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Dear Daughter: I'm Not Your Friend, Yet

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Daughter,

It was easy not being your friend during the toddler years. If I had let you eat or play with whatever you wanted, you might have died. Instead, I did my best to provide the routine and structure you craved because I love you and your sister more than anything.

But it was easy to not be your friend. Sometimes you were a real asshole. I don’t think you meant to be, but you were. Things always worked out between us because I loved you unconditionally and you depended on me to survive. After a tantrum or two, you realized I wasn’t going to let you live your version of your best life. So, we went along as mom and daughter for a few years.

You started making friends when you were 3. Not just playing beside some kid for a minute before whacking her in the head with a Lego Duplo—real friends. Friends who you were excited to see every morning and used your growing vocabulary to talk about with me. Still, I was not your friend.

As much as I loved your toddler and pre-k years, we didn’t exactly have the same interests. I wanted to punt Caillou to the North Pole. Seriously, that little shit has problems. But sometime around first grade, your favorite things became a clone of mine. I started to really like you.

I love you, of course. But we started to actually enjoy doing the same things together. If you were a woman in your mid-30s, we'd have a standing dinner date where we order double dessert, talk about the books we're reading and the places we've traveled, and complain about sports. You’re 8, so the best we get is a Harry Potter convo over cake pops. But I see where we could be in 10 or 15 years. That is, if you don’t hate my guts by then.

Because we're so similar, I’ve noticed a few traits in you that I've tried really hard to correct in myself. I’m not going to straight out list them, just know I see them, and they 100 percent dripped from my gene pool. (I know, you’re your own person and I'm probably ruining you for life, but ... moving on.)

Sometimes it’s hard not being your friend. When you ask for that second slice of cake, I’m thinking, "Of course. It’s chocolate!"

We're not friends, at least not yet. As your mom, it’s my job to help you become a better person by correcting some of the crap you come by naturally from me. I know it will make your life easier if you can learn from years of my mistakes. I know you’ll screw up sometimes regardless of what I say. I’m not trying to shelter you or hover too much. It took me decades to get to this slightly less flawed version of my not-yet-best self. I hope by being your mom and not your friend, I can point out where you might fall off the rails until you’re experienced enough to see it yourself.

I know it’s necessary, but believe me, sometimes it’s hard not being your friend. When you ask for that second slice of cake, I’m thinking, "Of course. It’s chocolate!" But I tell you no, even though we’re both disappointed. When you ask me to read one more chapter before bed, I have to stop because if we get any closer to the end, we’ll be up until midnight finishing the book. Then we’ll be nasty and mean to everyone around us the next day. And when you make fun of your dad’s touchdown dance, I have to remind you to be respectful, even though I’m so there with you and impressed with your snark skills.

I know sometimes it may seem like I’m harder on you than your little sister. OK, I’m harder on you than your sister. She’s basically the kindergarten version of your dad. I love both your sister and dad beyond reason, despite their stubbornness and inability to listen. And your dad's football obsession, let’s not forget that. I guess I’ve been overlooking his flaws for a couple decades, so it’s easier to overlook hers. Sorry about that. If it helps, he’s way harder on her than he is on you. We talk about it when you two aren’t around, of course. I’ve decided that between us, you and your sister might get a half decent parent, just not the same one.

I hope one day you’ll understand why I wasn't your friend when you were growing up. I hope you’ll find it in that kind soul—the one that is all your own because it sure as shit didn’t come from either of your parents—to forgive me. I promise we can eat chocolate for dinner anytime.

All my love,


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