Friends and Mothers

Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

My daughter needs more girl time. She needs someone to play with her hair and try on makeup. She needs someone to listen to her non-stop (seriously, it never stops) discussion about all things. She needs a partner for secret handshakes and jump rope rhymes. She needs, she needs, she needs.

She needs so much for so long that I run out of time and patience and inclination long before her need runs dry. When I have to bow out of our game or dress-up session to make dinner or call the vet or have a moment of silence, she is angry and sad and accuses me of ignoring her. I feel bad when she says this and when I am feeling soggy in my mothering self-esteem, I wonder if I could be doing more. When I am thinking more clearly, though, I realize I can never do enough. Tough as it may be sometimes, I am her parent. I am not her BFF.

Luckily, my daughter has a bunch of friends her own age and even more luckily, a bunch of friends my age. (Truthfully, they were my friends first, but I am ever so happy to share.) These friends are special in that they are willing to treat my daughter as a peer. These friends inquire about her latest artwork, give her ballet recital the serious attention it deserves and engage in endless speculations about the value of sparkly eyeshadow.

My daughter is able to share things with these friends that she cannot or does not share with me and while sometimes I wish I were the recipient of these whispered confidences, I realize I cannot be her everything all the time. We both need to spread all our energy around.

These friends can drop in to scooter up and down the driveway next to my daughter or cheerfuly wonder, “do you ever stop talking?” and get a laugh not a tantrum. These friends bring wonderful presents like the 1975 Butterick Pattern catalogue or the box of feathers and popsicle sticks or the bag of shiny rocks. These friends attend the funerals of bugs with great solemnity. They listen and they laugh and they give my daughter a place in the world.

I cannot be her best friend. I have to be her mother. As a mother, sometimes I will not be any fun. It can’t be helped. Those are the rules. Thank heavens, then, for these friends.

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