When my older son was about 12 we had a conversation that started because he said, “mom, you are my friend”. At that stage in my own development, I had already had the opportunity to have a fulfilling friendship with my own mother that certainly turned back into a parent-child dynamic at any point that she felt was necessary. (The best car turning radiuses have nothing on mothers who need to make a point, let me tell you.) But my friendship with my mother, which we both cherished and I felt was a great example of her abilities, did not start until I was well into my 20s for good reason.
I explained to my son that while it was very much a goal of mine to become his friend, along with being his mom, our relationship was not at that stage yet. He persisted in telling me that I was his friend and I persisted in telling him that wasn’t appropriate at that stage of his development. I don’t recall how the conversation ended, but it probably drifted on to other topics as most parent child conversations tend to do. I know that we had a lot going on in our lives at that point, so the fact that we had this conversation while at home and not on the way to somewhere is rather remarkable.
Looking back now, I still agree with my stance that friendship had to wait, but I would like to nudge my younger self to ask him why he started the conversation in the first place along with sticking to my guns. I know that my brain was running a mile a minute; sifting through to-do lists and rating priorities and just working to keep up with all the facets of the working parent’s life, so I will forgive myself as a look back. But I missed a chance for a deeper connection, a look behind the curtain into the inner workings of my son’s mind. (We have made enough of these connections over the course of his life that now we are friends and enjoy many interesting discussions on a broad range of topics – but it is the mother’s curse to be pricked by the regrets at times.)
I just called my son and clearly this was just a passing kid thought for him since he only has recollection that I’ve brought up this incident in other conversations. We cycled through a few interesting topics and then rang off. I think that we are both pleased that I met my goal to ultimately develop a friendship with him. I am also confident that I made the right decision back in those earlier days to put being a parent first.
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