Yesterday afternoon I told my eldest son (Z) I wasn’t his friend.
He was mad (he is a redhead after all, so being angry isn’t a new thing around here). He had been playing lego with his younger brother, but his brother wasn’t “doing it right” and now Z wanted me to step in and build some type of ship from Star Wars.
But guess what? I didn’t want to. And so I didn’t.
I told him no.
He grumbled and complained and kicked up a fuss.
I told him no again.
He whined and cried and destroyed his already built lego creation.
I told him no a third time. I reminded him that I had already spent a good chunk of the day focused on them. I had taken them to swimming lessons (that I paid for), spent an hour in the freezing cold at the park while they played, pushed them both on swings, rode bikes and scooters, chalked on the driveway, fed them at least 8,000 meals (ok, that’s an exaggeration, more like 1,500 meals and snacks because, BOYS), and helped them both make masks so they could look like Batman. I was tired, and I still had dinner to make, work of my own to do, a sick cat to attend to and a floor to sweep.
It wasn’t that I needed time “alone”, I just needed time to hear my own thoughts, get dinner on the table and breathe. Also, I don’t like playing lego.
But my explanation of why I couldn’t build some Star Wars ship thingy didn’t fly with Z. And he threw an even bigger, redheaded tantrum. He said I was “THE WORST MOM EVER” and that I was “SO MEAN TO HIM ALWAYS”. He crossed his arms and kicked his feet and railed against a mom who would dare to not drop it all to build him a lego ship.
So I looked at him and told him “I’m not your friend”. Because I’m not.
I’m his mother. I love him more than anything and would do anything to help him, but building Star Wars ship thingys actually isn’t something I am obligated or desire to do.
Because keeping my kids “entertained” is not my job as a parent.
But that is where I have previously failed as a mom.
I used to equate my kid’s happiness with a lack of boredom. It didn’t matter if I had dishes, dinner, or work- if either boy needed me to play, I was there. I created games, I looked up Star Wars thingys on Google so I could build them, I played so many rounds of Jenga you wouldn’t even believe! And then I would stay up until midnight getting all the stuff done in my house or work life that I had ignored because I had a bored(ish) kid.
It wasn’t until this year that I realized how wrong I was.
Listen, it’s not that playing with your kids or helping them out is wrong- it isn’t…in fact it’s an awesome thing do to. But what I had been teaching my boys by constantly dropping EVERYTHING to be their “playmate” is that they are not responsible for their own entertainment (or “happiness”) and that their mom is their friend. And both of those lessons are not ones I wish to teach my sons.
I am not my kids friend. I am their parent. I am here to love the heck out of them and care for their physical, spiritual and emotional needs. I am here to listen to their joy and pain. I am here to comfort, scold, direct and encourage. I am here to love them unconditionally but reprimand (yes, even yell) when they are wrong. I am here to teach them and facilitate experiences that will help them grow into productive adults.
But I am not their friend.
I am their parent.
And what a disservice I have been doing by allowing them to think otherwise. What a disservice to them, as future adults, to think of the person in authority as a buddy and someone who bends to their whims and desires with the snap of a finger.
And so I have began to remind them- often in the middle of a tantrum, but then more calmly after the dust has settled- that I am not their friend. I am not responsible for neither their play time nor their creativity. I am not the root cause of their boredom and I am not responsible for their constant entertainment.
In the end, Z built his own version of a Star Wars ship thingy (I did look it up on my phone so he could try to replicate it, for what it’s worth). My younger built a tower of blocks. Z eventually ambled over and said I wasn’t THE WORST mom on earth (gee thanks), and I got dinner on the table.
It wasn’t exactly a monumental moment in our house, or even a lightbulb moment for me, but rather a (noisy, full of yelling and whining) reminder that being a parent is hard. But being a parent that falls into the “friend” category and caters to your child’s every fancy is even harder.