I am your parent and your friend

How many times have we heard the phrase, “I’m your parent, not your friend.” Or, “Your children don’t need another friend, they need a parent.” I despise those phrases. In fact, for several reasons, I think those phrases are very problematic in parenting.

First of all, everyone needs a friend, a friend who is wise and can provide good advice from a place of understanding, a friend who can listen and be trusted. A parent can be that friend. How often do kids change friends? A parent is an unconditional friend, a friend who always has their child’s best interests at heart. A parents friendship lasts a lifetime. A parents friendship can be one of the most meaningful relationships in a child’s life.

So why are there people out there who treat this like it’s such a bad thing? Why are there those parents who proudly state, “I am not their best friend, I am their parent. If they tell me at least once that they hate me, then I’m doing my job.” That is a terrible thing to say! It’s is such a skewed vision of parenthood, and even friendship for that matter.

There is a verse in the Bible that my mother used to quote to me, it says, Parents, do not provoke your children to anger. So success as a parent is not making my child so angry that they feel as if they hate me – even if it is for saying no. Success as a parent when a child feels respected, valued, understood and is able to comfortably share things with their parent the same way they would with a friend.

I think the idea of a parent being a friend to a child is very misunderstood. Being friends with a child does not mean a parent has to be Regina’s George’s mother and bring in condoms on a tray and take pictures of her daughter dressed up as a playboy bunny. That’s not even a friend by my definition.

There are different aspects in a true friendship. There is the fun part, like when girlfriends get their nails done together, or take trips to the beach. There is the trust and confidence when friends share deep personal things that are going on in their lives. There is trust, when friends keep each others secrets and are loyal to each other. There is support, like when a friend is going through a break up and needs to hear an, I’m here for you, rather than an I told you so. It’s the same between parents and children.

I can build a relationship as well as a friendship with my daughters from day one. While my girls are little I can respond to their cries with empathy to build trust. When they mess up, I can help them problem solve instead of punishing or shaming them. I can delight in the things that interest my girls – right now that means watching every single tinker bell movie on repeat and letting Laila cook with me every night. When they are older I can take them shopping, to the movies, for pedicures. There are so many things that I do with my adult friends that I can also do with my girls as they grow.

More importantly, I really believe that treating our children as friends can prompt us to treat them better.

Last night my daughter was whining constantly, and whining is like my Achilles heel- I can’t stand it. That is nails on a chalkboard for me. I opened my mouth to beg her to just stop for one minute when I stopped and reminded myself that she wasn’t whining for the sole purpose of getting on my nerves, and she certainly wasn’t whining for no reason at all. Instead of whining myself I recognized that Laila just needed my attention for a minute and I got down on my knees and kissed her forehead. Her reaction? She wrapped her little arms around my neck and gave me a huge kiss. “I luh you mama” she said as she hugged me even tighter. All she had wanted was a hug.

I rocked her in my arms and thought to myself how thankful I was to have a such a sweet daughter. I thought about how fast she’s growing and I how I hope that once she’s older she’ll be my best friend.

That’s when I realized, she already is my best friend, all shrunk down. It’s important that I respond kindly when she whines or cries. I have to treat her like a friend now if I want her friendship later. Just because she is my daughter doesn’t mean I can be impatient with her now and expect her to be close with me later. Every time I respond to her I have to remind myself, if I treated one of my friends this way, would we stay friends for very long?

Being a good parent doesn’t mean not having a friendship with your child, being a good parent means understanding that every relationship is different, but that every child deserves the same respect that would be given to a friend. As the saying goes, “A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be her mothers very best friend.

More than just a mommy

Ever since Kim Kardashian decided to “break the internet” I’ve read a slew of articles defending her nude photo shoot. Most of the articles are based on the premise that just because she’s a mom doesn’t mean she cant continue to be the same person she was before North.

Unfortunately that person has built a career more off of her constantly naked or semi naked body, than who she actually is – but I digress. While I clearly don’t agree with her photo shoot, I do agree that on some level every a woman should continue on as she did before.

I don’t mean that her children take a backseat. On the contrary, being a mom does change a woman and who she is forever. Once a mother, a woman’s children become her top priority. However, I do believe that there is always more to a mother than just being “mom”.

When I think of a mom, I think of mini vans, PTA, out of style clothes, soccer practice, washing dishes, and slowly giving up on the idea of wearing make up. I think of a tired woman who isn’t anything more than doing those things. I don’t think I’m alone in that (erroneous and archaic) view of motherhood. It’s just a knee jerk kind of reaction.

Before motherhood I loved to dress up. I’m talking obnoxiously wearing full make up to the gym kind of dress up. I loved to read, to day dream about traveling, I loved to constantly try new things, I loved to DIY and repurpose things. There’s a million more things about myself I could list here.

