There's a parenting quote that goes around from time to time that has always bugged me. Usually I just shrug it off, but after seeing it in a couple of places again recently, I keep thinking about it. When I start thinking about something enough over several days, I know I need to write about it to get it out of my brain. (Because really I have two purposes for this blog...keeping a record for my children/family of our lives and journaling/writing because it is therapeutic/helpful for me...and the fact that a couple of others read it...well that's just an added bonus).
Before I write about my thoughts about this quote, let me begin by saying that I am NOT judging those who like it. A couple of my dear friends have posted this quote before and they are phenomenal parents. In fact, I learn a lot from them. I am NOT trying to hold myself up as a better parent because I have SOO much to learn still. I am just trying to express my heartfelt reaction to this quote, based primarily on the wonderful parenting I received when I was a child. And I recognize that my reaction to this quote is different than many/most others. Perhaps I overreact to it.
Anyway, here is the quote: "My promise to my children. I am not your friend. I am your mom. I will stalk you, flip out on you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare & hunt you down like a bloodhound when needed because I LOVE YOU!" (Some versions go on to say: "When you understand that, I will know you are a responsible adult. You will NEVER find someone who loves, prays, cares and worries about you more than I do!")
So my thoughts and I will try not to ramble too much:
First, I totally get that parents need to act like parents. Some parents are afraid to set limits or want to be their child's buddy and "hang out" with them. This is not good. When I was in junior high, there was a girl in my junior high who had big parties. She would invite everyone over and her mom would buy cases of alcohol for everyone to drink (I never went). Her mom would hang out with all these 7th and 8th graders and laugh and drink with them. The junior high kids mostly thought she was very "cool." She was trying very hard to be her daughter's friend. I moved to a new area/new school in 9th grade, so I don't know how that friend's life turned out but I suspect that she probably made some poor choices. Parents must set limits and teach their children and enforce those limits. I know as a teacher that when parents aren't willing to be parents, the child suffers.
But, and to me this is a big BUT, I still believe parents can be a friend to their child. Not in the sense of being immature or trying to hang out and be cool, but I believe they can/should be someone their child can talk to and confide in. The parent can take their child to fun places and PLAY with them. The parent can laugh and be silly and have fun with their child. I am certainly not perfect at this, but I try.
But the part of this quote that really gets to me is this part. "I will stalk you, flip out on you...drive you insane, be your worst nightmare..." I was raised by a mom who was incredibly calm. She never flipped out on us. She never yelled or screamed or belittled or berated us. My mom did a phenomenal job of modeling for us the type of adults she hoped we would become. We are our children's first and most important role model. That's pretty intimidating at times, because I have a long way to go to being the kind of person I want to be. But I am trying and repenting and trying again. I do sometimes flip out on my kids...but those are NEVER my best parenting moments. My best moments are when I am calm and in control and I give my children limits and choices and I try to understand why they have made the choices they have. I give consequences for their choices (or allow natural consequences to occur) but I model problem solving in a patient and forgiving and loving way. I yearn to be that kind of parent all of the time.
I know I am very sensitive to this because in my job I see kids who are bullied and belittled and sometimes even beaten by parents who are showing they are the parent. Proving to their child that they are in charge. I know that my dear friends who have posted this are not those kinds of parents at all and that their flipping out is not like that. But still when I read those words, it conjures images of parents screaming at their kids and calling them names and doing it because they are the "parent" and the child must obey.
I recognize also that my children are still fairly young, and that the teenage years can be hard. But I also think trust and proper modeling is so important. Especially then. I mean, I think it is wise for a parent to have the child's passwords and for the child to know that the parent will check in on them online. Again, I believe guidelines need to be established and consequences enforced when they are not followed (and I believe that is what most parents mean when they post this quote.) But I also think that teenagers are hormonal and emotional and they need a calm, loving, positive role model...not someone who is also emotional and reactive. (Easier said than done, I know.)
On the other hand, I do like the ending of the quote that is sometimes included but not always. "You will NEVER find someone who loves, prays, cares and worries about you more than I do!") I think that most of us parents are doing the best we know how to show our children that we love and care for them. I think that most of us are praying for them. Worrying about them. Wishing we were better parents than we are. Trying each day to do a little better. In the end, that is the best we can do. Love them, care for them, pray for them and do our very best each day...and then trust the Lord to lead them and guide them.
I know that I am pretty lax in some ways with my kids... "don't sweat the small stuff" and strict in other ways. I know that we each have our own unique personalities and our children have their own unique personalities and what works for one parent or one child won't necessarily work for another. I just know that when I read that quote, it conjures negative images for me and hurts my heart a little bit...or really a lot. I've been pondering Satan's lies a bit lately, and while his big lies and deceptions are alarming and troublesome, I think for many of us they aren't really a huge issue. I mean, I have this tv show that I like. I know many others that like it as well. But as with nearly any tv show these days, there is sometimes content that is not in harmony with gospel standards. But in some ways, the "big" things that are wrong (such as immorality) are so obviously wrong that I can see through them quickly. I know they are wrong. But I was watching an episode a few days ago when the mom began to lecture about how she had given up everything for years and years to take care of her husband and children and how she was never selfish...but now she was going to seek self-fulfillment and if that meant hurting her family, so be it. It wasn't quite that blatant, though. Somehow this has been in my mind ever since, and I keep thinking about the subtlety of Satan. He can't get us to go do something terribly wrong tomorrow if we are striving to live the gospel right now. But if he can put little chinks in our armor (by, for example, getting us to focus on how much we are giving up to be parents...because it is hard and it is a sacrifice but it is ALSO a great blessing...but if he can get us focussing on the world's view in just little ways, then our armor gets chinks) and soon we move a little bit away from the gospel and then a little bit more. And then slowly, slowly, we begin to believe the bigger lies as well. This quote just seems to ME to be a bit like that. Yes, it is my job to be a parent and to discipline my children. But if that moves me toward thinking that the way to do that is to yell, flip out, drive them insane and be their worst nightmare, then I think it is moving me in the wrong direction. We have heard over and over in conference that our homes are to be refuges from the world, safe havens. Our homes are to be like temples. They should be safe places for our children. They are to help us prepare to return to our Heavenly Father. This quote doesn't sound to me like the kind of parent that Heavenly Father is. It doesn't feel like the type of home that would make children want to be an eternal family and live with their family forever. If that is to happen, then I don't think this quote is the answer. At least not for me. :)
I like what this blogger had to say about the quote:
My Promise to my Children. I especially love her rewritten quote.
Again, I love all of my dear friends whether you are a fan of this quote or not. And I know that I interpret it differently than most. And I have a lot of ways that I need to improve to make my home the safe haven from the world that I want it to be.