Pop quiz: Who is your best friend?
Susanna from Pilates? Maddie from bookclub? Don from cribbage?
Those are all acceptable answers. If you said, “My kid!” head to the back of the class and sit in the corner while you read on.
Yes, your children are cool and smart and funny. All the great qualities of a BFF. But you are 40 and they are 12. And while you can have all the fun shopping and hiking together, you have to draw a line in the parental sand and find someone your own age.
I know! Making adult friends is hard. Co-workers are too boring, people at the gym are too sweaty, everyone at the coffee shop is too awake. Your children are there, all of the time. They have to listen to you complain how you hate your bangs and that their dad has a new fiancée or they won’t get dinner.
Parent-child dynamics exist for a reason. Your job is to teach the littles what a mature, functioning member of society looks like. Their job is to tell you you’re wrong about everything. That distinction becomes very muddled when they are hearing about the too-intimate details of your personal life. Friendships are based on being equals, and children are not equals to their parents. If you have established a bestie aura, how will they ever obey when it is time for chores, homework, bed or being grounded for sneaking out?
Building peer-to-peer friendships is paramount for development. They need buddies they can share the challenges, hopes, concerns and joys of being a certain age at the same time with. Your child may feel an extended loyalty to you and shy away from making friends at school.
It is already daunting that children seem to be growing up too fast these days. If they are constantly hearing about your “adult struggles” (much of which is probably over their head) it is an extra-confusing burden for them to carry—especially since there is nothing they can do to help you.
What are you getting out of having your child as your confidante? I don’t imagine they are helping you solve your deepest problems. Is it just easy because they can’t escape?
Rather than depending on them for emotional support, show them what building an appropriate friendship looks like. Join a class, volunteer, go to the dog park—there a lovely people everywhere looking for platonic connection. Plus, it’s good for your body!
According to a 2016 Mayo Clinic study, adult friendships are vital for enriching your life and improving your health: “Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index.”
Some of my closest friends are ones who approached me at music class and said, over crying toddlers, “This may be weird, but can we hang out sometime?”
So tonight, when you want to talk about some big adult-y thing with your kids, give them a kiss and make them do their homework instead.
Maggie Knowles writes about all things kid. She and her family live in Yarmouth, where she gardens, keeps bees and refuses to get rid of her stilettos.