Your Kid Isn’t Your Friend Either
Codependency is a two-lane highway.
My first husband and I split up when my daughter was two and a half years old. I was 32 and it was a young age to suddenly figure out how to raise a child on your own.
There is nothing I have done in my entire life that has made me more nervous than raising a human being. There is a margin of error in parenting and, unfortunately, when you make a mistake you’re not the only person that has to pay for that.
I received a lot of advice when she was little, just like every new parent does. I think the piece of advice most often given to all parents is this: You should never be your kid’s friend. You are their parent.
What sometimes gets lost is that the converse is also true:
You kid is not there to be your friend. You have friends to be your friend. Your kid gets to have this glorious, boundary filled role of being your child.
My daughter has been the main priority in my life and the center of most of my decisions. I want to raise a good, kind, wholehearted human being. Not just a kid. I’m looking toward her adulthood.
As my daughter’s gotten to be a teenager our bond has grown. She is a lot like me, so I understand her. When she is upset or hurt she doesn’t have to do much explaining. I just kind of get it.
But, there is a major pothole to every single mother/daughter relationship. It’s called codependency. That pothole is deep and easy to fall into.
I use the single mother/daughter scenario because it’s my point of reference. But, I don’t think codependency just happens between mothers and daughters. I am sure it happens between any parent and child, regardless of gender or marital status.
This is not to say that there shouldn’t be closeness, warmth, and openness with your kid. All this builds trust. It’s basic care and communication.
I believe in having serious conversations with your kids about things that matter. You’ll know what matters. They’ll tell you what matters. Our job as a parent is to share wisdom while allowing them to figure out how they want to navigate life.
There’s a lot we don’t need to share with our kids. There are things I never tell my daughter because she doesn’t need to know about them. Struggles with work, bad dates, concerns about a friend. She’s not my sounding board. She’s not emotionally prepared or equipped for that. My problems are not her burden.
The issue with your child being your friend isn’t a matter of care and trust and love. It’s that it blurs the lines of responsibility you have to each other. It’s not their job to be your friend.
For example, I’ve never been a fan of forced family time. I know a lot of people who expect that their kids are going to come out of their rooms and sit on their couch and spend time together as a family. We will be a family and I don’t care how miserable it makes us, damn it!
I don’t force family time. She’s not there to be my companion. She’s not there to keep me company.
My daughter is quite the introvert. She could spend the entire day in the house, not see a damn person, and be just fine. Sometimes, she feels no desire to be out in public. I get much the same way.
She’s a typical teenager and is in her room a significant amount of time. With modern technology, she’s on video chats with her friends for a good part of the day.
When we do spend time together, it’s quality. It’s because we both want to be together. We choose to. To laugh, talk, watch a movie or just be silly. Giving each other a little space makes us feel loved and understood and like neither one of us is overly dependent on the other for the fulfillment of needs that should be provided by our friends.
Let your kid be a kid. At least for now. They’ll grow up soon enough. They will become the wholehearted adults we want them to be. They will, someday, be our friends. But it should be because they are ready for that, not because we need them to be.