Brett Berk: While in Alaska last week, giving a reading from my stellar book The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting, I had the opportunity to engage in a Q&A with some parents up in The Last Frontier. Turns out that they generally have the same questions as folks in the lower 48 (though they tend to have more bear meat in their freezers).
One universalizable issue that surfaced up north revolved around playdates. In a small community like Anchorage -- where everyone seems to know each other, and where (like everywhere) some folks are annoying, intolerant, or insane -- parents worried about engaging their kids in friendships with children whose parents they didn't personally like.
Hear me now, people: you are not required to be friends with the parents of your child's peers. In fact, I believe it can be beneficial to forego connections to them and let your kids make friends ON THEIR OWN. Why? Here are five good reasons:
1) Un-smother: You're already hovering over your child's every move at home. Giving them a break from your parenting style for a quick sec by not being present when they have a playdate will allow them the opportunity to explore where you end and they begin.
2) Synthesizer: Being exposed to other ways of doing things and solving problems -- even if they involve raised voices, religious invocations, or buckets of bear fat -- will help your child learn how to respond to and integrate other behavioral standards: a key tenet in synthesizing an understanding of the world. If you've provided a clear and consistent foundation, you needn't worry about exposure to external influences.
3) Quid Pro Quo: If you host a playdate at your house without the odious parents around, you're due the solid of being able to dump your offspring at their place for a like amount of time in the future, thus liberating you for mani/pedi madness, reality show immersion, or the afternoon delight of your choice.
4) Next Topic: Getting away from socializing with people who you know mainly through your kids will push you to explore subjects beyond poor eating habits, animated princesses, and the grotesque symptoms associated with a recent illness. Remember, you are a parent and a person. You're allowed to have and revel in grown-up interests.
5) To Each Their Own: You are not your child's best friend, and they are not yours. If you think otherwise, you're doing it wrong. (And by "it" I mean parenting.) Maintain separate peer lives, and divest yourself as much as possible from over-involvement in your kid's.
|Brett Berk, M.S. Ed. has worked with young children and their families for over 20 years--as a classroom teacher, preschool director, and research consultant--and is the author of "The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting."|