Being out of the country and away from my four daughters for 8 days recently, I was struck anew by how much I not just love them — because of course I love my offspring — but how much I like them. I’ve never been gone from them this long, and in the past when my husband and I went on trips together, they were younger. I missed them, but when they were little and the days were endless cycles of feeding, diapering, clothing, and just keeping them alive and well, I was largely relieved to have a break from that caretaking cycle.
Now they keep me just as busy, but in completely different ways. They can be their own caretakers in most ways: they can go potty by themselves now (diapers are a distant memory), they can feed themselves (even cook), get dressed, and even get themselves places on their own (oldest has a driver’s license). Now my job is to make sure they’re learning and becoming who they should and could be. It’s to make sure they are nurtured in so many more complex ways as they make their way through tricky adolescent and pre-adolescent years. It’s to support them in their activities, volunteering as a band booster and so on. The job title is the same — Mother — but the duties and job description are very different and much more complicated and nuanced. I don’t have to just show up and go through the motions; I have to bring my A game.
What’s happened, though, in the course of their becoming these independent selves, morphing from little eating and pooping machines who cry to communicate or just repeat “no” or “why?” ad nauseam is that they have become people. They are completely their own selves, with amazing personalities and unique mixtures of traits, talents, and quirks. What’s more, we have become friends in many ways. Sure, I’m not one of those parents who is more of a pal to their children than a parent, but it’s absolutely true that my daughters are my friends. My oldest in particular, who’s turning 17 this week and will fly out of the nest next year (cue the leaky eyes), is such a fun person. She’s nearly an adult, and she is mature in so many ways and simply fun to be around. We have all kinds of inside jokes and we can look at each other and grin at something we just know we’re both thinking. She is so delightful and pleasant to be around that I miss her presence when she’s not.
And I felt that keenly while in another country. I didn’t talk to my girls for more than a week. I emailed and Facebook-ed a little, with one short chat session. (Even then, though, they were all using my mom’s account, but I could tell when a different child started typing. I knew exactly who I was “talking” to because of just how they phrased things.) But as much as I enjoyed my time alone with my husband and loved all the great scenery we soaked in and famous sites we visited, I missed my friends back at home. There were so many times I thought, “Oh, Brianna would like this. Oh, Cami would love that.” I was sure one would respond a certain way with a certain phrase to something we saw.
And as much as I loved (but often just plain endured) the different phases of mothering, I am loving this one, in which I can see how the little seeds I sowed have grown into full-size plants. They’re still here in my own garden, but in not too long they will be transplanted to other gardens. Right now, though, I marvel at how much I like them, how simply miraculous it is that I was growing my own friends all this time and didn’t quite realize it. I love them, but, even better, I really, really like them. Today, I will celebrate Mother’s Day with some really amazing friends. I can’t imagine life without them.