"I'm my daughter's best friend."
This is the statement that bought a girlie catch-up I was at recently to a screeching halt. The woman speaking has a teenage daughter, and a quite permissive relationship with her, something that has been commented on by us to her before.
She stated this in the context that she was never going to be able to stop her daughter getting up to all the hi-jinks she did as a kid; drinking, going off with boys, experimenting with drugs etc., so she would rather have the kind of relationship where her daughter felt safe enough to talk to her about anything she got up to.
Another friend of mine, with a daughter the same age, piped up with, "Well, I'd rather my daughter was scared enough of me she didn't do it in the first place".
Many swift and silent glances were exchanged between the rest of us, quickly followed by a quick gulp of champagne as we gleefully settled in to watch the fireworks fly. I know, terrible aren't we?
Suffice to say, a spirited exchange of views ensued.
It got me thinking though, about the type of parent I want to be as my daughter grows older and hits those perilous teenage years. I think the groundwork for these years is being laid even now at three years old. My Gorgeous Girl really is a pretty good kid, but she can really turn it on when she's feeling feisty; backchat, tantrums, throwing, hitting out at me - you name it.
And already I have decided: I don't want to be her friend.
I want to be her Mum. I want her to realise just how slavishly devoted to her I am, how desperately I love her... and that I will not hesitate to send her to her room when she's acting bratty.
I would love to have the kind of relationship when she's older where she will still feel she can talk to me about whatever is going on in her life, but I think there needs to be a background of respect there, and that starts now. She will learn she can trust me, there is nothing she can do that will make me love her less, but that she will be held accountable for her behaviour, she will know what is right and what is wrong, and I will expect her to make good choices. When she doesn't make good choices, I'll be there to help her fix it, but she will have to take responsibility for her actions. God, I hope I can live up to this ideal in reality.
I remember back to when I was a teenager (and a bit of a hellraiser myself). I had friends with Mums who wanted to be liked by their daughters as a friend, rather than loved like a Mother. Although now my relationship with my Mum is more like friendship, back then she also wasn't interested in being my friend; she was my Mum. As much as I loved her, wholeheartedly, and knew she loved me, she wasn't scared of saying no and having me hate her (briefly) for it. Thank God. I got up to a fair bit of trouble as a kid, was never into drugs luckily, but did the whole teenage rebellion thing fairly well. I shudder to think what I would've done had I not been terrified of the wrath of my parents!
I had a friend at the time, the only child of quite eldery parents, who were so grateful to have a child, they let her get away with anything. She was boasting to me once about how her parents were about as tough as bunny rabbits; they let her go out late at night, aged 14, to meet up with older boys, they never questioned what she got up to, where she was going, or even whose house she actually stayed over at when she said she was at mine. As she was boasting about this, all I remember thinking was, "God, don't they care about you at all?".
So, for me, my views on motherhood are a bit less bunny-like and more like a lioness: I will love you fiercely, I will fight tooth and nail to protect you and I will raise you to be a mighty creature to be reckoned with in your own right, but I will also not hesitate to roar at you and show my claws when needed.