My partner and I were walking to our neighborhood park with our son, all three holding hands and enjoying a relatively crisp afternoon. My partner asked my son who his best friend was and, being the emotional terrorist he is, my son replied, "Mom's my best friend." Sure, I died a little inside and it was nothing short of adorable, but there are so many reasons why I don't want to be my son's best friend; reasons that are valid and, even in heartbreakingly adorable moments when my son melts my damn heart, reasons I can't help but think about.
It's a pretty common sentiment, shared by loving parents who want to express how much they care about their children. I see it posted on Facebook and expressed in 140 characters or less and shared in mom's groups and over dinners. I get the appeal, and with the amount of time I spend with my son — doing any number of activities and learning from one another and just growing together — I can see why friendship and parenthood seem similar. My son seems to love me no matter what, and I can say the same about my friends. My son seems to know when I'm upset, even when I haven't said anything or remotely changed my demeanor, and my friends possess that uncanny ability, too. My son makes me laugh on a pretty regular basis and, well, that's the foundation of any solid friendship (in my opinion).
However, my son is also my son, and can't be there for me the way a best friend should. In fact, I wouldn't ask him to be. He deserves to have a childhood and make his own friends who understand exactly what it's like to be a kid in 2016 (which I can only imagine is freakin' crazy). So, with that in mind, here are just a few reasons why I don't want to be my son's best friend. For now, I'll gladly (and silently) accept the title, but when he's old enough to understand, he'll realize that I'm happy simply being his mom.
He'll Make Friends...
My son is going to make countless friends throughout the course of his life. Some of those friends will be life-long, and some of those friends will come and go. Some of them will be helpful and supportive, and some of them will be toxic and teach my son some painful, albeit valuable, lessons. All of those friends will be necessary, though, and are people my son will deserve to have in his life — good, bad, or indifferent. I don't need to take up that space in his life, and rob him of the experiences he would and could have when he makes numerous friends.
...But He Won't Make Another Mom
People will step up and be my son's friend, but I'm the only person who can be around to step up and be his mother.
Now, does that mean I won't have help and my son won't look to other adults as mother or father figures? Of course not. From teachers to coaches to family members to whomever, my son will have other people in his life that can act as "mom" from time to time. However, he only has one mom and fulfilling that role needs to be my main priority. I don't need to spend time being his friend, especially if it means I will fail or falter at being the only mother he will ever have.
I Won't Always Be Around To Help Him
My goal, as a mother, is to help my son grow up to be a healthy, responsible, empathetic and caring human being who can go out into the world and find whatever he considers success to be. That means that, eventually, the end goal is for him to feel confident and capable enough to create his own life, separate from my own.
Will I always be his mother and will he always be my son? Of course. However, I also want him to explore and travel and experience places and things I can't experience with him. That's when, of course, his friends will come into play. If he can surround himself with positive and supportive people, I won't need to be his best friend. Those individuals will have it covered.
I Need Friends I Can Relate To...
Friendship, of course, is a two-way street (or should be). So, if I was my son's "best friend," we wouldn't necessarily have a very health relationship. Not right now, at least.
My son can't relate to my problems (he can't even understand my problems) and I cannot relate to his. When he tells me he's devastated because he has a green cup instead of a blue cup, I fail to understand the severity of the situation in a way that a like-minded friend (his 2-year-old toddler buddy, for instance) can. It's not to say that I won't react accordingly and assist my son is rectifying the horrible situation that is owning a green cup instead of a blue cup, but I won't be able to relate on the emotional level he currently resides in. (And, you know, I shouldn't.)
...And So Does My Son
My son deserves to share life with people who understand where he's coming from, because they're the same age or are experiencing the same things. While I know what it's like to be a kid, I have no idea what it's like to be a kid now. My experiences will be nothing like my son's because, you know, social media is a thing and our culture is constantly (hopefully) progressing. He deserves to share a friendship with people who truly understand what it means to be a kid in 2016 (and beyond) and not solely rely on a "best friend" who says, "Back in my day..." whenever she tries to relate or give advice.
What I Talk To My Friends About Isn't Appropriate To Talk To My Son About
My friendships are my lifeline, and have been since always. Because I grew up in a toxic environment with an abusive parent, my friends became my family and I've constantly and consistently been leaning on them since. So, what I choose (read: need) to talk to my friends about, isn't age appropriate for my son to overhear let alone weigh in on.
My Son's Worries Should Remain Age Appropriate
As a hot mess mom who feels like she's failing on a pretty regular basis, most of the phone calls I make to my best friends start off something like, "OMG I'm dealing with this complete disaster and I need your help please help me you have to help me," and then I dive into whatever it is I'm trying to deal with.
My son doesn't need to worry about "adult" things until he's an adult. He needs to and deserves to stay blissfully unaware of all the ways life can and will disappoint you, for as long as humanly possible. Bills and relationships and work deadlines and whatever else I have going on are, of course, my problem. I'm never going to make those problems my son's problems in the name of "friendship."
Friends Should Mutually Help One Another, And My Son Shouldn't Have To Help Me The Way My Friends Do
All of this is to say that a friendship should be as beneficial to me as it is to the person I consider a friend. That wouldn't and couldn't happen if I made my son my best friend. He's a toddler, for goodness sake. He cannot be there for me the way my friends are, and he shouldn't have to be. He's my son, not my best friend, and as such he fulfills me in ways my friends can't, just like my friends fulfill me in ways my son cannot. That's why our life is (or should be) filled with so many different people. My best friend gives me what my romantic partner can't, and my romantic partner gives me what my son can't, and so on and so forth. I fill my life up with people that make me whole, but never will I look to one person to be absolutely everything to me. That's not only impossible, but unbelievably unfair.
I will not and refuse to put that pressure on my son. He does enough simply by being my son. He doesn't, and shouldn't, need to feel like he should be anything more.
I Don't Want To Be The Only Source Of Support For My Son...
My son deserves to have multiple people he can turn to when he needs them or simply wants to celebrate with them. I shouldn't feel the need to be everything for and to my son, and he should rely on more people than just his parents. The friends he eventually makes will help him grow into the human being he eventually becomes, and the more people he meets and befriends, the more well-rounded my son will be.
...So He Can, And Should, Find Someone Else To Be His Best Friend
Honestly, it makes me so happy to think about my son finding his best friend. I think about all the ways my friends have made my life better simply by being themselves and offering me their friendship, and my son deserves to experience that kind of personal fulfillment, too. I can only imagine the times they'll have (both good and bad) and the ways he will learn to lean on, support, appreciate and love other human beings. I just know he hasn't met that person, yet. He met his mother the moment he was born, but his best friend will come later.