Am I Your Father…Or Your Friend?
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” –Mark Twain
I’ve always been a bit put off by the phrase, “My (son or daughter) is my best friend.” I don’t believe that our purpose is to become “pals” with our children-I believe our mission is of a much higher calling that requires a far more serious presence that can only be achieved as a father-not a friend. I believe that we set important boundaries as parents that friends cannot provide. The awesome responsibility of sculpturing a magnificent life that will live beyond our own years can only be borne by a parent—not a friend. There is a reason that the Bible doesn’t have an 11th Commandment that says, “Love thy Pals.”
I’m not suggesting that we can’t enjoy the best characteristics of friendship with our sons and daughters. Far from it. These important qualities such as trust, reliance, allegiance, honesty, loyalty, dependability, trustworthiness-and dozens of others-should all be woven into the fabric of the relationships we build and enjoy with our kids. Being a dad and being a friend share many similar characteristics—but at the end of the day, even the nicest hotel room can never match the warmth and comfort of home. Such is the difference between friends and fathers.
It would be nice to be able to just hang out and engage in only the fun and pleasurable parts of our children’s lives. Unfortunately, we are often called upon to demand the difficult or insist upon the uncomfortable or to force them out of their comfort zones in pursuit of their own dreams. Getting them to harness their own potential can be incredibly difficult. This is hard and gut wrenching because, unlike a friendship, we do good and necessary things that often bring anger and “dislike” from our children. That brings with it pain and hurt that friendships don’t often invite and in fact, are mostly designed to avoid. Nurturing a child’s intellectual, emotional, physical, social and spiritual development is an awesome responsibility. There is little margin for error.
In the blink of an eye, our sons and daughters become men and women whom we hope will contribute positively to the world they live in. Surely, as adults—we can now settle into the ease and comfort of being merely their friends and pals now that the hard work of raising them has been completed? Personally? I think we will always project that reassuring and protective shadow of a force in their lives that is as comforting as it has been constant. We occupy sacred and hallowed ground that may now be less urgent–but no less important. We all have friends in our lives that love, support, comfort, nurture, and tolerate us and our shortcomings. We love them all with a dizzying array of reasons why. Friends who we will spend decades with building memories and relationships. Friends whose shoulders we will cry on and who will be there during the good times and the bad times of our lives. Forever friends who have earned that distinction.
But there isn’t a one of us who doesn’t understand that the passage of time will never diminish that special magic that only a father’s comforting touch or voice can deliver. That doesn’t change when we exit childhood and, in many ways, becomes more prevalent and important-if in different ways under different circumstances, when we become adults. My mother used to define the hereafter as “The power of our words and influence lingering long after the sound of our voices go silent.” No, I am not your friend. I am your father…
“Sometimes..you just need to talk to your dad…”