I am not a mother who subscribes to the theory that I can be ‘friends’ with my child. I’m sure there are some parents who have that relationship with their children. Some of my children came to me later in life, like halfway through their childhood, so becoming their friend wasn’t my first priority. A relationship was important, trust was important, but understanding what it meant to even have a mom was priority one for a lot of our kids.
I have always felt like it’s my job to launch my children successfully into adulthood, to teach them self-sufficiency with a side of ‘safe place to fall’ when things didn’t quite work out as expected. I have to walk the fine line of letting go a little more year after year, but I work hard at that. Ultimately, their life choices will become theirs. Where they go to college, if they choose to go, what they do for a living, all of it is something I can have an opinion on, but I plan to only offer it if I’m asked. As a young adult, I had WAY too much unsolicited, and sometimes hurtful, advice hurled at me. It left its mark.
I am parenting across the age spectrum. I have a 4 year old and a 15 year old. I’m still firmly shaping one and slowly letting go of the other. For a long time, I thought that I would never get to be any of my children’s friend. I wasn’t sure they would even become each other’s friend. I hoped they would. I prayed they would. It is probably my biggest prayer, that no matter what, they always have each other. It hasn’t been easy to knit together a family where the eldest became the younger brother at the age of 9, to a sister he shared no blood with, no history with, and who he wasn’t at all sure about.
They knit themselves together just beautifully. Only five months apart in age, Ally and Cam have a great relationship, one that is based on actually enjoying each other’s company. They have their own friends and their own interests, but they have each other too. The last couple of years their relationship changed into a true camaraderie. Now they’re entering high school together and it has shifted again. When Ally first came to live with us, it never bothered Cam that she was now the older sister, because she needed him so much. Everything was unfamiliar to her. The food, the language, the culture, was all so overwhelming. She needed him to be the big brother. He was. He plans to run cross country in the fall. She is already on the team. As I drove them to summer running I overheard her in the back of the car telling him where to meet the team and where she would meet him after. Then I told her tell him not to be nervous. She has stepped courageously into the big sister role. Again, a shift has occurred within our family.
Recently, a shift has occurred within my relationship with Ally too. I’m starting to see the beauty in actually being her friend. Yesterday, I went to visit her in the campus dorms where she is staying for the next three weeks for a pre-college program she is enrolled in. I brought Tess and Cate. We ate McDonalds and we sat in her dorm lounge and played a board game. She was totally unembarrassed to sit with her two baby sisters and play ‘PayDay’ for an hour and a half. Cate acted like the wild woman she is and Tess tried really hard to manage all her feels about possibly losing the game. We chatted around that. I told Ally about the swim meet earlier in the day, one where her brother with Dwarfism had endured some bullying. I told her how sad I was about it. She told me how sorry she was, for him, and, for me.
I doubt she even thought about what she was saying when she said it, or how much it meant to me. It meant a lot though, because it was a sign that, eventually, we will get to that mom/friend point. This summer, I also gave her free rein over her social media account. That was a HUGE trust move. I get death threats on social media. It scares me so badly that she’ll endure that abuse too. So far, so good though. And, I know we’re friends because I ended up tagged in a pic that I found in my feed. I’ve been doing it to her for years, turnabout is fair play, no matter how goofy Tess and I look.
–FullPlateMom, who needs to get her roots done, and knows because her daughter told her. Thanks, friend.