I just returned from the trip of a lifetime. It wasn’t because I went to some exotic tropical destination or to a ridiculously expensive resort hotel, but because I had the privilege of spending five days alone with our daughter Brooke to celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime event, her graduation from college.
She and I (just the two of us!) flew to New York City to take in as much theatre and city life as we could while eating our way through Manhattan. And eat we did. We sampled everything from surf & turf above Times Square to pizza slices on the street. We noshed on sushi, spaghetti, ice cream and dim sum.
We ate breakfast near Tiffany…
…and dessert in SoHo.
We even experienced a true tea service at The Plaza. It was a foodie’s dream!
As Kazi, one of our charming waiters, was chatting with us, he asked, “You two are best friends out on the town?”
We both laughed out loud.
“No, she’s my mom,” Brooke responded.
“Bless your heart,” I said, silently noting I had to leave this guy a big tip for that comment. And also that my new industrial-strength, age-reducing night cream must actually be working.
But it got me thinking about what he’d said. Brooke and I were behaving like friends, laughing, telling stories and having fun. We have many of the same interests and truly enjoy traveling and spending time together. But we both know we are not friends. And we never will be.
She is my daughter. I am her mother. Yes, she’s now an adult. And yes, I love and respect her. I even have fun with her! But I’m still the mom. My job is to nurture and teach. It is to provide life lessons and live by example so that our children will become self-sufficient adults.
Does that mean we can’t enjoy each other’s company? Of course we can! We can behave like giddy teenagers and take selfies in Grand Central Station. We can pretend we have someplace to wear the glamorous gowns we saw in Bergdorfs. We can giggle into the night about the super-cute bartender who gave us free champagne and the silly costumes and body paint in Time’s Square. We can share our dreams about the future as we drift off to sleep after a day in the city.
But we are not friends. There are some things we may never share. Some things are sacred between a mother and daughter, while others are best left outside the relationship. While I can be her confidante and advisor, she cannot always be mine. And that is okay.
It is not my job to be over-involved in her life. It was never acceptable for me to speak to her professors, and now that she’s a college graduate, it will never be okay for me to reach out to her boss. This is her time and her identity, not mine. Her life is now her responsibility.
My maternal mission is to prepare her for life, not protect her from it. I just hope she’ll invite me along for the ride so we can celebrate her milestones together—as mother and daughter. With dessert. And champagne. And love.