Your kids' best friends

Dec 10 2018 Published by under Parenthood

Parent blogging alert.

There was a tweeter thing today on how kids that get straight As lack creativity that among other things dragged up an old NYT article on suicide on college campuses. The latter article attributed these to pressures and all sorts of stuff but one thing struck me hard.

...dean of freshmen at Stanford, Julie Lythcott-Haims...was also troubled by the growing number of parents who not only stayed in near-constant cellphone contact with their offspring but also showed up to help them enroll in classes, contacted professors and met with advisers (illustrating the progression from helicopter to lawn mower parents, who go beyond hovering to clear obstacles out of their child’s way). But what she found most disconcerting was that students, instead of being embarrassed, felt grateful. Penn researchers studying friendship have found that students’ best friends aren’t classmates or romantic partners, but parents.

emphasis added.

I can think of no more terrible fate. My parents were fine and all, and indeed were super focused on our nuclear family. They themselves did not seem to obsessively prioritize their alone time, their couple time, their own respective families or their friends at all, when I was in the house.

But I sure as shit didn't consider them my friends. They were my parents and my friends were my friends.

You've noticed I'm not the friendliest guy in the world and trust me I wasn't as a child. But for damn sure I had friends. Some of you that pay close enough attention to my antics on social media will be aware that I still interact with friends I made in high school, college and graduate. I am kinda tickled that my kids have been in school classes with the children of some of my closest graduate school friends.

I enjoyed the social experience of college and I think that a massive part of that was the interaction with friends from a much broader span of life than I had experienced to date. I had friends from all across this great Nation and I am the better for it. I met some ersatz sisters who taught me a whole lot of shit I didn't know. I am intensely grateful for the friends that I made, the experiences we had together

....and the fact that nobody had photographic and videographic equipment at their fingertips through all of these experiences.

It horrifies me to read that "researchers studying friendship" at a major institution of higher education like Penn could find that "student's best friends" are their parents.

10 responses so far

  • Jonathan Badger says:

    So, you're an extrovert. Great. Realize that a lot of people *aren't* though. I certainly didn't have the sort of friends depicted in movies and TV (where you would actively hang out with as opposed to just being on good terms with) as a child. And you know, that was totally fine.

  • drugmonkey says:

    JB: Are you envisioning a situation where an entire fricken University is supposedly dominated by individuals who never had "actively hang out with" friends as normal?

  • drugmonkey says:

    So, you're an extrovert.

    The fact that I am an introvert is one of the things that makes this so hard to believe.

  • Jonathan Badger says:

    Are you envisioning a situation where an entire fricken University is supposedly dominated by individuals who never had "actively hang out with" friends as normal?

    People who actually earned their own tuition money may have had less time for the sort of hanging out than those whose parents (despite not being their "friends" apparently) had the resources to pay for their education making work unnecessary, I suppose. But I'm talking about undergraduate years. Yes, I hung out with people (some of whom I still consider friends) in my grad school and postdoc years, but that's where work and social scenes were one and the same.

    The fact that I am an introvert is one of the things that makes this so hard to believe

    Maybe being an extrovert is like being a rich person -- nobody considers themselves to be one because they know of others even more so.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Maybe being an extrovert is like being a rich person -- nobody considers themselves to be one because they know of others even more so.

    Yeah and just like the spectrum of wealth, one considers anyone just barely more extroverted than oneself to be the same as all the actual extroverts.

    People who actually earned their own tuition money may have had less time for

    this suggestion is a far freakin' cry from your first formulation of I certainly didn't have the sort of friends depicted in movies and TV (where you would actively hang out with as opposed to just being on good terms with) as a child. . It also is not entirely squaring, in my mind, with this suggestion that research at Penn found that "students' best friends aren't classmates....but parents". Which admittedly may be journalistic freehand (lying) but it certainly implies a majority. I guess that *could* be an environment where most students are running straight from class to work to bed and around it goes so they simply have no time for new friends. Seems.....unlikely.

  • proficient says:

    That line worries me too. I can't help but wonder if it's part of the same delayed individuation and paralyzing anxiety I see in young grad students, and which is rampant in the undergrads. Some of them are so closely tethered to their parents I can practically see the flow of texts and automatic transference of parent-child dynamics into our working relationship. I keep my mouth shut, of course, but part of me wishes I could just point them to therapy/life and resume our collaboration 10 years later.

  • Curio says:

    I feel like this particular kids -of -helicopter -parents -these -days trope is old and exaggerated. I have had so many students and young techs in my lab and never have I detected some untoward relationship with parents. My sense is that this is a perfect example of narrative confirmation bias in the media. Ppl eat this s h star t up.

  • Zuska says:

    Ugh. And heavy sigh. It seems to me that what kids need of their parents is parenting, not befriending. I see it happening in families near me and seems to me it feeds the ego needs of the parents while not serving developmental needs of the child.

  • becca says:

    I don't know.
    I left home at 17, and my Dad passed when I was 29 and my Mom when I was 31. There are a lot of times I miss them as the grandparents they would have been for my daughter and didn't fully get to be for my son. There are a few times I miss them because I want to ask them family history, or when I realize some dysfunction is me channeling *their* parental issues and I want to rant about it, or because I want to get their perspectives on what I should do with my life.

    But mostly, in the day to day pains... it's that I miss not getting to make my Mom coffee and sit out on the porch and talk about books. It's that I miss not getting to process this INSANE political time with my Dad. I miss... that I didn't get more years to relate to them as friends.

    I think there is a stage when young people need to individuate. I wasn't friends with my parents in undergrad. But by grad school, I could understand myself better as consisting of parts of them and yet different, and I could see them as the people they were outside of their relation to me. It didn't mean they could ever see some of my struggles without too much of their pain intruding, in a way that isn't true for even my oldest and dearest friends. But in many ways, it was a different relationship, and I think it was a good one.

    Friendship. Interrupted.

  • AppliedNewtonian says:

    Day late and a dollar short. Chiming in as a current parent of a teen still in highschool.

    I can't imagine doing the things described in the article, but, I think I have a good, friendly *parental* relationship with my kid. I do as much as possible to give kiddo the practice in skills needed for the future, wending one's way through power structures (practicing on the school teachers and admin as needed), advocating for oneself, figuring out instructions (because the advanced form of this is learning how to bend rules while still being fair to others), being reliable, taking care of oneself while also taking care of ones friends, being cool with setting ones own boundaries, being aware that it is only in sweepstakes that we get things we haven't worked for, consent, ethics, and an open mind with art, music, languages, intellectual pursuits and ALWAYS be ready to punch a nazi.

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