You’re Not My Best Friend: A Mother’s Reflection

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Parenthood is a journey filled with twists and turns, surprises and revelations, and moments that both warm the heart and challenge the soul. It’s a role with no instruction manual, despite how many books, blogs, and influencers try to convince us they have the secret sauce. As a mother to a spirited four-year-old son with strong convictions, I’ve experienced firsthand the joys and complexities that come with raising a child. The throes of parenthood and toddlerhood can be a daily rollercoaster, but one thing stays consistent for my son: I am not his best friend. How do I know this? He tells me.

It started innocently when he reached an age when being someone’s “best friend” at daycare was a big deal. Best friends could change daily, and my son would fill us in on that day’s gossip of who made each coveted group of best friends. One day, he started adding that his dad is his best friend. I don’t remember the exact conversation leading to this next part, but I know what he said to me: “You are not my best friend.” As the initial sting subsided, I began to unravel the layers of meaning behind those simple words.

In a world bombarded with the falsehood of the perfect family on social media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that we, as parents, must fulfill every role in our child’s life, including that of their best friend. But the truth is far more nuanced. Children, like adults, are complex individuals with their own unique preferences, emotions, and relationships.

My son’s roster of best friends can vary. From his daycare friend to his dad, his sister, and his grandparents, many important people are in his life. While I cherish the moments we share, I’ve realized that being his best friend isn’t my designated role. And that’s perfectly okay.

In a society that often pressures mothers to be everything to everyone, it’s crucial to recognize and celebrate the bonds our children form with others. These other bonds are as crucial to his growth and development as his bond with me. Instead of feeling slighted by my son’s declaration, I choose to embrace the fact that he feels secure and loved by those around him. I realize how lucky we are for him to have strong relationships outside of his mom and dad.

His dad holds the number one spot in his heart. I have no nicknames, but his dad is also “Bud,” “Kyle,” and “Luigi.” Dad is the default parent and is the one he chooses about 95% of the time when given a choice. Similarly, his sister occupies a spot in his inner circle, their sibling antics serving as a testament to their bond. However, with how she steals his toys, I worry she, too, will soon be booted from the inner circle.

Above all, I strive to create an environment where my son feels free to express his emotions without fear of judgment or guilt. I never try to convince him otherwise or attempt to make him feel guilty for telling me I am not his best friend.

So, the next time my son declares, “You’re not my best friend,” I’ll simply smile and embrace the role entrusted to me of a mother who loves him unconditionally, regardless of titles or labels. In the end, it’s not about being his best friend; it’s about being the best mother I can be. And for now, that’s more than enough.


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