The other day my son took me by complete surprise with something he said. We were heading out of the house and down the stairs to run a few errands. On the way down we passed one of our neighbors coming up the stairs. He greeted Paul and asked him how he was doing. Without missing a beat, Paul responded that we were going outside, then said, “this is my best friend, Dad!” I’m not sure what prompted him to say that or how he put the thoughts together and drew that conclusion, but there it was, blurted out as a matter of fact for the world to hear. In the best of ways his un-coached words broke my heart.
I know my place as Paul’s father: my roles and responsibilities. I also know that fathers aren’t the same as friends, especially to a child; I’ve certainly seen the unfortunate consequences of children raised by parent who would rather be their kids’ older, cool friends. As an observer it’s clear that parents who shirk their responsibility to raise their kids end up with older kids who challenge or disregard proper authority, fail to learn what it means to be responsible or accountable, and in general are only civil when it suits them. The exceptions that turn out well seem to be very rare. I also know that as kids grow into young adults, then full adulthood, the relationship with their parents changes. Not all families are the same when it comes to parents and kids, but generally speaking when the relationship between parents and kids is appropriate, it seems the little ones grow to appreciate the value in what their parents did for them. This seems true when literal parents are involved, single parents, or other adults who are properly take on the parental role for a child. I challenge myself with these very words as every day goes by and I’m tempted to step away from the real need to raise my son. Sure we pal around, but when he needs guidance or discipline, the responsibility is mine. As tempting as it might be, I can’t step away; there aren’t any do-overs as far as I can tell. As a dear friend of mine once said, “the old sacrifice for the young.” So true.
I trust the day will come when Paul’s an adult and our relationship changes into something that’s not only father-son, but also is deep friendship: perhaps the father-son relationship at its fullest--the relationship that I have with my own father who raised me well when I was a little guy, with love that was both fun and disciplined. For now though, I’m definitely enjoying fact that I am my son’s best friend. Just ask him; he’ll tell you so.
It’s great to be a dad!