The more my daughter becomes a person and I see her as a human to interact with instead of just a baby to snuggle and feed, the more terrified I grow about this person I have to keep – a person who has thoughts and opinions all her own, a person I can’t trick into helping me clean up with songs and hand-clapping, a person who will be able to tell me exactly what she does and definitely does not want. What if we don’t get along? What if she hates me? What if I ruin her life? It’s bound to happen since I will absolutely be a regular mom (and not a cool mom).
I’ve listened to my students talk about their mothers – mothers who hang out with them, mothers who don’t give them rules or curfews, mothers who they talk to as though they’re peers (“Shut up! Don’t be a bitch!”), mothers who are cool, mothers who are their best friends. I’ve seen mothers who are their daughter’s friends and I’m not that mom.
It seems a bit presumptuous to say, since my daughter isn’t even two, but I feel confident saying that she is not, nor will she ever be, my best friend.
I have a best friend. I text, call, snap, and Facetime her constantly. I visit her whenever I’m able. I discuss intimate details about my marriage with her. I whine about stupid things like my bald spot and dry skin. I share my insecurities and fears. I tell her disgusting details about myself. I ask her for advice. I call her crying. I obsessively chatter about books and TV shows with her . I am vulnerable with her in more ways than I care to admit to anyone but her. I tell her things I don’t even tell my husband and I tell my husband nearly everything.
I can do this because she and I – we’re the same. We’ve experienced many of the same things – marriage, teaching, motherhood, fangirl life. And we’ve done it together. We’ve bolstered each other during difficult times. We’ve gotten drunk on multiple bottles of champagne and recorded ourselves giving advice to our future YouTube followers. We’ve kept each other’s secrets. We’ve pushed each other to succeed and celebrated each other’s victories.
I always want to be close with Zoey. I hope she and I have the kind of relationship I have with my own mom. I hope we always trust and respect one another. I hope that she comes to me when she needs advice, when she’s afraid, when she’s hurt. I hope she is confident enough in our relationship that she knows she can share things with me, that we can be honest with one another, that she knows I’ll always love and support her. But I have no intention of asking her advice about how to talk to her dad when we fight or debating with her whether or not the sex thing I read about will really make his head spin faster than Linda Blair’s.
Because she’s not my friend, she’s my daughter.
I grew her. I birthed her. I fed her. I love her more than I love myself. In a lot of ways, although she is completely her own person, she is also an extension of me. I feel all of the things she does in all of the clichéd ways mother do. She belongs to me in a way that no one else can – not a husband or a parent or even a best friend.
I was writing when she started crying, not twenty minutes after I laid her down. It was the first moment I’d had to sit and do something for myself all day so I immediately thought, “You have to be kidding me. Go back to sleep, kid! I just want five minutes for me.” When she didn’t stop crying, I sighed, slightly annoyed, but pushed open her door and picked her up out of her crib. We sat on the glider, her face on my chest, mine in her hair, both of us quiet for a minute. Then she pulled back and looked at me. “Hi, Momma! Nose!” She touched my nose, then hers. I laughed.
“Song,” she demanded. I started to sing. She rejected that song and then the next four with a quick “no” and a vigorous shake of her head, but I kept singing until my magical voice lulled her back to sleep. I could have put her down then, but I kept rocking and singing a love song just for her.
The truth is even when she’s grown and has daughters of her own, even when she’s old enough to get it, I may still decide not to share all of my secrets or doubts or thoughts with her. But we will always share this moment – the two of us rocking together and singing our love song.
Because she’s not my best friend, she’s my daughter.