You’re my mother, not my friend
The other day, my daughter came downstairs wearing my shoes. Not the younger one, whose chief purpose in life is to steal my heels and strut around pretending she’s a teacher. Or a hooker. It’s hard to tell.
No, this was the older daughter, the 10-year-old whose delicious little baby feet have somehow morphed to the same size as my own, hence her apparent need to borrow my Converse. The new ones.
Anyway, as you can imagine, I was so thrilled, I threw my arms around her and announced that now we shared clothes, we were undisputedly “best friends”. Would she also like to help herself to my GHD? When could we go shopping together?
Yeah, right. Instead, I raised an eyebrow and told her for the 896th time not to take stuff without asking.
Now, I know Lindsay Lohan’s mum would wag a French-polished finger in horror at me for passing up this opportunity to become my daughter’s bestie but, sorry, I can’t pinkie promise to be BFF with someone I gave birth to.
The relationship I have with my daughters is joyous, intimate and profound. I feel most wholly me when I’m snuggled up in bed with them, tickling, reading Roald Dahl or playing Hangman on my iPhone. But they’re not my best friends, nor will they ever be.
Yet when I gave birth to first one daughter, and then a second, I can’t tell you the number of people who told me I had best friends for life. (As it happens, I do. Their names are Sarah and Jacinda, and they’ve never been linked to me by an umbilical cord.)
So what’s with this need to elevate the most elemental of relationships – that between a mother and daughter – to one as fickle as friendship? It’s weird – and all the more disquieting when it’s driven by the mother.
But apparently I’m the weird one, because a survey of women aged 21 to 54 found that 71 per cent counted their mothers among their best friends.
Perhaps because I have the best mum a girl could hope for, I’ve always seen a clear demarcation between my mother and my friends.
Mum is loyal, loving, wise; my first port of call in a crisis. But to claim her as my bestie would diminish the sanctity of what we have. She’s my touchstone, my one and only; a mother always and in all ways.
Yes, age blurring has narrowed the gap between mothers and daughters. We wear similar clothes and listen to the same music.
But the hierarchy of responsibility and boundary setting that underpin the best mother-daughter relationships lays the foundations for a bond far more precious than dancing around each other’s handbags in nightclubs.
“I keep having to explain to my mum why we’re not friends on Facebook,” says a friend. “She’s my mum, which is more special than just any old member of the hoi polloi who clicks on a button to claim me as a friend.”
What’s more, mums have a higher purpose; they’re the reason civilisation doesn’t eat with its mouth open and why Supré, try as it might, still has to produce skirts that cover more than just your bum cheeks.
Anyway, as you celebrate the mums you love – or remember ones you have lost – I’ll be thinking about Jacinda, who’s rarely known a mother’s love. Last week, my friend of 30 years gave birth to a daughter, Betsy.
It was a harrowing delivery, but today she can rejoice in the beginning of a mother-daughter relationship she never had.
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