Friday, December 13, 2013

The Line Between Being Your Child's Parent and Your Child's Friend

Sitting in tight quarters at Panera this morning, I overhear a mother reprimanding her teen daughter. Stoic the daughter just sits and listens. Suddenly the conversation shifts and they're comfortably talking about boys, dating, classmates driving and "Man Crush Mondays" (#MCM). 

Her teen is all giddy every time the chat comes back to boys. My eavesdropping goes into overload. I appreciate the mom's candor and her ability to sound like this kid's mother and her friend. After a twenty minute chat suddenly they're each buried in their smart phones.  

Just then I think... what the hell? Why aren't they talking about barbies and play-dates? Is this me in about 13 years! Why do our daughters have to grow up so fast? Why must they suddenly give a hoot about boys and flirting with them through the clever use of hashtags? Ugh! And still I get it. This teen was me 15 years ago.

Interestingly, when this mother daughter pair first sat next to me, I somehow was able to drift out of their loud discussion as the mother was first reprimanding her daughter. It was almost as if my mind was able to phase out the more socially acceptable standard of parent correcting child. However, when the dynamic changed and these two complete strangers (to me) sounded more like teen BFFs, my mind went into a state of dissonance. How is it that they can speak so candidly about boys, girl spats and high school gossip without skipping a beat? 

I'll be honest, maybe I can't comprehend this dynamic because my mother had absolutely zero interest in ever being my friend. She was my mother; a loving but very typical Mexican mother. I got the periodic spanking, the usual scolding and always heard about how I didn't understand her, or anything for that matter, because I wasn't a mother yet. Lecture after lecture revolved around me not being a mother. As a teen and even young adult, I was still just a child to her and she was the parent. Finally now, into my early thirties, it's beginning to feel as if my mother considers me a like-minded peer. I suppose I had to have multiple kids and earn those motherly stripes to finally relate to my mother. I can be more candid with her. We can laugh like friends do. Somewhere in the last couple of years I became a friend, but only until I turned into her. We relate as mothers and growing up we just couldn't exist as friends.

Looking back I think my childhood, though far from perfect, panned out. My mother succeeded in spite of a challenging marriage and plenty of struggles. My five siblings and I somehow turned out okay. We didn't need our mother to be our friend. However, I know in my heart I will be different. Thirteen years from now, I want my now three year old to share her life with me. I want to relate and I want to validate whatever teen angst she may or may not feel. 

But where the hell's the balance? And how does a mother who didn't grow up in a mother/daughter/friend atmosphere learn to create one? How do we manage the line between between parent and friend?


Mothers of teen daughters, please chime in by commenting below. 
We seriously want to know what you think on this topic of being your child's parent, friend or both?  

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