You know what really irks the shit outta me? People who gushingly claim that their teenage daughter/son is their “best friend.” Why? Either they’re hopeless nitwits in the parenting department or they’re supremely untalented communicators.
- Being emotionally supportive (sometimes that just looks like quietly listening, sometimes it’s a drink down the pub, sometimes it’s watching Buffy for the 500th time)
- Speaking of listening…responding honestly (even when that’s painful) and thoughtfully is key
- When needed, a ride to the airport, making hospital visits (and, fuck knows, I’m in there enough to call it my second home), grocery pick ups, making bail, etc.
- Acceptance of me and my myriad flaws. That doesn’t mean I expect Jen to keep her mouth clamped when I’m being Queen Twatzilla. FUCK NO! A proper BFF tells you when you’ve truly banjaxed the sitch and are being toddleresque.
I hope to hell that the folks who claim that their offspring is their best friend are engaging in nothing more than mondo clueless hyperbole. Can you imagine a middle aged mother or father confiding to their 16 child about their adult problems?
- A nasty, disappointing date? (It was like kissing a doorknob. I’ll not go out with him again!)
- A spouse (kiddle’s other parent) losing interest or ability vis-à-vis the marital bed? (Your father won’t gimme the goods anymore. Maybe he’s having an affair.)
- Sobbing uncontrollably to them over potentially insurmountable financial woes? (Your mother gambled away the rent money AGAIN. If I don’t come up with $3k by Monday we’ll be offed by the loan sharks! Okay, it might be wise to clue the teen in—they’ll probably need to hear some plausible reason for why you’re going all Sarah and John Connor)
These are things you tell a fellow adult—a friend versus a child. To your offspring you might say:
- Last night’s date wasn’t a smashing four star event. You won’t be seeing this dude/dudette again.
- You do NOT talk about your sex life with your child apart from opaque references. i.e., your father and I are going to create a brother or sister for you.
- Money’s going to be tight for the next year so there won’t be a lot of extras and treats.
Sure, there are hard realities of which your children should be aware. Such as:
- You’re not made of money so, until the kid gets a job and can foot the bill themselves, they can’t have an iPhone.
- Daddy/Mommy has decided to go find him/herself and will no longer be living with the rest of the fam.
- Your brother is deeply disturbed and a danger to the family. He’s being committed to the loony bin.
The logistics of upcoming new realities and how everyone feels about them should def be discussed. Having said that, parents need to remember that their 16 year old child, no matter how mature, is still a kid and NOT mummy or daddy's contemporary or BFF.
For all her faults, my mother had the decency not to discuss her sex life with me. Neither did my father. For the most part, they both waited until I was technically an adult (18) before breaking the parent/child wall. My mother wanted me to co-parent my siblings. My father was still my father but, the older I got, the more comfortable we both became in discussing more wide-ranging issues. He wasn’t my best friend but he definitely became a close friend as well as father.
He hit the right balance at the right time.