Monday, February 22, 2016
My Daughter Is NOT My Friend.
"Mom, am I your friend?"
I'll never forget the day my sweet little (then) seven year old daughter asked me that question with all the love in the world in her eyes.
Everything in me wanted to say, "Yes." Her eyes are the prettiest green I've ever seen. She had the most angelic little cherubim childhood cheeks of all time. The sincerity in her face made me want to sell my last belonging and buy her a snowcone machine and a hedgehog. But in that moment, I knew what she was really asking and it broke my heart as I swallowed hard and said...
"No. You're not my friend. You're my daughter. But one day, you'll get to be both."
She wasn't happy. Not even a little bit. A piece of her heart was broken and there was just no way to explain my heart to her sweet seven year old self at that moment. "Well, that's not nice," she said to me as she stormed out of the room to tell her daddy the news that her mom just told her she isn't her friend. Imagine her chagrin when her daddy agreed with me!
Through the years that followed, I have guarded my words carefully concerning my relationship with my little ones. They're always listening and I always want my boundaries with them to be clear. I call them my buddies, my loves, my darlings, my kiddos, my treasures, my monkeys, my sweethearts, my babies... But I refuse to call them my friends.
Friendship implies equality. It implies that we are walking through life, side by side, enjoying similar lifestyles and hobbies. It implies we have common ground and common goals. That we have paths that parallel and that we are traveling companions. It implies that we are advisors to each other. We are confidants and counselors for each other. It implies we trust each other and need each other for connection and recreation.
Friendship implies partnership.
Now, if you've been a parent more than, oh, five minutes, you know that there is literally nothing that screams equality about parenting. In the duo of mother and child, you know that one is perpetually giving and the other is perpetually taking. You know that one is always needing advice and the other is living the life of a full-time psychologist. One of them consistently gets to live being self-absorbed like the little sponge she is, and the other lives like a fountain of flowing water from an endless spring. One is reckless and naïve and trusting, while the other has to be solid and responsible and fortified for all that lies ahead of both of them.
Bottom line-- if I need her, I can't lead her.
If I need her approval, I will water down my right and wrong to fit her yes and will create a monster under my own roof.
If I need her acceptance, I will bend my backbone to reach her level of growth and will sabotage us both on the floor of her immaturity.
If I confide in her, I will burden her with heaviness that her adolescent heart is not equipped to carry.
If I treat her as my equal, she will not see my authority as her lighthouse of hope when she's struggling and will look for someone higher than me to cast her anchor on.
If I include her in all I do, she will feel entitled to my adulthood even though she has to make her own way in this world.
If I look to be her companion, I am closing the door on the real friendships I need, which truly equip me to be a better mom to her.
If I try to keep her satisfied or happy, I will never get to enjoy the grown up version of her that I know is inside of her, but will have to learn to be happy with a spoiled, narcissistic human that I created out of my own need to be validated and liked. Parenting isn't a popularity contest. It's a marathon of integrity, tears, and the planting of many gardens that take many years to sprout.
I've seen all the commercials and the Hallmark movies and the coffee ads that we get this stuff from. Mom and grown daughter are enjoying a cup of coffee while shopping for the coming grandbaby and they're laughing and making memories and the daughter turns to the mom and says, "You're my best friend," to which the mom replies, "You're my best friend, too." We all cry and we call our moms and thank her for being the best mom ever and for her constant love and friendship.
But what we didn't see are the nights both mom and preteen daughter went to bed with tear stained pillows.
We didn't see the times Preteen raised her voice and stomped her feet and screamed into her comforter because Mom said no.
We didn't see the times Mom left Preteen with the babysitter to go and enjoy shopping with girlfriends or even better, alone.
We didn't see the conversations that ended in, "Because I'm the adult, that's why."
We didn't see the slamming doors, read the text messages that contain the eye-rolling and fire emojis, or hear the school hallway conversations that started with, "Oh my gosh, my mom is the WORST."
We don't like all of these parts.
Suck it up, ladies. We're tending to a precious harvest. We are herding an ever-moving entity of hormones. We're deciphering an encrypted code only we have the magic ring for. We're growing live human beings.
We're growing our future best friends.
All of the hard parts for these 18-20 years are the price we have to pay to enjoy the rest of our lives with our daughters at our side. Because the reality is, one day, we will look over at the passenger in the front seat and say, "I like her. I think I want her to be my friend now." And the time will be right. And we will rejoice. And childhood will be over.
And it will all be worth it.
But you're here, now.
If you stay "mom," you'll get to be friend one day.
Not long ago, I was standing outside of my own preteen daughter's room and I overheard her telling her friend, "My mom is, like, my best friend."
I smiled. And then I started counting the days until I can say that little bundle of estrogen is my best friend.
And then, I went in and told her to put her ice cream bowl in the sink.
We've got a long way to go together.
I can't wait until the Vanilla Bean Frappucino with whipped cream she drinks turns into a coffee with an extra espresso added in. I'll link arms with my friend and we'll girl talk the day away. But for now, my eye is on the ball.
Here's to friendships. And the ones to come.