"Who are you? And what have you done with my daughter?"
I was tempted to ask this over the weekend. With the family Thanksgiving done, my tween daughter and I flew to Columbus, Ohio to visit my college roommate and perpetual BFF.
Although our tummies were still uncomfortably full and our flight was uncomfortably early, we were both thrilled to go.
The word "family" has evolved — at least for us — to encompass not just blood relatives (of whom we have many and are exceedingly fond) but to the people we would choose to insert into our family tree if we weren't limited by a higher being. Or DNA.
Our Ohio family includes a mother and a father and a dog and three pretty grownup kids: two in college and one in medical school. These are my daughter's surrogate cousins (if not spiritual sisters and brother). So, the long weekend was a particular bonus for me. Not only could I anticipate many hours of talking and talking and coffee and talking and talking and wine and talking and talking, but I could also benefit from my daughter rubbing shoulders with three excellent role models. If they tell her to work hard and get good grades, she nods enthusiastically, hangs on their every word. If I tell her to work hard and get good grades ... well ... not so much.
Where my tween may welcome advice from the younger generation of our honorary family, I downright seek it from their mother. Bullying, skanky fashions, hormones ... all the angst I encounter as a tween's mom? My friend has been there, done that. Three times! She reassures me that we're doing fine.
And, another interesting thing happens on our visits (which are few and far between, much anticipated, and over too fast). My daughter treats me nicely. Gasp! She doesn't roll her eyes. She doesn't hiss exasperated sound effects. She says "Please" and "Thank you." She sits on my lap. She leans against me on the couch while we watch a movie. She says "I love you too" when we all go to bed.
There's a downside to this. For months on end, my friend lends a sympathetic ear (or email or Facebook message) as I bemoan my lot as an overworked, underappreciated, thoroughly neglected mother. Then, we step off the plane and suddenly Miss Hyde has turned into Miss Manners. My friend, to her credit, has never actually called me a liar, but she's got to wonder.
"Really," I insist, "She's SO not like this at home."
But, despite my protests, I sit back and enjoy it. I'll take the affectionate daughter I remember so well (and love so much) wherever and whenever I can find her. All good weekends come to an end and I know things will be back to normal soon.