There’s this parenting maxim that nearly everyone hears at some point. It goes like this:
“You’re not their friend. You’re their parent.”
“My job isn’t to be your friend. You have lots of those. I’m your parent.”
Parent or not, I’m sure you’ve heard it. You may have even said it. I’ve probably said it myself, more than likely in judgment against someone whose parenting I found lacking.
But I’ve been thinking for a week or so now that I don’t actually believe this anymore. And I’m not talking about being friends with my own mom once I became an adult and fully independent. No, I’m saying I don’t believe it now.
I am Simon’s mom; I am also his friend. Or, more accurately, he’s my son and my friend. He’s not the kind of friend with whom I share my problems (not that I have many of those, really), nor the kind of friend who can take a sarcastic tone with me, nor a friend with equal powers or influence in our relationship. But he’s my friend nonetheless.
It’s a realization that had been coming for a while and developed fully this week when, on the eve of our wedding anniversary, Matt got very sick. (Strep, probably the result of a weakened immune system from his hernia surgery last month. It’s been a long spring for Matt.)
The sickness hit on Thursday afternoon, so I was charged with keeping Simon occupied and far, far way from his father. Thursday after school I took Simon straight to the running store, where he could be fitted for his own running shoes. He begged to go out with me on Mother’s Day, turning my 5-mile slow run into a 2-mile even slower one. He wasn’t tired in the least, and I promised him hills and greater distance on our next outing. Thursday evening, kitted out in his gray and orange New Balance 890s, we did 2 miles on park hills. He still wasn’t tired at all. All that soccer has conditioned him even better than I realized, and it’s looking like I have a new twice-a-week running companion.
Friday after school, on our actual wedding anniversary, Matt never budged from bed. So Simon and I headed out to our neighborhood coffee shop. I had a latte and vegan macaroons; Simon had a chocolate chip cookie; and we lingered around our favorite table talking about our week and playing banana-grams. It was a nice night, just not the one I had expected to have.
And Saturday? Saturday was the busiest yet. First, we went to Simon’s baseball game. Then we came home, ate a quick lunch, and headed out to his drum lesson, where I got to meet his new teacher and get an better idea of what goes on in there. After that was pilates.
Matt was still too ill to watch Simon, and I didn’t want to cancel my private lesson. Solution? I brought him along. He was excited to meet Ms. Holly, my teacher, and see what this pilates business looked like. He played soccer for a while, ate a snack while I worked out, and then asked if he could try something, too. Holly was fabulous about the whole thing and taught Simon how to do leg presses and some ab work on the reformer. I about died from laughter when Holly guided Simon to work his legs while “powering from your core” and staying “long through the pelvis.” Honestly, the addition of Simon made my workout about 10 minutes shorter than usual, but he loved it and I’ll certainly do it again. He’s already asking when he can go back.
After this, it was shopping time. Simon needed some running tees if he’s going to keep joining me. It’s getting hot, and cotton won’t do. I popped into a shop to look at tops myself, about which Simon had opinions.
“That one’s just mediocre mom.” [It was.]
“Oooh, I like that one.” [So did I; I bought it.]
“Hey mom, look at this: It looks like an Africa dress! If it were Ms. Agok’s birthday, we’d get it for her.” [Ms. Agok's birthday was Wednesday, but I didn't tell Simon that!]
Then we finally had dinner and some quiet time at home. During all of this, I learned much about Simon’s interior life. For example, I learned that he resolved the problem of the friend who wasn’t nice to him by deciding he didn’t want to be friends himself. “He likes to make fun of people,” Simon explained to me. “I’m done with him.” How awesome is that? I also learned that he’s kept the identity of his best friend, Caroline, a secret. “One day I was playing with Shaina when ____ started to tease me. ‘Simon has a girlfriend. Simon has a girlfriend.’ If I told him about Caroline, I’d never hear the end of it. Why would I do that to myself?”
Why indeed? I have no idea what we’ll end up discussing today. It’s Sunday, a day I promised him that we’d go 2.5 miles on the same park hills. But back to the point at hand. Given how much time we spend together, how much we enjoy each other’s company, and how he’s getting me interested in his hobbies and I’m dragging him into mine, what else could I call him other than a friend? And why would I want to squelch those feelings?