I have told my daughter on more than one occasion that I am not her friend. She doesn’t need to think that I’m cool. We don’t have to like the same movies, music, or celebrities. I am not afraid to risk embarrassing her by singing along to Wham! in public. I don’t need her to agree with how I wear my hair, even if I do love it when she gives me a compliment.
The problem is, I spend more time with her than I do anyone else. When we go on road trips, we sing along to the music on the radio—I can’t help that I know the lyrics to every pop song we hear, the same ones are played constantly. She’s the one who gets me sucked into bad reality television, adding it to our list of things we must watch together. I know about all of the kids in her grade, both the ones that are her friends and those that are not. She constantly asks me questions about my life—from details about my friends growing up to why I decided to travel to Turkey—anything she finds herself suddenly wondering about. I don’t answer all of them, some I do with the abridged version, others I give so many details that I catch her zoning out midway through my answer.
On the surface, it may look like my daughter and I are friends. However, we are not. I am her mother. My job is to love her, to help guide her, to teach her, and to give her the tools to navigate her life. I am not obligated to tell her everything that goes on in my life, nor would I want to burden her with the worries that sometimes keep me up at night.
I know that a time will come when she’ll no longer want to hear my opinion on anything, she will be mortified at the thought of singing along with me in the car, and she will prefer to watch television alone in her room rather than with me.
As much as this rejection will hurt me, I will never be hurt so badly that I give up on her.
I will continue to share my opinions with her. I will be interested in all of the things she cares about—the subjects she is interested in, the music she listens to, the movies she loves, the friends that have stood by her and those that have not. I will share with her my hopes for her future, and I will never judge her if she chooses a path that is different than the one I envisioned her walking. I will remind her of the strong, independent person she is when she begins to doubt her own abilities. I will give her strength when she needs it.
I will talk to her.
I will be her mother.
When the teen years pass, I hope to find that we have come out on the other side stronger for having gone through them. For now, however, I will enjoy the time I have with her while she is still eleven.
I wish my advice to my daughter could be to always ask me questions, to never keep me in the dark about her worries and fears—to stay exactly how she is now. Of course, I know that can never be. My advice, instead, is for her to once-in-a-while look back on these words I used to describe my job as her mother, and to know that I will always be her biggest supporter—and I look forward to the day that she does become my friend.