I Got to Choose (but it Sure Wasn’t Easy!)

I chose to be a parent while our kids were little so that I could be a friend when they grew up.

I choose to be a parent while our kids were little so that I could be a friend when they grew up.

I had to choose. If I choose the right thing to say and do, one day she’ll be my friend. I repeated my mantra as my eldest daughter stood in the living room, with pudgy hands on tiny hips and lisped, “Nice mommies don’t make their little girls take naps!” I stifled a laugh and replied, “I’m not worried about being a nice mommy. It’s quiet time. Please go back to your bedroom.”

If I do this right, one day she’ll be my friend. I agonized as I called her school friend and apologized that Laura wouldn’t make it to the birthday party and she’d bring a gift to school tomorrow. Laura glared at me with hate in her eyes and screamed, “I can’t believe you did that! Just because I didn’t clean my room!” I found that the hardest part of parenting is being consistent and not threatening and repeating and giving in. I quietly closed the door and went to my own room for a time out and a good sniffle. I don’t like choices like this.

If I do this right, one day she’ll be my friend. I stifled my urge to scream at my daughter as she sobbed quietly in the seat beside me. “We shoplifted and Jessica got arrested.” Seriously? Three teenage girls with money in their wallets felt the need to shoplift? How could our daughter act so stupidly? I beat back my desire to cover up and hover and help. Laura needed to live with the consequences of her actions: work extra to pay the fine to the store; a one-week suspension from school; getting kicked off the volleyball team (that one seemed particularly harsh).

If I do this right, one day she’ll be my friend. I gulped and took a deep breath. Laura shoved the book I’d purchased on cutting (I knew some of my students struggled with the problem) into my hands and said, “You need to read this chapter really well. That’s why I cut.” My eyes skittered to the deep cut on her leg, the one she’d gotten from the barbed-wire fence (that’s what she said, anyway). I schooled my face to neutral and said, “I’ll do that.” And thus began a journey of recovery.

Laura got married last July, and we spent a wonderful summer planning, sewing and preparing for her big day. In June, she graduates from college. I’m one lucky woman, because I’ve realized that while I’ll always be her mommy, our relationship has evolved into something more:  Laura is one of my best friends. I made the right choice.

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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