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In Parenting a Preteen, Maybe Laughter and Friendship Aren’t out of the Question

August 29, 2018

My almost 13-year-old son and I laughed so hard at a commercial on TV last night that we both cried. I cried big, crazy tears that exploded out of my eyes and laughed so hard I could not catch my breath. In his nearly 13 years on this earth, we have laughed together a million times, but I don’t think we’ve ever laughed together that hard, or in that way. For a moment, we were both hysterical over the same silly joke, not as mother and son but just two people hanging out and having a good time.

The experience got me thinking, and for a moment I saw him in a different way. I had a “my kid is my friend” moment, and it felt unfamiliar, yet kind of wonderful. I’ve always been one of those parents that clung to the notion that your child is not your friend, they are your child. You are not their friend, you are their parent. Those are the roles we all play, and setting boundaries is appropriate and right. 

Defining the Role of Parent and ChildAPHBlog_ParentingPreteen_Raskin1

I’m not really sure why those roles seemed so important to me, but maybe it was because I was raised to be more of a friend to my own mother. This led to many moments between us that were incredibly fun. By the time I was my son’s age, my mom and I were very close, but not really in a mother-daughter way, more like a best-friends-forever way. This was all well and good until it was time to set limits or boundaries. I wasn’t really interested in being told by my mom that I could not go somewhere I wanted to go, when just the night before I was her closest confidant. This parenting style led to blurred boundaries and loose structure, and overall served to confuse our relationship rather than define it.

Fast forward 30 years or so, and here I am, struggling to define what kind of parent I want to be to my own 12-year-old. Until this point, I have always been a “mom-mom,” not a “friend-mom,” and I felt that was the right way to do things. However, lately I have noticed that my son is growing up. He’s not little anymore, which means his thoughts and statements are maturing, too. He’s becoming worldlier and wiser. It’s caused me to rethink my parenting style a little bit. I’m starting to think that there are times where he actually needs a friend-mom, not just a mom-mom. I’m also thinking (especially after last night’s giggle fest) that I’m totally good with that.

Growing and Changing Along With Your Child

Our shared fit of laughter last night told me that no matter what, I will always be his mom, but as he grows up, we will naturally start to become friends, too. To hide from it or try to deny it seems wrong. As he gets older, he will start to become more adult-like, and I feel that if it’s done appropriately, embracing this will strengthen our mother-son relationship, not strain it. 

As he gets older, he will start to become more adult-like, and I feel that if it’s done appropriately, embracing this will strengthen our mother-son relationship, not strain it.

It’s tricky territory raising a preteen or teenager, and my hat is off to all who have gone before me and accomplished this task. I’m learning that being open to changing how I mother my son is important, because he is changing, too. I will always be his mom first, but being open to those moments where we are just two people gasping for air as we cackle on the couch is crucial, and those will be what both remember as some of our favorite times together.

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