sitting in a hot tub at the dreamy olympus spa, i told my friend about sadie’s playdate problem: lately, when her girlfriends come over to play, sadie checks out their outfits and insists she needs to wear the same thing. if we can’t find a purple leotard with a skirt that doesn’t pull off and leopard spotted flip flops and a yellow headband, she ends up naked and crying alone in her room. not so good, right? so i’ve been trying to find the language to talk to a three-year-old about being herself in the presence of others, a conversation i planned to have ten years from now. we landed on the idea of listening to her “sparkly light” as a euphemism for her own voice, instinct, self, what have you. aside from the occasional “my sparkly light says i need another popsicle”, this idea seems to work. i’ve noticed a reduction in the playdate freakouts and the concept seems to invigorate her. “sparkly light, should i jump off this rock? yes or no . . . it says YES! (jump off huge boulder almost breaking neck)”
as i talked with my friend, one of the other ladies in the hot tub listened in on our conversation. she began telling us her story about raising her now-33-year-old daughter. “i programmed my daughter from an early age to look to me,” she said. “i told her, ‘mommy is your best friend. no matter what you do, where you go, mommy is your best friend.’ and when my girl was a teenager, she trusted me. when she got into trouble, she called for me.”
so this raises some interesting questions. we’ve all heard that refrain, “you are not your child’s friend. you are their parent.” i’m supposed to create boundaries, set limits and refrain from crashing her high school parties in a miniskirt. yet, i am her best friend, dammit. i’ll do anything for that kid and i want her to come to me when she needs help. in these early brainwashing years, do i teach her to listen to herself or listen to me? can her sparkly light and i co-exist? and who wins when we don’t agree? mommy or sparkly light? or maybe some weird hydra thing named sparkly mommy or mommy lite?