Monday, August 23, 2010

Tightrope Walking

This morning...very early this 1 o'clock this morning...the two-year-old and I were having a conversation. (Not our normal conversation time, by the way)

He had woken about 12:30 a.m. and needed a glass of milk - just ask him, he'll tell you. Actually I did believe he probably could use it since he hadn't been feeling well all day and had hardly eaten at all. I was just thankful not to have to make a sandwich or pancakes or something in the middle of the night.

So, he drank a little milk and then we laid on the couch together. First we were at one end cuddled up. Then he moved to other end so our legs and feet comingled in the middle. Finally he said, "I need more milk, momma."

"Should I get that for you?" I asked.

"I save your place. I be your best friend," he replied.

I smiled as I wandered back to the kitchen to retrieve more milk. And when I returned, there he lay at my end of the couch "saving my place."

I've had several reflections on this interaction since.

My first thought was this: I can't help but pause and wonder how my two-year-old already knows about things like saving places and having best friends. And I really can't help but wonder how he already knows the power of calling someone his best friend (or telling them they are not, which he also does). Of course, I know that between an older sibling, a daycare setting where he spends time with older kids, and his natural brillance (of course there's that!), I shouldn't be surprised when he knows things that I reserve for older children.

My second thought was this: There is power in a two-year-old calling you his best friend (especially at 1 o'clock in the morning). Who wouldn't want to be his best friend when that means a snuggle on the couch?

But, that thought led to another (as often happens) and I was suddenly hearing all these conversations I hear from parents regarding whether parents and kids can be friends.

Some say no, absolutely not. You are his parent, not his friend.

Some say yes, so much so that the direction and discipline that is intrinsic to parenting flies out the door.

I wonder if our first question doesn't have to be about definition - how are we defining friend?

I don't need to be the one my children gossip with or paint their nails with or go shoppig with...okay, yes, I know I have boys, I just don't know what boys do with their friends - I'm a girl! (And I have lots to learn before they become teenagers!) Point made, though, right? I hope that my children have people of their own age, their own experience with whom they can play, talk, and even complain about their mom.

But I like to think that somehow, carefully, I can be both parent and friend. I like to think that I can be the one who guides and correct and cheers on, while also being the one who relaxes and enjoys and hears their hearts.

I am a both/and kind of girl. And I believe our parent/child relationship is modeled after our God/human relationship which I also understand to be both/and.

Yes, God is God - God is our creator; God is divine; God is the one who guides and directs us, the one whose judgment is better than ours.

And yes, God is friend; God is near to us; God is constant companion; God is intimacy; God invites us to be partners in living and in kingdom building.

I read both of these in scripture. I experience both of these in my relationship with God.

And I like to believe with some good judgment and sometimes what feels a lot like tightrope walking we as parents can still be parents while coming beside our children as friends.


This Heavenly Life said...

Oh Jill, I've been thinking about this VERY thing for days now. I do SO think we can have a careful both/and relationship with our kids. It doesn't mean being buddy/buddy and denying them guidance in the name of just means we can actually strive to enjoy each other, as people.

Wonderful reflections :)

Hyacynth said...

I completely agree with you on this one based on what Scripture says. I think when we live by the Spirit, parent by the Spirit we are able to be friends and parents without having to think too hard about where the line is drawn. Does that make any sense?
And I love the image of you and your little boy snuggled on the couch for a midnight date.

Lenae said...

Well-said, and I agree with all of it.

And your little boy sounds adorable and sweet!

Anonymous said...

My goodnes, this post comes just when I need it. Well, to be honest, as mothers, I think we always need these reminders. But I also think I needed this wise permission to be what I already feel is right to my children.

"I like to think that I can be the one who guides and correct and cheers on, while also being the one who relaxes and enjoys and hears their hearts."

I hope this is exactly what I am to them. Beautiful!