“Mommy lay with me,” Allie says as she looks at me with her big brown eyes. She pats the pillow on her Queen bed and reminds me, “This your spot.” Most nights I still can’t believe she sleeps in this big bed. As toddlers seem to do though, she takes up a lot of space, something I am uncomfortably aware of whenever we share the bed.
I sigh and walk back toward her. I’ve been counting down the minutes until bedtime all afternoon—longing to not be needed, my mind begging for quiet. As I sit down on the down comforter atop her mattress she says, “Tickle me.” I give in and tell her, “Roll onto your tummy so I can tickle your back.” As she rolls over, her dark hair falls in front of her eyes. She brushes her hair back with both hands and says, “Mom, you’re best friend.”
“I’m your best friend?” I ask. I’ve never heard her talk about friends before. Especially a best friend.
“Mom best friend,” she says matter-of-factly.
As I start to tickle her back, I think back over the last two-and-a-half years with her. I could count on less than one hand the number of times I left her that first year. She never took a bottle, making it nearly impossible for me to leave her with anyone. One night when I returned from book club, a rare outing without Allie in tow, she was still awake. Crying and hungry. Rich had tried his best, but she preferred me to everyone, including him. At times it felt like we were stitched together, and when we separated, we both could feel the seam ripping. While I loved that she loved me so much, at times I felt smothered.
Now here in her big bed, the crib long gone, I glance at the stack of books we read earlier. Fancy Nancy: Tea for Two lies at the top of the pile. Allie had sat “reading” her own book, Elbow Grease, as I read about the tea party Nancy had with her best friend. Most nights she sits and reads her own book while I read another book out loud. I sometimes wonder if she is even listening, or if I’m reading to myself. As her dark lashes begin to flutter, her eyes growing heavy with sleep, I start to slow the rhythm of my hand, my touch becoming lighter. Just like in the book, Allie has decided I am her best friend—she is listening when I read.
I slowly pull my hand from her back and tiptoe away from her bed. As I close the door, I start thinking about how our relationship will change over the coming years. When will she stop calling me her best friend? When will it not be okay for her to consider me her best friend?
I’ve read enough parenting articles and books (sometimes just the headlines, if I’m honest), about how your kids shouldn’t be your best friend. We need to be their parents and not their friends. Honestly, it’s not something I have thought much about since Rhett and Allie are still under the age of five.
Part of me feels sad thinking about her growing up. My own history tells me that at some point our interactions might consist of eye rolls more than “tickle me” and snuggles in bed. I know the day will come when she doesn’t think of me as her best friend anymore, and the thought of me being her best friend will mortify her.
As I sit down at my desk, I remember a recent interaction I saw of a friend with her tween daughter. Her daughter sat on her lap while the adults talked in a meeting, and she quietly stroked her daughter’s hair. Her daughter was snuggled into her chest, her long legs dangling nearly to the floor. I imagine that many years before, she had snuggled into her mom in the same way. Her needs different, but somewhat the same. It reminded me that Allie will grow up, but there will still be times when my touch is wanted and, perhaps, needed.
Soon enough, Allie will go to school and make best friends who are her own age. Slowly she won’t cling to me as tightly—the loops of our knitting will become bigger, but I hope they always stay entangled. Seeing my friend with her older daughter gave me something to hope for. A reminder that just because Allie will grow up, doesn’t mean our relationship will diminish.
Hours after I have gone to bed, I hear the bedroom door open and tiny feet stop beside the bed. “Mommy, come lay with me.” I swoop her up and we walk back to her room. We snuggle into her bed, and almost immediately she is asleep once again. I lay awake in the dark, her tiny toes digging into my back. Her breath rises and falls, sleep coming easily for her—snuggled next to her best friend. My breaths begin to match hers, soaking in this moment, not knowing how long it will last.
This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Remember This.”