Childrearing

I Don’t Want To Be My Daughter’s BFF

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My daughter has no idea what a Kardashian is. Her ears are not pierced. I told her that anyone who can’t be trusted to get her socks in the dirty laundry hamper can’t be trusted to have holes in her ears. My daughter has never worn her play makeup outside of the house, she doesn’t own a midriff shirt, she doesn’t know what a Pretty Little Liar is, or a Snookie, or the words to a Nicki Minaj song. She will be exposed to some of these things when she is 14, and most of them when she is a lot older.

 Yeah, I’m not going to buy her a thong when she is 16. She can save her babysitting money and sneak into Victoria’s Secret and buy her own when she is older like I did. I don’t want to swoon over boy bands with her or argue about whether we are on Team Edward or Team Jacob and share clothing with her. A lot of this is premature, I am just getting ready to celebrate her seventh birthday, and she is still, thankfully, more into my little ponies and Hello Kitty than anything I’ve mentioned, but I’ve seen some of these interests manifest themselves in girls not much older than her. And it’s all because their mommies want to turn them into their own little pal.

You’ve seen mothers like this on celebrity websites, the ones who buy their three year olds high heels, the ones who let their toddlers wear bright red lipstick, the moms in mini dresses getting trashed alongside their twenty-something year old daughters in nightclubs. I’m the “You can wear that when you’re older, watch that when you’re older, listen to that when you’re older, do that when you’re older ” Mom. And it has nothing to do with how “smart” or “mature” you perceive your daughter to be, or I perceive my daughter to be, it has to do with the fact that it all goes by so fast anyway.

Do we really need to be shortchanging our kid’s childhood just so we can prove how open-minded and progressive we are to the world? Are we that terrified of our own age that we need to bridge the gap between our daughters and ourselves by  making them into a tinier version of us? I’ve written before about facing my daughter growing older (google Eve Vawter + HPV to understand my point of view more) and how as parents it’s a heartbreaking thing, and I think a lot of women my age (41, cough) compound the problem by wanting to be friends with our daughters more than their mothers. I’ll be the mom taking my daughter to Planned Parenthood and discussing birth control with her. I will never be the mom taking her to get her first tattoo.

The thing that scares me the most is that my own shrimpy little girl is all ready pushing my limits in regard to what I see as acceptable for a kid of her age. She asks if she can wear lip gloss (and no, not happy bubble gum flavored lip balm, actual gloss) because a girl in her class wears it. She swoons over the eveningwear in the Neiman Marcus catalog. She suggested to me that she would have ” a lot more friends in her class if we bought her a pair of high heeled boots.”  I know a lot of this at her age is just her exploring her own little feminine identity and wanting to understand the logistics of grown up girl realities, and I am happy to indulge her and discuss things and answer questions. I draw the line at being the “cool” mom who gives in and buys her the same boots as me.

I don’t want to be my daughter’s friend. I don’t want to be “on her wavelength.” I want her to listen to music I hate and follow trends I don’t understand. I want her to fear me! OK, so I don’t really want her to fear me. But do you remember being young and dumb and sneaking out of the house at age 15 to meet a boy on the corner and kiss him and being utterly terrified that your mom would find out? That’s what I want. I don’t want to be the mom who says “No, just go up to your room and make- out there.” I’m not saying I don’t want my daughter (or my sons) to  feel like they can’t be open with me and talk to me and share any problems they have. To me that falls under the job description of being a “good mother.”

I have no interest in turning my daughter into a mini-me, complete with matching purse and eyeshadow. I have my own friends, my own interests, my own identity as a woman. It is my job to teach and set rules and boundaries and hug and kiss and make cupcakes with and take to museums and read a million books aloud even if I have read them before. It is my job to teach her to drive and lecture her about drugs and say no to skirts that go up too high and make sure she always always knows that she can come to me. Except to borrow my bra.

One day I will “party” with her. Probably at her wedding. One day I will be her best friend. Probably after she has a kid of her own. Until then I’m her mother. And I’m OK with that.

(photo: Shutterstock)