Good luck to parents who try to be their child’s friend
THE engagement rules of parenting are simple: pay attention to your kids.
Not in dollars, but in pure eye-toeye contact, your whole body and mind focused on them when they inevitably want a piece of you at an inconvenient moment.
You can't schedule being a mum or dad - our children are not appointments - but given the way we run our lives, many of us try to manage our kids via social media and texts.
And the parenting part doesn't stop once they've slapped a P-plate on the family sedan and left you standing on the driveway, praying danger is not around the next corner.
Not a week goes by where there isn't a headline about a teenage victim, someone paying the price for out of control violence.
I am sure the family of partygoer Alex Ioana would have had plans to spend quality time with him this week at home in Leumeah. Instead, they're planning his funeral.
Their son, now immortalised as the 18-year-old who died in hospital at the weekend after he was booted in the head from behind, not a troublemaker, simply a gentle soul in the wrong place.
The details are as gut wrenching as they are bewildering - Alex was stomped on while he lay unconscious on the ground, according to police.
"It's just a senseless loss of life," Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell, echoing the utter helplessness and despair racing through the minds of parents across NSW.
How do you keep them safe? How do you stay involved?
How do you legislate for a son dying on the cusp of manhood? One day you are holding his hand on the way to school, the next he is graduating and preparing for life as an adult.
Being a mum or dad is a fragile existence. More than ever it is crucial that we don't make it a mission of discovery.
I've got half an hour between the dishwasher and an email so I'll fire questions at them in the blind hope a few truthful responses will land. And that engagement starts in the pram, always has.
Surely there are few more depressing sights these days than a baby in a buggy barely able to hold up its head but otherwise transfixed by a mobile phone screen blaring out rubbish while valuable life experiences waft by.
At some point, though, we substituted tenderness for technology by installing apps in our kids phones so we can track them to a blinking dot on a digital map.
We substituted care for commercialism, deluging them with expensive stuff.
We prioritised their perceived happiness over common sense and the wellbeing of the family as a whole, setting them on course for life as a kidult who crumbles at the first whiff of pressure.
Yet with still no clue though on who their friends are or where they are headed in life, bewildered and over sensitive.
Northern Beaches police commander Dave Darcy is so despaired of modern parenting he penned a scathing letter to local mums and dads recently in a bid focus them on roughly 200 youths - boys and girls aged 13 to 18 years - running riot fuelled on Xanax, Valium and alcohol.
That a senior officer felt he had no choice but to blast parents directly speaks volumes about what we know about our kids and who they are doing it with.
Darcy wrote witheringly: "Your children should know that we have the power to stop, interview, arrest and charge those committing criminal offences."
"With more than three decades as a police officer I find levels of anger and aggression some young people are bringing to the streets particularly confronting. I am also surprised at the freedoms enjoyed. Particularly by the 13 and 14-year-olds who are roaming our streets at midnight under the influence of alcohol and drugs."
See that? Your children, not our children.
In other words, why are my officers having to babysit your kids because you have no idea what they are up to? So terrified are you of being a parent rather than their mate that you have bred self-entitled and violent brats.
If you make the decision to become your child's friend there is almost no chance you can regain a position of authority.
But you can still be a parent and show compassion, understanding, empathy, love and good humour.
And your kids will always know where they stand with you. While you cannot legislate for tragedy like Alex Ioana, you can be their lighthouse no matter how old they are.