I recently read a piece in New York Magazine about a mother and her teenage daughter who are best friends. I'm betwixt and between. They're not out partying or getting matching tattoos. Both seem well-adjusted enough. But common wisdom says this that being best friends with your kid is not a good idea.
Best friends is not the relationship I'm necessarily bucking for with my own daughter. I'm mostly concerned with how she'll turn out. So, I want our relationship to be whatever will have the best effect on her. Still, my just turned thirteen-year-old and I are pretty good friends. Yes, she still replies with irritation whenever I ask her to do a household chore and, yes, she still was incredibly concerned about what I wore to her birthday party. And, yes, her hands are going to have to be surgically removed from her iPhone at some point.
All that aside, we're pretty darn close.
She likes to snuggle with me at night in the big chair-and-a-half in the living room when we watch TV. She likes to share something whenever we go out to eat. We go to the theater together all of the time. And she's become a shockingly good travel companion. Over Spring Break this year, I took her for her first visit to New York City.
We stayed at the historic, modestly-priced Wolcott Hotel and the brand-new, super hip Hotel Lola. I wanted to give her a taste of both sides and styles. Hotel Lola was much more her speed, for sure. And, admittedly, mine too. I actually got a kick out of how tickled she was by the swanky lobby and groovy furniture. She generally likes what I like and I like that she likes what I like. But that doesn't best friends make.
And I actually really enjoy being with her. Not something I expected, since my mom and I did not get along at all starting from about age eleven. I thought everything about her was outdated; her clothes, her hair, the way she talked. I found her boring and was convinced there was no way she understood me. She wouldn't let me do all of the things my friends were doing.
But I came out pretty good. So, does that mean it was good that we had that sort of relationship?
I don't think so. Not necessarily, any way. I'm going to venture to say that an adversarial relationship is certainly not necessary. My girlfriend is incredibly close to her mother and always has been, through teenage years and all. They both would describe themselves as being best friends. Perhaps this isn't about either/or. Perhaps, like everything else, it's all about balance.
I was amazed at how easy and agreeable my daughter was in New York. Happy to do nearly anything I suggested. (Although she thought the film Pina was boring. Guess I reached a little too far on that one.) But mostly we wanted to do the same things, eating pizza, shopping on 5th Avenue, seeing a Broadway show. It wasn't as if I was chaperoning her. We were traveling together. And it was pretty great.
Still, I'm nervous for some reason, and I can't quite put my finger on why. Perhaps simply because it is so very different from my own experience. But that can be said about a lot of things in my life. I guess the bottom line for me is that it's hard to learn that the discomfort of experiencing something new is not necessarily an indication that something is out of whack.
Regardless, I feel really lucky. She likes being with me. I mean, she actually likes being with me. And it's not that she's clingy or shy or socially inept. She has lots of friends and spends half of her time at the neighbor's house where her best friend lives. Still, she actually enjoys my company as much as I enjoy hers.
As we flew back to Dallas, my daughter asleep against my shoulder, I thought about what a great trip it was and how easy it was to be with her. I couldn't keep but consider whether a teenage girl really needs to pull away from her mom in order to successfully go through all of the necessary developmental stages. Maybe that's a load of bunk. Maybe it all depends on the parent and the kid.
I've always done parenting by feel. I know what I didn't like as a kid. I know what I like that other people do. I know the kids and parents I like and the kind of relationships that they have. So, honestly, I'm just doing my best. And, in the end, I think that's all any of us can really do. So, I'm just going to enjoy it for now and hope for the best.
One thing I can guarantee you, even if we are besties, is that there will be no sleepovers with boys or underage drinking on my watch. Ever. I have no illusions about my ultimate role. If I can maintain that and our current relationship, I'm all for it. But don't mistake my warm fuzzies here to mean that I don't know who's the boss.
All I know now is this -- we're in a groove. So for now, I have no intention of messing with it.