I lean over my daughter’s legs and prop myself up on my elbow. The glow from her iPhone illuminates her slate blue eyes. She deftly flicks between Snapchats and TikToks, laughing at something I no doubt will find either mindless or obnoxious. She expertly hovers somewhere between this world and her virual one.
I adore the way her messy bun always looks perfect, even after a robust ten hours of sleep on the weekend. Today when she woke up, the first thing she did was find me for a hug. These moments are elusive. I have my arms permanently open to catch her.
Moments after she was born, I held her. She held me.
The entire world was framed in her eyes. That little soul and I knew each other intimately. We had already known each other a lifetime.
She went from a cocoon in my belly to a home in my arms. I would never see beauty in the same way. She was the bar by which all other miracles were measured.
Her name means “light.” Her wild light shatters me in magnificent and heart-wrenching ways.
At four, she idolized me.
She dressed like me, repeated all my phrases and swear words, and stole sips from my idle Mountain Dew cans. She hummed the melody of my favorite TV show at the time, How I Met Your Mother, while she shaped her Play-Doh into tiny elaborate bakery cakes.
My daughter is 14
She is 14 now.
I want to be her friend.
I know, I know. I am her parent and she doesn’t need more friends.
Except maybe she does. She just sprouted an anxiety disorder, the same one I have battled since I was her age. It is devastating to see the pain of my childhood reflecting in her translucent eyes.
I listen to all her body insecurities and boy crushes and answer questions about menstruating and sex and feminism.
I get the Pink Drink from Starbucks on Saturday afternoons with her, we wear each other’s Vans, take girl trips, and send silly meme texts. I still hold her hair back when she is flattened by the flu.
I french-braid her tangled hair of sunshine before high school ski practices.
I binge The Office with her, not because I love the show, but because just being her in presence makes me joyful and content.
I help her bake chocolate chip cookies, and by help I mean I eat generous spoonfuls of the dough before it makes it in the oven. I boop her nose with flour while she squeals in protest.
We discuss Taylor Swift’s secret album, her favorite YouTube stars, and world events in detail because I love her perspective, wit, and sarcasm.
I stroke her nail-bitten hands and blot her tears with the sleeve of my sweatshirt when the boy she likes starts dating someone else.
I celebrate every last one of her wins and successes, monumental or miniscule, from making it through the day without a panic attack to smashing her previous time at a ski race.
I kiss and squish her adorably adolescent face, reminiscent of Smother Beverly from The Goldbergs. I huddle next her in the foxhole, letting the dirt pack under my nails and the ammunition sail past our heads. I am with her in all of it.
My daughter and I are growing together
I am growing right alongside of her. I dodge moments of teenage angst: eye rolls and attitude, door slams and exasperation. I give her room to breathe, but am always on stand-by for rescusitation.
I consider that a friend to be a witness to our darkest and ugliest parts. To celebrate the moments we discover that our wings are not merely appendages but the means to carry us to freedom. To wrap us up in the times we hate our actions or can’t get past our history. To lovingly polish the memories of who we used to be and display them on our shelves. To broadcast to the world the potential of who we might someday become.
A friend is love unconditional. A fellow traveler who wears the same caked mud on their shoes. Who trudges along beside us in the brambly ditches. Who climb mountains with us, tethered to each other for support and safety. Who is a worthy companion for the road trip of life.
Yes, I will always be my daughter’s friend. Top down, hair like dancing streamers in the wind.