Eleven years ago, you opened your door with a smile and open arms. You were overjoyed that your oldest son was finally visiting from college — and, holy crap, he even had a girlfriend!
“She’s the one,” he told you a few days before we arrived. I can only imagine the thoughts that ran through your mind as you dusted off baby books and prepared your family’s famous homemade soup. Were you scared? You didn’t act like it. You swept me into your arms with a squeeze and ushered us inside for a weekend of fun activities.
Me, a wide-eyed Southern girl, yearning to make a good impression. You, the coveted stamp of approval.
I instantly adored you.
Sure, there was a natural tension between us, but you tried to make it less so. We strolled and talked for hours. We chatted about family, our interests, my future aspirations. We joked about football rivalries and dove deep into the nuances of politics. We even discussed our faiths.
We were quick friends.
The day of my wedding, I remember watching my husband dance with you. Your face was glowing with joy, but there was something else there too. Sadness? Nostalgia? Insecurity?
I should’ve paid closer attention.
Years later, after the birth of our first, you swooped in from out of town and took over: cleaning the kitchen, cooking, washing the breast pump. You offered so much help that, at first, I was floored by your generosity. But three weeks later, it became clear you weren’t planning to leave. When asked about your return ticket, you said you didn’t have one.
“I was just waiting for y’all to say you didn’t need me anymore!” you chirped.
At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on why those words bothered me. But they did.
Fast-forward to today.
You just walked out of my house after what can only be described as the visit from hell. From the hour you arrived, I was counting the minutes ’til your departure. Throughout your visit, you butted in on our parenting, claimed the kitchen, and established yourself as the woman of my home. You chastised me for waking my husband up in the morning to help with the kids. You advised me that our discipline tactics weren’t working. You even asked if we “ever intended to potty train” our toddler.
I swear I almost threw a rock at your car and screamed “Never come back!” when you left, which I realize is totally bananas considering I kissed your cheek and asked you to come back soon.
My, how far we’ve fallen from casual strolls and homemade soup.
Here I sit, running it all through my head, trying to understand what the hell has happened between us. I realize some of this is my fault; I suck at boundaries. But this? This is miserable. I don’t want to hate having you around. I want to give you the same grace and love that I received so many years ago.
So, in that spirit, I guess it’s time to have this talk.
*deep breath, here we go*
I love you. I respect you. And I know that you’ve raised two wonderful children.
But for the love of God, let me raise mine.
I’ve always welcomed your opinion on so many things: the sale rack shirts at Ann Taylor, vacation plans, where to buy tires. Our friendship is something precious, but there are lines you can’t cross without damaging it.
To be clear, those lines are drawn in big fat crayon around my children.
This means you don’t get to tell me what my children should or shouldn’t eat. You shouldn’t laugh at the fact my oldest is still rear-facing in his car seat. You shouldn’t casually mention that your sons played outside unsupervised at 3 years old (fine, I hover). Don’t pipe in that our preschool of choice looks dated and dusty.
Are you hearing me? I sure hope so.
It’s fine that these are concerns of yours. Heck, they are concerns of mine. But as the mom of this household, I can assure you that our parenting choices are intentional, vetted, and made as a couple. I’m sure this will probably shock you, but your “gentle recommendations” feel like judgmental intrusions. You know there is nothing as intimate, personal, or high-stakes as parenting. Your son and I are doing the best we can. Your unsolicited feedback feels like criticism. It isn’t welcome.
And there’s something else. I know it will hurt to hear this as much as it hurts for me to say it, but your parenting job is done. Your son is a wonderful man.
He doesn’t need raising anymore, Mama. And his kids? They have a mother. *waves*
Remember that time you stayed around “just waiting for us to say we didn’t need you anymore”?
Well, we actually don’t need you anymore.
Don’t leave yet.
Because, here’s the thing: We still want you.
This has been a hard talk, and I know we will both need some time to process. So can you do me a favor? In a few weeks, pack up your car and come back for a visit. When you arrive, I will sweep you up in my arms with a squeeze. I will make you my family’s favorite homemade soup. We can take a casual stroll and talk about life, sports, and politics. We can sit on the back porch and watch the children play, and maybe dust off some of the baby books and laugh.
Because the thing is, I love you. And I know you are an amazing mother.
I’d just prefer that you remain an amazing friend.