Can parents ever be good 'friends'?
Almost everyone holds the belief that ideally parents should develop a friendship with their children. Though during one’s growing up years, children are usually “dependent” on their parents, who in turn, are more like, figures of authority and compliance to them, yet it is always considered to be more conducive if, after having reached a particular age, parents become companions to children and also children perceive their parents as good friends.
The basic problem that comes in the way of this “friendship” is that there is no concrete way to define the parent-child relationship, and even if there was, it would certainly not fit into the conventional concept of “friendship”. Parents are those that protect, guide and love us. They enable us to take decisions in life, inculcate good manners, values and attitudes and provide security, consistency and stability to our lives. While it is always advisable that parents and children should be free to discuss any issue, on the other hand it is also a well-established fact that parents will always impose certain boundaries and restrictions on us. The kind of equation that we form with our “peers” is more of a ‘no holds barred’ rapport, in which we are more like ‘partners in crime’ rather than being didactic or preachy towards each other.
There is always a limit to what children can share with their parents, no matter what age they reach. They are perhaps better off as ‘guardians’ than as confidantes. The social structure in which children are brought up conditions them to look up to their parents in a particular way, within which there is more of the plane of safety and belongingness involved. However liberal parents might be, it cannot be denied that beyond an extent, they end up being protective about children; unlike friends, who rather take chances and risks together on the adventurous roller-coaster called life. Parenthood is a different ball-game altogether, and it is perhaps best for both the parties to not make an attempt to mix the two relationships, as the blend really cannot be fine enough. How many times do we hear about parents who complain that their children do not open up to them, despite all their efforts of being “cool”? It is simply because no matter how hard they try to ‘befriend’ their kids, the parental sentiments would always be at play subconsciously, preventing the ‘friendly’ side to surface in its completeness.
It is undeniable that close parent-child communication and emotional intimacy amongst them plays a pivotal role in preventing children from going astray. However, probably parents can be the best at ‘parenting’, but when it comes to opening up to the children on a very personal level, to be able to relate to their thoughts and perceptions, to let them choose their own paths, even if they stumble and fall and rise up again, hardly would there be any set of parents who can reach that level of understanding and broad-mindedness. After all, when it comes to their children, there is always a sense of protectiveness, caution and often high expectations involved.
The best way would be to follow the middle path. Let friends be friends, and as parents, do justice to your role to the best of your abilities. Just as parents cannot completely be friends, similarly, friends can never replace parents. Both relationships are crucially significant to one’s life, and should rather have some overlap but each one cannot replace the other.