“I’m not your friend, I’m your mom.”
Growing up there were a series of statements that I vehemently vowed not to repeat to my children after hearing them from the lips of my now deceased Mom. (I smile as I type this. Not because I’m a heartless lunatic who writes about “deceased” moms on Mother’s Day, but because I can imagine my Mom reading this, calling me and saying, “I think you’re exaggerating. I don’t remember any of this.” Then she’d laugh. And I’d smile. Because of all of that? Water under the bridge.)
At the time, though? That “not your friend, I’m your mom” statement was inflammatory.
Unlike this cute picture of my family that looks perfect. (Remember, friends. Looks are always deceiving. As in instagram.)
May the record duly state that I plan on also pleading the fifth when Lila is 39 and recounting my parenting fails and my over-used mom declarations.
“Mom, you told us all the time that we ‘weren’t your friends’… we get it.”
Then I’ll respond, “I don’t even remember what you’re talking about, daughter. I’m afraid you have me confused with a TV show.”
I’ll keep my story consistent and use a similar denial when Vivi is a stand-up comic and I’m the butt of her jokes. I’ll sit in the back of the dark, hazy club, sipping hot tea and saying, “You believe her? Come on. She just needed material for her act…”
The truth of the matter is that these parenting statements pack quite a punch. There’s some deeper meaning there.
Let’s unpack this one, shall we?
I’m not your friend, I’m your Mom.
Just today I asked one of my daughters to do something simple. An easy task.
She didn’t do it.
I waited a few minutes longer. STILL, nothing.
Finally I stood up (it’s arguable that I should have stood up earlier, but I wanted to finish a chapter on my kindle) and I walked over to her. She saw me and hurried to do the thing that I had requested.
Then, it started.
“You don’t respect me.” (That’s her, not me saying that.)
“Well, you don’t respect me.” (There you go, that’s me.)
The discussion escalated, as they’re inclined to do when you’re raising independent ladies, and there were tears.
“Why are you so mean?” (That was her.)
“Sweet girl,” I said, as I sat across from her. “I’m sorry to say this, but I’m not your friend. I am your mother. I have plenty of friends. You have plenty of friends. You and I, we are not friends…”
By this point, she’s shocked. Appalled maybe even. She’s as offended as an almost-ten-year-old child can be and I’m getting the, “WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU?!” look.
And I go on. (Because I talk a lot.)
“…I am the parent. You are the child. Your job is to respect me and my rules, and my job is to love you more intensely than anyone you will ever know.”
“You don’t WANT me as a friend, but you do what me as your Mom. Why? Friends will come and go, you’ll have arguments with them and you’ll grow with them and apart from them. Your friends will move away and another one won’t invite you to a birthday party, but I am here FOREVER.”
I will love you and support you and be your biggest cheerleader until I take my last breath.
I will make sure you eat your vegetables and that you body, heart and soul are cared for. I will buy your shampoo and I will teach you the importance of journaling and self-care. I will ENSURE that you greet our family and friends when you see them, respectfully giving them eye contact.
I will teach you to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. And I will ensure that you make your bed every day but Friday.
I will REMIND you that you can do the things that TERRIFY you because I BELIEVE in you and I know you can do them. I will stay up late rocking you, holding you, rubbing your back and talking with you because this is what Moms do.
I will affirm to you the importance of cleaning up after yourself, being kind and courteous to everyone (because everybody matters) and why you MUST hang up a wet towel after a day at the beach.
I will encourage you to read and work and make your own food. I will never turn your clothes right-side-out if you put them in the laundry inside-out because that, my friend, is all you. I will teach you responsibility and remind you that something good comes from everything.
As your non-friend, I have expectations for you that you will sometimes feel stifling. But that’s my job, to prepare you for life and the real world. There are rewards and there are consequences and my parenting style doesn’t give away “participation” ribbons. You win some, you lose some. Get up, brush yourself off and get at it again.
As your Mom, and not your friend, I will remind you that you come from a line of strong women who can handle anything. You are built of tough stuff, which is good, because tough times await. You’ve got this. Oh, Lila and Vivi, you’ve got this.
“Kylee, I’m your mom. I’m not your friend.”
When she’d say that to me, I thought she was just… mean.
Today, I see that she was more than a friend. She was my rock and my foundation, my refuge and my cheerleader, my go-to and my co-conspirator. My boss and my coach. Toward the end, our roles shifted — they almost reversed, but what never changed was her love for me. It endured.
My love for Lila and Vivi? It endures.
And I would imagine that a few decades from now they’ll understand the depth of my love, in the same way that I understand and respect the depth of Shirl’s.
Until, then, I’m pretty sure I’ll be saying the ‘ole, “I’m your mother, not your friend” line at least quarterly.
I’m holding space for all of you today. For those of us who are celebrating Mother’s Day and those of us who can’t bear to. For those who have loved and lost. I see you. I see you.