A few weeks ago, my 23-year-old daughter turned to me during a routine car ride and asked, “Do you still say that you can’t be friends with your children?” I asked, “Did I say that?” She said that I had said it several times when she and her brother were younger. “Is it still true now?” she wanted to know. I had to think.
When our children are young, we push through the daily grind of making decisions for, about, and with our children to keep them safe and help them learn. And some days, we make decisions just to make sure they don’t end up in the hospital or jail.
I never even paused to consider being a friend because I was always the shoe-finding, lunch-making, carpool-driving taskmaster keeping everyone on track.
How could I be friendly when I had to repeat each request multiple times?
How could I be friendly when I collapsed exhausted into bed as soon as the house was quiet?
How could I be friendly amidst the clamor of “Mom, Mom, Mommy!” shouted from every corner?
The truth: I was not friendly most of the time, and I certainly couldn’t be a friend.
Changing the Relationship
Dictionary.com defines a friend as: “a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile.” Not hostile–ha! Most days it felt like I woke up already at war with the members of my household to accomplish the most basic tasks.: “Please brush your teeth. Please find your homework. Please eat just one bite of this healthy meal I cooked for you. For the love of all that is holy, please just do what I ask the first time I ask it!”
Friends don’t nag friends, so I’m sure I told my children that I was not their friend. And in my most frustrated moments, I probably said that I would never want to be their friend. Beware saying “never.”
Fast forward to the time when your children become young adults. The daily grind of caring for them has changed. It’s replaced by lower-level daily worries if you taught them to be responsible about money, relationships, careers, insurance, pet ownership, car maintenance, and more. You find that you enjoy talking with them about movies they are watching, choices they are making, and people they are starting to care deeply about.
You realize that the relationship with your child has become friendly and enjoyable in a way that you could never have imagined (at least I hope that for all of you).
Different Kids, Different Friendships
I share a different friendship with each of my grown children. I don’t imagine that I’ll ever take a weekend getaway with either my son or my stepson, but I hope my daughter and I will get many more opportunities to take trips like we did to celebrate her 21st birthday in San Francisco.
My son calls me his “Google,” and our friendship is much more about working through life challenges together, with me acting as a sounding board. My stepson is a bonus friend who makes me laugh and tries to inspire me to take better care of myself.
Back to the car ride with my daughter where I finally replied that I’m sure I didn’t mean that I would never be friends with her and her brother, just that I needed to be her parent back then. I went on to say that now I get to be both, and she agreed. She quickly went on to add that being friends didn’t mean that she would tell me everything–some things should be only for her best friends. Yes, please. I am still your mother.