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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Mother OR A Best Friend OR Both?

Written by Lee

"My mother is my best friend."

I've heard friends and others say that quite a lot in my lifetime.  From as early as high school, through college and into adulthood.  Now as a mother, I hear other mothers say it - "My daughter and I are best friends."

And I'm all - huh?

Not like I don't get the concept.  I get the concept.  It's just that I never had that kind of relationship with my mother and I never will.  And I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way.

I could write on and on about my relationship with my mother and how at times it pains me to the core but in an empty aching type of way as I wonder what I might have missed, or am still missing, by not having a mother that is a best friend or even a friend.  'Cause really - I'm not friends with my mother.  Really. I'm not.

She's my mom.  A mother.  And I think she was a good one.

She did all of the things that a good mother does like cooking and cleaning and planning and organizing and shopping and laundry and the million small things that no one ever notices a mother does for her family in the course of each and every day.  

And mainly she was there.  Always there.  The silent backbone of our family, quietly holding us together during the years that my father was barely making a dime to support a family of six without us ever feeling how desperate times really were.  Quietly supporting us and encouraging us to be who we wanted to be without pressure or judgement. Mellowly guiding us without us ever really realizing she was guiding us.

And in the grand scheme of things, it was enough.  More than enough.  All I really needed.

But when I hear this best friend concept floating around, it gets me thinking.....what if?

What if I could have really talked to my mom about all the confusing stuff going on in a teenage girl's mind? What if I could have actually enjoyed a shopping trip with my mom looking for a prom dress or a wedding dress? What if I had actually wanted my mom to be in the delivery room with me when I pushed out her first grandchild?  What if I had a desire to call my mom to talk about the struggles I have as a mother and listen to her wise advice?  What if I wanted to travel with my mom?  Laugh with my mom?  Hug my mom tight?  

What if?

Now that I'm a mother of two young girls, here is my chance.  A chance to start over, to create a mother-daughter relationship that is everything my mom was to me and more.  

Much much more.

All the motherly duties and constant presence but mix in some actual friendship.

Is it possible?

Do I really know how?  

Will I be able to gently guide my girls during their confusing teenage years when the time is ripe for a plethora of bad choices if I act like a friend?  How can I send the message I want to send - that "No, I don't think you should sleep with your boyfriend, you're only 16!" if I hold her hand, take her to the doctor and get her birth control pills?  How can I be that quiet force firm in my beliefs of what is right and what is wrong if I chat with them while getting a pedicure and listen to some of the wrong choices they are making?  

Is that who I want to be?  Need to be?  For them?  So they don't wonder someday what it might have been like to have a mother who they could also call their friend?

I firmly believe that children don't need more friends, they need parents.  But my heart tells me there's a balance there that I can strike.  

I'm just not sure how.

All I know is that although I know my sooner-than-I-want-them-to-be teenage daughters probably don't need to share every minute detail of their lives with their "friend-mom", I sure as hell know that I don't want them to ever feel nervous or scared to talk to me. About anything.

When I was in the 7th grade, I followed my mom around for a half of a Saturday, watching her cook, watching her scrub toilets, just watching her, waiting and waiting to get up the nerve to ask her if she would take me to get my first bra. It was torture saying those words to my mom.

And I never want my girls to feel that way.  

So as I sit here in my childhood Arizona home and memories of my life flood my brain around every corner, I simply wonder if I can do it.  

I want to be all that my mom was and more.  I want to dare to bring a little friendship into the mother-daughter relationship that defines so much of who we are and who we become.  

I'm just not sure how to do it exactly.

But I swear, I'm gonna find a way.  I want to.


  1. ugh, i hate to use this word, but i think one of the keys is empowerment. giving your kids the feeling that they are making the good decisions for themselves, instead of the "good decisions" being thrust upon them. this may sound controversial, but i think my 15 y.o. may really think that he can have sex or try smoking, if he so chooses, which, in reality... i guess he could. but he can tell you EXACTLY how i feel on the matter because we talk about it a lot (well, not like all the time, but i use everything i can get my hands on to keep a running dialogue). it's never "over my dead body"... it's more like "it's your choice, but here are the consequences. i love you no matter what, but i would hate to see you complicate your future).

    i just make sure i take his feelings and beliefs into consideration, and validate them as actual beliefs instead of "oh, when you get older you'll see you are wrong"... i am big on that, as you know. i felt completely shut down as a kid.

    lord, i sound so wise (major eyeroll), you'd think my kids are actually well adjusted and good.

  2. Way to go, Lee.

    Boy the example about the bra made me really summed up the relationship. Great that she was a good mother, and always there, but so happy for you that you realize what was missing, and want to be different.

    What a sad and wonderful post.


  3. Here's my two cents - you said it with the kids don't need friends, they need parents. However, I think "friendship" within the parenting spectrum can be achieved while they are young can then blossom into a beautiful full blown friendship when the child (boy or girl) becomes an adult. However, when they are children the "friendship" should not reign over the "parent." Of course, I am not really speaking from experience. While my mom and I do just fine, she is still my "mom" and less of a "friend." Does that make sense? A lot of that is based on the fact that we are very different and have very different opinions on what is right, ok and wrong.

