Do any other mothers out there struggle with the desire to be their children's friend as well as their parent? I know this is a common difficulty when your kids become teens, and I've heard many times about how we must resist trying to always be the "best friend" to a teen and stay firm in setting boundaries and laying out discipline. What I didn't realize is that I might have to face the same thing with a two year old.
Benjamin is exploring all his boundaries as a two year old. (Come to think of it, it's probably very much like a teenager would!) He says "no," he gives us attitude, he acts out, he breaks the rules. Every day I walk the fine line between keeping him safe, teaching him the rules, and not breaking his spirit.
Lately whenever Benjamin is unhappy with someone, he blurts out "You're not my friend anymore!" Sometimes the words are shouted in anger, sometimes they tumble out full of tears. He uses them with friends who aren't playing the way he wants, with his brothers when they frustrate him, and most often with James and I when we say no to him.
My reaction used to be "I'm sorry, but this is the way it is," if I had the patience to be calm. I'll admit that sometimes I might lose my temper and react a little more harshly. But then, the other day, a phrase slipped out that rang so true I've used it every time since. Benjamin said "You're not my friend anymore!" and I said "I don't have to be your friend, but I do have to be your mother." My tone was kind, level, gentle. I wanted him to know that my refusal may not be the actions of a friend, but it was the caring gesture of a parent who loves him and wants him to be safe.
This is a good lesson for me to learn early. You see, I love working with teenagers, and I'm excited for my own children to come to an age where we can have late night chats and play sports together and go for hikes and do big projects. But in all that, I will have to remember that I must be a mother first and friend second, until my young ones leave the nest.