I don’t remember if she ever said the actual words to me (though I suspect she did) but I grew up knowing full well that my mom was not my friend. I had friends whose moms were their friends–and I was always jealous. They would share late night talks and gossip and secrets–sometimes from an oblivious father. Those moms were known to look the other way on lots of things, curfew and alcohol and teenage sex included.
Not my mom. If I was to partake in those sorts of things–and believe me when I tell you I did–I would have to do so without her camaraderie.
My mom was not my friend. And now–given the perspective of a mom to four–I know why.
I told my oldest daughter early on that I was not her friend, but that I was her mother and that I would act accordingly. I didn’t know until years later that she so terribly misunderstood me. She took that statement and made it out to be a declaration of the most unthinkable kind: I don’t really like you, but since I’m stuck with you this is how it’s going to be.
Oh, dearest one. Sweet babe of my womb, most cherished gift from above. My precious daughter. That is not it at all. Here is what I meant:
I won’t laugh at your potty talk or the noises you create to mimic farting. I will remind you of your manners when you interrupt adult conversation. I will point you towards the time out chair when you roll your eyes or talk sass or slam a door. I’ve earned your respect and I will insist upon it.
Don’t expect me to sit on your bed and chew bubble gum and gaze longingly at the Justin Beiber posters you have tacked up on your bedroom wall. If you come to me and complain that Caitlyn is trying to steal all of your friends, know that my response is going to come from a place of resolution. I have no interest in gossiping about Caitlyn, but I would like to try to get to the bottom of what is causing her to behave that way. If hurt or loneliness is at the root of Caitlyn’s behavior, I’m going to encourage you to repay her with kindness, whether that is what you want to hear or not.
I have your best interests at heart.
That’s why I remind you to study and get a good night of sleep before a test. That’s why I lecture you about participating in after school clubs and sports–so that you won’t limit the scholarship opportunities you don’t yet know you want.
Care for yourself.
When I ban soda and Jolly Ranchers I do so because I worked so hard to grow you and now it’s your turn to grow yourself. Tomatoes and whole grains and cabbage are mandatory not because they taste good, necessarily, but because of their lycopenes, and fiber and cruciferous-ness.
I won’t keep secrets from your father.
Whether he and I live under the same roof or not, know that I am not your secret keeper. If there is a question about your health or well-being or behavior–if there is concern as to who you are becoming, I will take it to anyone and everyone who I believe will help me help you.
Expect only conditional privacy.
I am not above reading your texts or your letters or even your journal if I have cause to be concerned. If I suspect you are sexting or sniffing or smoking or worse I will go to whatever means are necessary to put you on a path back to wholeness.
Brace yourself for the truth.
If you haven’t already, you will soon discover that some of your very best “friends” don’t have your best interests at heart. Your friends–at one point or another–will tell you an outfit is cute when it isn’t, a boy is “hot” when really he’s a total jerk, or that your car will probably make it to the gas station after you give her a ride home. Don’t expect well-intentioned little lies from me. Expect more. Expect that I’m going to tell you the truth in the most gentle way I can because a) somebody has to and b) it will make you a better you.
I’m on your team. Always.
One friend’s secret feelings for a boy might lead her to tell him untruths about you. Another friend’s desire to win a yearbook superlative might lead her to conspire against you. Still another friend’s insecurity might lead her to gossip about you to get an in with a popular group. Know this: I am not one of those friends. I’m your mom. When my words or my actions are not the words or actions you want to hear know that there is a reason for them. My job is to build your confidence and your character and your faith and I’m trying in every way I know how to do that.
My limits are there because while the boys in your class haven’t recognized it yet, you are more than a nice set of legs or eyes or otherwise. You are a young woman defined by so much more than a cup size or number on a scale. You are valued. You are worthy. You are treasured. And you need to know it.
I care more about your eternal soul than your present circumstances.
That is why I will text you relevant Scripture and pray for things like the goodness of your future spouse and your budding faith. That is why I will insist that your first job not interfere with church on Sunday mornings or small group on Wednesday nights. It’s why when you walk out the door for your first date I will whisper a reminder: you are called to be a virtuous young woman, clothed in strength and honor, speaking wisdom and fearing the Lord. I expect that you will roll your eyes at these fundamental truths and I’m okay with that because I also expect that these truths will seep into your soul and someday The Truth about who you are will torpedo to the surface like a lifebuoy when most you need it.
I’m not your friend; I’m your mom.
I expect a lot of you because I know you can rise to most any occasion. I’m going to push you to do more when you want to give up because I know how accomplished you’ll feel in the end.
I’m going to be there when you fall. I’m going to love you when you feel unlovable. I’m going to believe in you when even you don’t believe in yourself.
You and I will never grow apart the way you and your high school BFF are bound to do. Until I take my very last breath I will be thinking about you and praying for you and loving you with every beat of my weary heart. Even when I’m busy making dinner and I can’t give full attention to the funny thing that happened in your Spanish class. Even when I’m so wrapped up in your sister’s needs that it doesn’t feel like I’m being sensitive to yours. Even when you’re grown and gone and we don’t see each other every day. Even when you are so busy raising your own kids that you can’t take my phone call. Even when I’m wrinkled and gray and lost in dementia or Alzheimer’s and you think I’m so far gone that I’ve forgotten. Dear child, even then–especially then–know that you will never be lost to me. Trapped within a failing body, I may not have the words to express it or the smile to prove it or the eyes in which to see it, but know that you are rooted so deeply in my soul that I will always find my way to you.
I am not your friend.
I am your mother. And I will never let you go. Not ever. I will never let time or distance make strangers of us. I will never forget your birthday or your phone number or the first time you called me mama.
I am not your friend.
I am honored to be, thankful to be , always will be your mom.