“Because I’m your friend.”
Hey, Baby Boy.
I get to call you that because you’re still too young to argue with me. And that makes you my baby. And I have this idea in my head about babies. About children. About the little people that we raise to become big people.
A lot of that idea is centered around the fact that I am religious and that part of my faith I hold most dear is that you, sweet Boy, are not just a boy: you’re a spiritual being whose creation was bigger than your Mom and Dad falling in love and having a baby.
There’s more to you than flesh. You are more than your body.
You are your hopes and dreams and hurts. You are your experiences and your fears and your spirit. You are your imagination and your soul.
I am not your Creator.
I am your Guardian.
And that’s a role I don’t take lightly.
Some call it “mother.”
Some say “parent.”
But to me neither word is enough.
To me I am your teacher, your comforter, your ally, your therapist, your disciplinarian, your pastor, your confessor.
And if I juggle all of them the best I can and if I try my hardest then maybe, just maybe, one day you will call me “friend.”
And that’s the highest honor I can ask of you.
Because these other roles, these hats I juggle and responsibilities I shoulder, you didn’t give them to me.
You didn’t hire me for the job.
You didn’t have a say in who would be your Momma.
You didn’t choose me.
One of the most beautiful things that I’ve learned being your Momma is that, if I had every beautiful child in the world to choose from, I would still choose you.
But what choice do you have?
I pick your first friends and your hairstyles and your clothes and your home and your diet – no wait, you choose that actually – and I choose your childhood religion and the direction I hope you will go as you grow up.
I get to help you become the kind of man I think belongs in this world.
I get to show you the world through my eyes.
I mean, how many kids have moms act out Danny Kaye monologues in the living room?
I shape you.
Your choices will come later.
They will be the final factors in who you become, but I am your impetus.
I did not create you but I do build your foundation.
So as I think about you and my responsibilities to you I also think about adult-you and those choices you will make one day.
And I think about the popular, well-worn phrase “I’m not your friend, I’m your parent.”
And it hurts the tender places in my heart that your existence has filled to overflowing.
Because, my sweet Baby Boy, the choice that you can make that would mean the most to me in this life is that you would choose to call me your friend.
That you would stand before me as a grown man with a stubbly beard and a deep voice and say I am, and have always been, your friend.
So I do my best to treat you as my friend today.
To be the person you would choose to talk to and look up to and learn from TODAY.
To be the person I hope one day you will be proud of me for being.
I know I’m your mother.
But I did nothing to earn those roles.
I want to be your friend, too. To earn your friendship.
So I set up some ground rules for myself.
They are my promise to you.
My contract as your Guardian.
My outline for the shaping of you as the man I am raising.
And I pray that through it I do you justice,
My Baby Boy.
One day my equal.
Every day my friend.
1. When you cry I will comfort you. And I will teach you when crying heals and when it is manipulation.
Because if you are hurt or sad or lonely or even if you just want to be comforted, then of all the things I can give you in this life, comforting you is the most important.
Because I want you to be the kind of man who comforts others.
But I also want you to be the kind of man who understands the different types of tears.
So that you know when to comfort someone.
And when to step back.
2. When you come up with a hair-brained scheme I usually won’t go along with it. But I will negotiate with you for a better plan we can both agree on.
Because I don’t want you doing what everyone else does and I don’t want you doing every crazy thing that occurs to you, but I do want you to be comfortable with negotiation and I do want you to have fun.
So remind me tell you about mattresses on the barn roof.
3. I will do my best to guide you and to show you the kind of man I want you to be, but I will not be the dictator of your life.
Because I do not want you dictating others.
4. When you lie I will call you on it.
And then I will teach you how to tell the truth and I will comfort you as you face your mistakes.
Because I want you to be the kind of man who is not afraid to own his wrongs.
5. When you frustrate me and I feel like hitting a wall or pulling my hair or throwing something or crying I will look at you and remember that your very existence is a miracle.
And I will tell you.
Because I want you to be the kind of man who sees the miracle in life.
And who knows how to contain his frustrations and not take them out on the innocent.
6. When I believe you are wrong I will tell you. And I will teach you what I believe is right.
7. When I believe you are being hurtful I will tell you. And I will teach you how to be kind by example.
8. When you have given up all hope and your heart is broken, I will tell you about my heart and show you how much hurt it can bear and how strong it is and how any hole it has can be filled.
Because all a heart needs is someone to love.
9. When you are cruel to an animal or a friend I will stop you and teach you how to make amends without humiliating you.
Because an apology borne out of humiliation doesn’t mend anything.
10. I will love you.
When I yell at you. And when I apologize. When I play with you. When I am too busy to play with you. When I promise. When I forget my promise. Or make a promise I couldn’t keep. When I remember this contract. When I forget it entirely. When I am reminded of it and when it rushes over me with the weight of all that it means and all that you are and all that you can and may be.
When I go to sleep at night. When I wake up in the morning.
Because, I’m not just your parent.
I’m your friend.
I’m your first friend.
I’m your truest friend.
And because I’m not just your friend,
I’m your parent.
Pic of me and you.
When you really were a baby.