Motherhood has changed my life forever. It has changed who I am, but it hasn’t taken away who I am. Being a mother is not the entirety of my existence, it’s a facet of my existence.

It’s makes me sad to even think about it, but one day I won’t be changing diapers anymore. My house will empty itself of toys and and tiny little shoes. Babies will turn to children, children to teenagers, and teenagers to adults who move out.

While I’ll always be a mother, the dynamics of being a mother will change. My whole identity isnt wrapped up in the care taking aspect of motherhood. Motherhood is a relationship, a journey, a chapter of life that changes with time.

I think it’s important for my daughters to see that outside of being their mother, I’m still my own person, just as much as they are their own persons. I want my daughters to love me as their mother, but I also want them to love me for who I am outside of the diaper changing, the clothes washing, the dinner cooking, and all of the other tasks that I now have as a mommy.

I want my daughters to believe that they can still dress up, be beautiful and sexy (and by sexy I don’t mean showing their hooha to the world) have hobbies and be interesting women when they become mothers. I don’t want them to think that motherhood relegates a woman to a life of sweatpants and weekly walmart trips (though I have developed an affinity for Walmart and sweatpants, I still try to find the time to over dress) I want my children to see that motherhood doesn’t take away from a woman, it infinitely adds to a woman.

Happy Birthday Laila

Laila,
Two years ago today I was staring into your eyes and holding you for the first time. I’ll never forget it. Your father and I held each others hands and cried tears of joy from the deepest part of our hearts. We were so amazed by you.

There was so much I didn’t know then. I was so nervous. When you were born I realized how little I knew, but I was determined to give you the best, and to learn how to be the best mommy. I’m still learning. There are so many things I wouldn’t have discovered if it weren’t for you. You came to me at the perfect time. You’ve changed not only my life, but who I am forever.

Through nurturing and guiding you, I have learned so much about life and myself. Parenting makes a mother question everything, it challenges all of her beliefs, and in my case I came to believe many new things, about my self, about God, and about relationships- especially our relationship as mother and daughter.

Parenting you is not about “raising” you to be a certain way, parenting for me is about my relationship with you, it’s about helping you grow into the incredible woman I know you already are.

As the time goes by I get to see more and more of your personality. You melt my heart with how affectionate you are. I tend to be overly serious, but like your father you make me laugh everyday. Everywhere we go you make a stranger your friend. You are so stubborn, so determined, which at times can be difficult to deal with, but really it makes me proud, because I see a strong woman and a leader in you. I see a girl who knows what she wants and can stand up for herself. I take so much pride in who you are.

Years ago I had a dream of a little girl with dark hair named Laila, and she was surrounded by the color purple.
It was a different kind of dream. It was so vivd and I never forgot it. I believe God tells us things through dreams, and I believe for some reason, he chose to tell me about you.

The color purple is a combination of the calm associated with blue, and the strength associated with red. That is your personality exactly, calm, yet so strong . There is a verse on the bible that says, “Before I knit you together in your mothers womb, I knew you.” I believe God knew you, and showing you to me in that dream, surrounded by a color that so perfectly describes your personality, he let me knew you just a little bit, long before it was your time to be mine.

You are such a gift to me and your daddy. These past two years with you have been the best of my life. Just last night me and daddy were saying how all of our experiences pale in comparison to the experience of becoming your parents.

Before you were born, I had huge dreams of traveling, of going on adventures, of learning as many new things as I could. Those dreams are on hold now, but not because motherhood has taken away those dreams. My dreams are hold for just a short time, because I’m waiting to share them with you. Instead of telling you about trips I once took, you’ll be on those trips with me. I can’t wait to accomplish all of my dreams with you and watch as you create dreams of your own. I hope that you’ll share some of yours with me as well.

We were meant for each other. As my daughter, you are also my very best friend. This year we’ve shared so much, my pregnancy with your sister. Every day we would take our walks together, every afternoon we would watch Sofia the first and take a nap, and every night you slept with your hand on my belly (and it’s looking like every day post partum, you’ll be grabbing my stomach and yelling chubby). I think you knew before I did the day I went into labor, because you woke up all through the night to check on “baby” and kiss my belly. I had so much fun listening to your favorite songs and watching you dance while I packed my hospital bag.

It was an adjustment when Sabrina was born, a whole new world, but we got the hang of it together. You’re my best helper and I treasure you so much. It’s incredible how fast these two years have gone by.

Always know that you truly are my pride and joy, that I will always love you with the deepest kind of love. The memories I have of these past two years are some of my greatest possessions and I know that the memories we make in this next year will be just as precious.

Happy birthday Laila! You are my best reason to celebrate.