boundaries and limits, are taught respect and manners, and know that we as parents make the rules, which will hopefully ensure that they grow up to be happy, healthy, respectful, contributing, and aware members of society.
That being said, I can’t help but think that my children will need me as their friend, too. They will face challenges I never knew existed as a child. They may feel isolated when they don’t have the latest technology, feel pressured to do something they are not comfortable with, or, because of their “mean” parents’ rules, miss out on certain activities and adventures, or simply feel they can’t find a friend no matter how hard they try.
Growing up, my home was one of my favorite places to be. I liked being at school, I liked being with my friends, and I enjoyed a night out at a fun activity. But I always felt safe at home with my siblings and parents and never felt like it was a punishment or the end of the world to spend a Friday night at home. Now, my parents and siblings are some of my very best friends. I think part of that comes with age and maturity, but I also can’t help but believe my parents felt the same, that there is a balance between parent and friend. Don’t we all feel better knowing we have at least one true friend in the world?
So as I navigate this new phase of motherhood, where I am worrying less about diapers and sleep schedules, and more about helping my children navigate things like friendships and feelings, among the chore charts, school projects, and drives to soccer practice, I think I will also make sure my children know that if they need me, I will be their best friend.