I Don't Want to Be My Daughter's Best Friend

“Come on, let’s do this!” I heard one of my dearest friends squeal. She then proceeded to ever so carefully climb out onto a rock formation hundreds of feet above the Rio Grande. I suddenly wondered if my friend of over 35 years was experiencing mid-life crisis and was teetering on the brink of insanity. But then suddenly I was right behind her, mentally making sure that my last will and testimony was squared away, that my husband knew I loved him, and that I’d asked God one last time to forgive me for all those dumb things I’d done over the years.

But then nothing happened but laughter and speechlessness over the amazing view that lay before us. And once we gained stable footing, I couldn’t help but reflect on things a little deeper. Perhaps our brave feat in some way stood for something much greater: that two 50 year-old women were slowly triumphing over fears, body insecurities, heartache and even physical pain. We were finally getting it. We later decided we’d remind one another of this day the next time we faced a great challenge. Thank God for best friends who not only love us through hard times, but push us to be our best selves and cheer us on even when are knees are knocking or we’re pressing through pain. As a sufferer of RSD, I’m thankful for friends who understand my silence when I hurt and celebrate with me when I don’t.

As I contemplated my next blog post that evening, I couldn’t help but wonder if my reaction would have been the same, had it been one of my daughters who’d urged me to climb onto that rock formation.

I seriously doubt it.

I would have snapped into Mom mode, pleading, “Don’t you dare climb out there, young lady. The soles of your shoes are slick and you’re gonna fall and get killed! Please, stop!” Yes, I’d be in momma bear mode all the way, doing anything required to protect my little cub. There would be no desire for deep self-reflection. I knew, as I did years ago, that my goal is not to be my daughter’s best friend.

My job is to protect my daughters as much as possible, to be their parent, their provider, and to know when to pull away and allow them to fly on their own. It’s to set boundaries, enforce them, and to garner respect regardless of their ages. Once that line is crossed, it’s very difficult to get back to the other side. How confusing it is to a daughter or son for a mom to vacillate back and forth between a parent and best friend.

No, my role is not to be their BFF, to hear their secrets, to tell them what they want to hear, and to be their source of socialization as a young adult. My daughters have best friends already. Most are from either high school days or college and, thank God, all seem to have their head on straight. Just as my best friends have helped carry me through dark times, I’m thankful that my children have nurturing friends, including kind boyfriends, who are there for them in supportive ways as well.

As a parent, it’s very important that I be available, open-minded, and non-judgemental. Easier said than done, right? But that attitude encourages our kids to come and discuss issues and problems with us. We do have a few more life experiences, after all, than their friends which are their own age. But we don’t have to remind them of that. Oh but it’s sooo hard, I know! OUR job is to affirm their value and meet their needs. We shouldn’t dare expect our children to act as our therapists. Go find a counselor or a friend if you need to discuss your problems. Don’t put that on your daughter or son’s plate, especially in a world that is already stressful enough. Be a source of joy for your child.

Nothing delights me more than to sit on the patio with my daughters and watch them bring up a topic that makes them light up from within. Whether it’s hearing about a research project from Channing, or learning more about the complexities of gum disease from Kaitlin (I was clearly told why I need to floss, for goodness sake!) I am more than willing to listen, learn and love what they love.

Okay, confession time: Initially, when my kids were young adults, I’ll admit that I fell into that dreaded social media trap that perhaps has snared a few of you also: comparing our mother-daughter lives to others.That type of poisonous thinking lasted about ten seconds, as thankfully I was jerked back into reality. Dear friends, I enjoy connecting on social media with friends as much as anyone, but don’t allow your mind to get fixated on a blue screen with thumbs ups and downs. I’ve been there.

Just when I was about to question why I wasn’t my kid’s BFF, my husband reminded me that I’d raised my children to be independent thinkers, heck, independent livers who love meeting new people. I’d tried to make sure they understood that the best way to grow as a person is to be willing to be exposed to new ways of thought and pull the positives from those experiences. And with that, yes, comes growing pains, but also wisdom. If they did nothing but hang out with their mother, they’d naturally only see someone who couldn’t help but be subjective, think almost everything they did was beyond awesome, and do anything necessary to shield them from harm. After all, we love our kids unconditionally.

But we also owe it to them to be honest. I’ve seen parents drown their children in so many accolades that once their kid finally gets out on their own, they almost fall apart at the first word of criticism from others. It’s cruel and unusual punishment to lock our children in such a pretend world. Consequently, psychologists state that when parents create such a false world of security for children, it’s quite predictable that the only people they’re likely to cling to and furthermore, trust, is their immediate family. Readers, that’s simply heartbreaking…and lonely.

But whoever said that being a parent is easy.

Just as venturing out on to that that rock ridge was a balancing act, so is being a mother. We tread a fine line on being a cheerful, good friend and a parent who’s a teacher and protector. It’s a tough act that’s not for the faint of heart. Instead of holding a long horizontal pole like all of the high wire circus acts, I found it’s imperative that I cling to something far more reliable: God’s Word. Whether I’m reading Ephesians, Proverbs, or Romans (to remind myself that God still loves me when I royally mess up), I have an instruction manual on how to raise my daughters. Have I had my share of parental struggles? Absolutely. Do I still keep trying ? That’s a no brainer. Thankfully, as Paul states, God grants us a beautiful thing called grace. And because my children and I are well aware of that fact, we know we must grant one another the same.

A friend told me of a refrigerator magnet he saw recently: “We Have Only One Savior and You’re Not It.” No true words. Instead of trying to control the uncontrollable, be everything to everyone, and beat ourselves up because we’re not in some pretend relationship as we’ve seen on social media, let’s get real –with our children and ourselves. Allow your sons and daughters to meet new friends, work on their career goals, and focus on their own significant relationships. Allow them to breathe and to grow. And yes, that may occasionally require some tough love. But that’s what parents, not best friends, must do on occasion. When they come home for the holidays, learn to soak in the details of their life, be a parent who is 100% vested in their life.

If you’re an empty nester, use this time to focus on your marriage as well as your cherished friendships. It’s such a blessing to have friends that love you unconditionally. Let them know how much that means to you. Explore what the words “best friend” really means. Set goals together, pray for one another, take a class together, laugh hysterically over memories, and giggle about your plans for the future. Don’t look back, look around you. And oh yeah, no matter where you are in life—enjoy the view.