By EM RUSCIANO
I like to think I cartwheel on the line of friend and parent.
Yes, I want to be BFFs with my kids.
That sound you may be hearing is the alarm going off at Dr Phil’s solid gold Texas mansion – as we speak he is racing to his diamond encrusted Bentley to report me to Oprah. I’m expecting a call from his producers at any tick of the clock. I’ll be invited on his show where I’ll perch atop one of those ridiculously high chairs while he yells “If someone disagrees with me, then somewhere, a village is missing their idiot”! - Good one Dr Phil.
What I’m saying is, most experts disagree with me. Most experts feel you shouldn’t be pals with your kid. You may also disagree with me to, but that’s ok, I still like you.
My eldest daughter is on the precipice of puberty. I have gone from living with a smiley, enthusiastic, agreeable child to co-habitating with a small, moody, eye-rolling politician. Everything must be justified and negotiated, there is a fair bit of huffing and puffing going on as well.
Up until this year we have been best buddies who agree on pretty much everything and knew how to compromise on the issues we disagreed on. I had her quite young so I guess we’ve grown up together.
I remember how intense my teenage years were, do you? Remember how you felt every thing eleventy thousand times more than the adults in your life did? I was reminded of this recently, when One Direction changed their concert dates from midyear to around the time of the end of year exams. Young girls all over Australia were absolutely desolate, with one fan tweeting: “Two whole years come down to 5 exams. If 1D come and therefore distract us WHAT IF WE FAIL? No uni, no future.”
Dramatic? Maybe, but man I miss feeling that passionately about everything. Don’t you? I mean you can take the excess body hair (I am an Italian woman) and back acne but the unbridled all consuming zeal for the things I use to love as a teen (which included but were not limited to Kevin Arnold from the Wonder Years, Jason Preistly from 90210 and Degrassi Jnr High), I miss.
The truth is, I still feel acutely connected to how difficult it was being 11-17 years old. I think some parents forget how they felt because they are trying so hard to steer their child down the “right” path.
None of us want our kids to do drugs (even though we may have) none of us want them drinking passion pop directly from a bucket (I may or may not have done that) so we square our shoulders and demand they toe the line.
It’s a bloody messy business this parenting caper and none of us want to stuff it up but sometimes we do because we’re trying so hard to be perfect and have perfect kids. The only thing I am perfect at is being imperfect and I embrace that with vigour.
I must admit I don’t confide everything to my daughter, that’s probably a little too much for her to handle and lets face it – a bit creepy. I’m happy for her to spill her guts to me though, and I’m grateful that she still feels safe enough to. It goes without saying that I will fulfil the functional role required of me. A roof over her head and food on the table, I’ll give her boundaries to push and begrudgingly allow the slow separation from me. That’s the whole point of this phase isn’t it? For Marchella to figure out who she is and to individuate from my values and beliefs to form her own.
I would also like to act as a spiritual guide for her, someone sparkly and serene to look to in times of trouble. Think Dorothy and Glenda the good witch, but with less “little people” involved. I do own a self operated fog machine and several sparkly pink dresses so this could be a reality!
I just don’t feel the need to be authoritarian with my kid, if you do that’s totally cool but for me I’d like to remain friends and evoke the parent card sparingly.
Plus we are nearly the same shoe size and with over 150 pairs of rad shoes I figure I can buy her love for the next wee while!
Things may change. In a couple years time I may be writing about how I sent my wayward child off to a hard labour camp in Siberia. But I needed a game plan for now as the rules were rapidly changing.
So far, it seems to be working.
I’ll keep you posted.
Em Rusciano is the host of Mamamia Today on Austereo (which you should be tuning into at 3pm every weekday on the Today Network) and regularly appears on Network Ten’s ’The Project’. You should follow her on Twitter here and take a look at her website here. You can listen to podcasts of Mamamia today here.Incidentally, Em is also appearing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year – and her show has actually been inspired by her eldest daughter. You can go here for details.