The Parent Trap: the parent/friend tightrope

This is a special edition of the Parent Trap, which usually runs every Tuesday on Check back next Tuesday for the regular installment.

Friends are hard to come by at any age and often harder to keep. But it is particularly true when your child is young.

I still remember the day when my son returned from preschool, and slumped sullenly into an easy chair. “Tommy said that he’s not my friend anymore,” he told me, looking up with eyes that expected me to make it all better.

My daughter’s episode was much more dramatic, with yelling and crying and demanding to know why Maggie didn’t like her. “She’s not my friend!” my daughter exclaimed, teary-eyed, trying desperately not to believe it herself.

I could only give them the advice my mother gave me when I cried the same saga as a child– “Everybody doesn’t have to like you.”

These six little words were a lesson that has always been important in my life, and now, my children’s. My mother doesn’t even remember saying it to me, but that little phrase has stuck with me through think and thin. Whenever I felt the need to please people, even when I knew it was futile, I thought of those six words, and it straightened me out.

I’m not the only one who has such revelations from such little sayings. The bestseller, Not Quite What I Was Planning – Six-word memoirs from writers famous and obscure, has collated many of these little wonders into book form. The authors have also asked people to contribute their own six-word memoirs to the cause. It only goes to show that on so many occasions, it’s the little things we say that mean the most.

We all have to walk that tightrope between being the adult in charge and the one that wants to help. We can get so hung up with rules and schedules that we can forget that kids sometimes don’t need anything more than a friendly shoulder. Friends come and go, but I can only hope that more people feel as I do, that a parent can often be a friend.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. While the cards and flowers are being given out, my hope is that my children will think the same thing about their mother, and yes, their father. And when they have kids of their own, maybe some of our little lessons will find their way to another generation.

The Parent Trap is a weekly column by Patrick P. McNally that will appear on every Tuesday. See others here. Read other NEast Philly columns here.

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