True friends validate you as a parent. – Me.
Yes, I just quoted myself. You can do that in your own article. Question for you: Do your friends support you, encourage you, nod agreeably and say things like, “I know exactly how you feel! I would have done the same thing,” when you’re telling them how you handled your kids in a specific situation? If they don’t, you need new friends, because one of the most important support systems any parent can have is friends who are also parents and who can validate all of your erratic emotions, flummoxed confusion, and epic failures.
I have always said that I have some of the best friends in the world. Without getting too personal and really setting off my own kids, I’ll just say that I have friends who have 1. housed my upset kid when I wasn’t around, 2. reminded me of the specialness of my kid when I was worried sick about said kid, 3. nodded heads sagely while I vented about my parenting frustrations, 4. reminded me to forgive myself when I have royally screwed up, and 5. treated my kids like important additions to the conversation, with acceptance, respect, and love.
My friends have saved me on more than one occasion by being there to support me as a parent. I like to think I’ve done the same for them, maybe saying what they needed to hear at the right moment or letting them know that I understand the emotion they’re having and have been there myself a few times. It’s not rocket science, really. It’s just empathy. And lack of judgment. And acknowledgment that this parenting business is insanely hard work.
Parenting elicits emotions like you have never had before. Sometimes, they’re inexplicable. Friends help you accept that. Just by having felt the same thing, they relieve some of the weight that is parenting. And parenting well? Well, that’s really stepping up your game. Now you’re talking patience, a willingness to try an endless array of conversations and tactics to get desired results, and a level of love so strong that every statement, every action, every embrace brings on a torrent of feelings that will drown you if you let it.
But friends are the lifesavers who won’t let you drown. They keep you treading water, even when you think you don’t have an ounce of energy left. Good friends don’t sit in the boat and watch you struggle. They don’t judge your technique or look away from your desperate attempts to stay afloat. They get in the water with you, hand you a life preserver, hold your hands so you don’t flail, and talk you through your exhaustion.
I know this intimately. One time, when I was sure I was drowning in deep waters, a friend of mine took my hands, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Do you have any idea how incredible your kids are?” Then she recited a litany of examples to support her heartfelt assertion. She had watched my kids, studied them, and knew I needed a reminder of how wonderful they were, right there, right then, before I gave myself up and descended into the depths, the bubbles of my last breath marking my demise. We all need reminders. We need someone standing outside of us observing the parent-child dynamic and assuring us that we’re doing fine, better than fine, maybe even really, really well.
My greatest hope for you is that you have friends in your life who validate your efforts at the hardest job in the world and let you know that you’re never alone. My second greatest hope is that you will be that friend. Reach out to your parent friends and remind them why their children are incredible. Then make sure they know that the incredibleness came from somewhere.