    I also agree wholeheartedly with Deb. My mom and dad made it clear what their expectations were but would frequently tell us "whatever decisions you do make, be sure it's one you can live with." And I often tell my kids "That might not be such a good decision" and give them examples of what might happen if they go in that direction.

  4. I have no advice here. The relationship I have with my mother is odd, good, but odd. Let's just say it's a good thing that we live 800 miles apart. We do much better on the phone.

    But you can bet I'm taking notes from these comments!!

    Great post.

  5. Well done my friend. I'm not exactly sure your hope can be achieved. Sorry. By virtue of being a parent, you forego the "friendship." In my opinion, that's what parenting is all about.

    Don't get me wrong, talking to you about sex, drugs and rock and roll can still happen with you as the parent. At least, that's what I think.

  6. I have to agree with Jay(don't tell)- this was sad and wonderful.
    I'm right with you. I think my mom was a good mom, she did amazing things for me, but we aren't friends, much best friends. I want so much more for my son. I think I'm doing it, but only time will tell.
    Love ya, girl - as always

  7. Lee... you CAN strike that balance. You just have to erase any of those preconcieved notions about what a mother is and start thinking. I CAN be a friend and a mother and know how to pull which card and when. You CAN do it I have faith in you!


  8. I hope that you can. I had the best of both worlds, a mom and a friends. Still do and its awesome!

  9. Well said Lee! After the birth of my daughter, those thoughts crossed my mind, and the "lack of whatever" my mother did not give me, contributed to a bout of the post blues! I think it is important to be more than what our mothers gave us, but at the same time draw a clear line! There are just some things I really don't want to know...and I will be giving my daughter my whole heart opinions! I only hope I go about it correctly...o my daily struggle! Hang in there, we will all go through this together....sharing our horror stories of the teenage years. And the feeling of knowing others share the same thoughts will help get us through it! :)

  10. When you find out how to do that - wouldya let me know?

    My mom is my mom. I can say what I want to her - but she is still my mom. When I tell her I love her...she says "thanks".

  11. My mom was also a super mother when I was growing up. But, we weren't great friends-I was way too bratty even though she tried.
    Now, I can't imagine NOT being friends with my mother.
    I, too,plan on finding the mix of both. I just hope I'm not a bratty MOM as well!

  12. What a thought-provoking post. As a woman with only a son, I don't have that kind of mother-daughter relationship to cultivate, although Shortman is very open and honest with me in nearly everything. And nearly? Is okay with me, I think.

    My mother and I became friends when I was in my 30s. I think that's the right time to become "friends" rather than mother/daughter, teacher/student.

  13. Wow...this post makes me cry my eyes out, because I spend every day with guilt pangs about how much my mom gets under my skin.

    Excellent post.

  14. Yes, Lee, it sounds like I'm pimping my own post, and I suppose I am...but to help you out, check out my April 14. THAT is how you strike the balance. Give her a call; she'll fill you in.

    And my mother always said to me, "You should not be having sex before marriage. But, if you decide that it is something you are going to choose to do, for G-d's sake tell me. I'll make you feel as guilty as hell, and then we'll go to the doctor for the pill." That worked for me!

  15. mothers and daughters - that most complex of relationships! you can be close, but you can't ever be there friend! it's just the way it is. there is still a lifetime of fun and wonderful memories to be had though

  16. I have a pretty good relationship with my Mom...but I'm pretty easy going. I worry about how Miss Peach and I will be as she gets older. I think it's the teenage years that scare me:O

  17. what a great post. being able to tell your mom anything is a wonderful thing-your girls will appreciate it even more when they are grown. my mom and i have always been like that.... good lord she sent me condom coupons in college- but all my roommates wished their moms were that cool :)

  18. Mom is definitely not my friend. Most of the time we just push each others buttons. But, having a Baby Gurl of my own, I only pray that I can nurture a careful balance between mom and almost-friend.

  19. I feel like I can tell my mom anything, now. Through my teenage years not so much. Somewhere along the way my mom became one of my closest friends but I don't think it really fully happened until after I was married. There is something about those teenage years that even when you know the decision you are making is the the best one you still go for it and it was easier for me to not go down that long road with my parents.

  20. I love this post.

    It IS a really tricky balance. But I think you have a really good start with what you wrote about another time. That sense of belonging. (I loved that post too.)

    I had (have) a similar relationship with my mom and sometimes I grieve the fact that we don't have a friendship of any sort.

    In short, I just really, really want my kiddos to be able to talk to me. I had the same experience with the bra thing. It just shouldn't be that way.

    I get you :)

  21. This is great!! So well siad.

    The first words out of my mouth when they told me "It's a girl!" were "Oh, $%it" for all of these reasons and more. But, I've found a place to be with both of my girls and also believe it can grow into a friendship someday. Once they don't need me to remind them to hold the glass with two hands...


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