My child is my best friend. What’s wrong with that?
FOR the first couple years of our firstborn daughter's life I was convinced she hated me.
There's a photo of us in Fiji when she was just eight months old that looked like an attempted kidnapping. Seriously, had you walked past us at that exact point you would've seen a Dad in a pair of boardies pulling his baby in for a selfie while she tried to peel away as though some internal "stranger danger" button had gone off and caused every limb to flail uncontrollably. No wonder I felt I was being monitored by security for the rest of the trip.
For years I tried desperately to connect with her as she bonded with pretty much every other adult that came into her life - her mum, her grandparents, her aunts, her cousins, her kinder teachers, paediatricians, baristas, a random old lady that gave her a sticker at the supermarket, Justine from Playschool, the mailman, the guy from the council that did water inspections. And for years she didn't want a bar of it.
But then tiny breakthroughs started to happen. She let me push her on the swing at the local park. Sick of The Wiggles, I'd play her French pop from the '60s on the way to school like an insufferable hipster, and she came to love it more than The Wiggles. Soon I was curating playlists to soundtrack our seven-minute trip each morning.
Then we started going to the footy together at the tailend of the Hawks' mid-2010s dynasty. She'd eat hot chips and play on a cracked iPad the whole time, but it didn't really matter. We were there in that moment together and that big scary bearded man that couldn't stop planting non-consensual kisses on her cheeks was suddenly becoming - say it quietly - her friend.
Now she's eight and I feel we're more than that. I'm not ashamed to say it, but my eight-year-old daughter and I are the best of mates.
The internet is pretty definitive about whether or not this is a good idea. Ask Google and one of the first things it spits out is an article headline that reads: 'Your Child Is Not Your Friend'. Alrighty, then!
Most experts talk about an imaginary line that divides kids and parents. If you cross that line, the power differential becomes imbalanced. Your child won't learn boundaries, and as such will fall prey to drug use, Instagram addiction, and really bad grades.
When people say, "Don't be friends with your kids", what they generally mean is, "Don't forget who the parent is." But is it really that to hard to be both things at once?
Can't you be a firm, attentive and supportive parent that sets rules, limits and boundaries while also being someone they can kick a footy with, go to the movies with, watch terrible baking shows with, act silly with, or trust with their secrets (theirs not yours, because that's just creepy)?
I'm not sure why I even have to say this, but my daughter is a different kind of friend to my adult mates. Most obviously because we've never ended up in a kebab shop together drunk at 3am. But also, because I'd never dream of treating my child as a confidant.
I'm not foolish enough to think this is going to be this way between us, either. I'm fully aware that my levels of "cool" are rapidly declining and puberty is on the horizon. But there's a part of me that feels the deep understanding and open communication we have fostered as friends will help us weather the teenage tsunami that's about to hit and eventually see us out the other side.
Still, people will love telling you how it's all going to fall to pieces.
"Just you wait," they say, pointing a crooked finger at your face. "You may be friends now, but she'll hate your guts!"
Little do they know we've done this dance before.
Darren Levin is a columnist for RendezView.com.au