Being the parent — then and now

Rebecca Hagelin


Culture challenge of the week: Parent or friend?

As my daughter Kristin and I recently browsed through my last book, “30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family,” we came across a chapter titled “Vow to Be the Parent (Not Your Child’s Best Friend).”

I had to laugh to myself because Kristin — my third and youngest child — is now 22 and married, and I know my days of “active parenting” are more or less over. She is now first and foremost a friend. As long as there is breath in me, I will be her mother — ready to provide counsel and advice as I am invited to share it.

But I must be invited.

This new role takes some adjusting to for both of us (mainly me), but I love and cherish this stage in our relationship.

Kristin was actively involved in helping me edit “30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.” Though she was still in high school at the time, she was already a gifted writer and a thoughtful young woman, and her feedback was incredibly useful. She encouraged me to rewrite several sections, helped keep me motivated through long days of writing or when I was having difficulty expressing myself, and even wrote a brief introduction which I included with my own.

As she grew and improved her own writing skills throughout college, I more and more frequently asked for her help and perspective as I wrote my weekly columns.

Battling the culture in family matters has been the primary focus of my study, writing and speaking throughout the years. My goal has been to encourage and assist parents in following their God-given instincts and convictions as they raise their children, and to inspire them to become the parents that God created them to be. With my children now grown, I have the opportunity to view their lives and hear their feedback — and I consider them reliable testimonies to my and my husband’s successes and failures as parents. I also believe that, because they are in their 20s, they understand some of the challenges facing teens and children better than people my age.

In fact, I believe that so deeply that my column will soon morph into a joint one, co-authored by Kristin and me. So when you read the byline in coming weeks, you’ll notice her name there with mine. Our hope is that we will provide insight and advice for strengthening your family from the perspectives of two generations.

We are two women in very different places in life’s journey, but we share a bedrock commitment to the undying, timeless values and principles outlined in God’s word. Ours is a work of love for you — for husbands and wives, dads and moms, who seek nothing less than God’s best for your relationships with your family. We desire to help you have marriages that will withstand all the tests and trials of modern American life, and to raise children who will tower above the culture.

How to save your family: Don’t be afraid to be the parent

Now, back to the chapter “Vow to Be The Parent (Not Your Child’s Best Friend).”

When Kristin read it, she laughed too and shared her thoughts:

“My parents did it well. The chapter focuses on how important it is to be able to say ‘no’ to your children, but I must say that my brothers and I didn’t hear the word very often. I think that’s part of the reason why the word ‘no’ always held so much weight. There was no use arguing once Mom or Dad said the word because we knew they meant it. ‘No’ meant ‘no.’ Period. We honestly didn’t have much of a choice but to respect the decision. But even though I respected it, I can’t say that I was always appreciative. At least not in the moment.

“Mom wrote: ‘There will be a few tears here and there, even some hurt feelings from time to time, but, believe it or not, the sky won’t fall.’

“Sometimes it did feel like the sky was falling. I remember the cringeworthy embarrassment of telling my friends that, no, I couldn’t see the movie with them because my mom thought it was inappropriate. But even though it may have felt like the sky was falling, it never did. I moved on.

“Mom went on to write: ‘In retrospect, kids appreciate when their parents lay down the law. They realize, years after the fact, that it was done out of love (although you can be sure they were sometimes convinced that their parents “hated” them.) And that’s the point. You’re the adult — it’s your job to look down that road and do what it takes to ensure their future happiness. And that means acting like a parent.’

“Mom was right. A couple weeks ago my husband and I walked out of a movie because we didn’t feel like sitting there, awkwardly pretending not to be bothered by what was on the screen. If my mom had bought me a ticket to the same movie when I was 13, I would have been just as uncomfortable sitting there with my friends, but I would have felt too awkward to get up and leave. Now that I’m buying my own tickets, I’m thankful that my parents said no to movies with that kind of content because they taught me that it’s OK to say no for myself.

“I’m honored to begin writing alongside my mom because she doesn’t use empty words. She lives the way she writes and has blessed my life by her commitment to do so. In some ways, it feels a bit like I’m planning to compare notes with the teacher, but our goal as we bounce ideas back and forth is to create a cohesive whole that will resonate across multiple generations. We pray it will bless you.”

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at [email protected]

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