Be my friend, Daddy
Editorial by Chris Kovatch
Defining the parent-child relationship is one of the most challenging things I imagine anyone will ever encounter. Every parent tries to balance being the authority figure with being someone that their child feels comfortable approaching with their problems. The end goal is to raise a child who grows to be a good and productive adult. What makes this even more fun is that the equation is different with each child. What works for one, will not necessarily work for the others.
My four older children are ‘mama’s kids’ through and through. I am by far the second choice when they need something, which made my youngest child being attached to me even that more special. I must confess; I struggle to ensure he isn’t treated any differently. What I wasn’t ready for was the fact that he has the energy of the four other kids combined. It is not uncommon to find him climbing on furniture, running laps around the house or pull-ups on the refrigerator door handles. You know the saying that you ‘know’ when you have had your last kid? Stryker proves that goes for adopted as well as biological.
When the time comes to let Stryker know he has crossed the line, he knows how to play the game. He knows the skills he has honed and executes them with ease. Be my friend Daddy. Those four little words melt my heart every time he utters them. But I have to remain steadfast in my position, choose the words I say carefully, and work diligently to stifle the smile that wants to take up residence on my face. You see, the only time Stryker says those words are when he is in trouble. Which, as the days go by, is thankfully less and less. But his statement gets me thinking about the relationship I have with my children. I also often wonder what Stryker thinks what a friend actually is.
Am I a friend to my children? Is it ok to be one? I believe the answer to both questions is ‘Yes’. I know that some people will wholeheartedly disagree with me on that. I am okay with that, because my son’s definition of a friend is so innocent and simplistic. He sees a friend as someone who cares for him and loves him. I believe those are two core responsibilities of being a parent. I want Stryker and the rest of my children to always see me as someone they can talk to no matter what needs to be said. A huge part of ensuring that relationship is present is letting them know that I truly care about them. With that being said, there are numerous other responsibilities that I have as a father.
It is important for Stryker (and the rest of the kiddos) to view me as an authority figure, but not a dictator. I struggle with this quite a bit. Why do they push certain issues? Why so many questions? Why is understanding the definition of ‘no’ so difficult? It all comes down to boundaries. When they see how far they can push me until I put my foot down, they are determining their boundaries. When they keep asking questions after I have given them the answer they don’t want to hear, in their own way they are trying to figure out how I think. It’s all a learning experience. Sure, at the time it can be infuriating, but it serves a purpose. So, I struggle to remember it when my five kiddos are testing my limits that I must veer away from a negative reaction and try to let them know the reasoning behind my decision, in terms they understand, and finally let them know I love them.
So, will I be Stryker’s friend? You bet I will. I will just make sure I am consistent in my other duties as ‘Dad’ as well.