Buddies and BFFs


The other day my son asked me if we were going to the park. He wanted to play with Matt. I didn’t know he had a friend called Matt, so I asked him who Matt was. He told me it was the dad of a girl he met at the park. The dad played tag with him and other kids. He didn’t know the name of the girl, though.

Another day at another park, my son was having a playdate with a friend. Suddenly, the  friend asked his mom, if she would play “chasing dragons” with them. From the look of on the boy’s face I knew that “No” wasn’t one of the expected answers. Neither did the mom feel comfortable rejecting the invitation. She did negotiate a five minutes delay, though.

I know that we are in America and today’s parenting is engaged parenting.  I know that we are in California where everyone wants to feel young and free as a child. But I don’t know what to think about the whole buddy-daddy and BFF mommy phenomenon.  I actually start questioning the title of the book I wrote a couple of years ago, “My Buddy Daddy.”  It was supposed to be humorous but now I think that I’m sending a wrong message.  Is it a good thing that children want to play with their parents at a park full of friends and potential friends of their own age?

I guess a lot depends on what your parenting strategy is. However, I do believe that there is one thing (at least) parents don’t realize.  The parent who is always available to fill in for a missing friend, makes it very confusing for a child to see who is who. With whom they can be silly and who they should listen to. What’s more, the ultra-playful parent might have it hard to enforce rules and to discipline their children.  It’s not easy to be a partner in mischief in the morning and then the judge in the evening. The same can be said about teachers, coaches or babysitters, who are so afraid to be the uncool, old-school type, that they jump into the other extreme and aspire to become their kids’ coolest friends. When and why did being an authority become equal to being a bad cop? And secondly, who, if not us, parents, is supposed to have authority over our children, because they sure need rules, structure and guidance in their early years.

To give you an example. I noticed that one of my son’s TKD coaches was trying to win the students over by being funny and acting a bit on the children’s level. Yes, it did work. My son loved the goofy instructor. But every time the coach would try to make my son listen, the boy  would either not take him seriously or see him as being angry for no reason. On the other hand, I’ve noticed that the instructors who didn’t mind being the less entertaining instructors, were more likely to earn their students’ respect and avoided sending mixed signals about the rules and who is in charge .

This week my husband is traveling for work, so I’m in charge of our family.  All I can say is that it’s not the easiest job in the world.

 

 

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