Proxy Mommy: It Really Does Take a Village

Last night my sixteen-year-old daughter Lucia went on a dinner date with one of my best friends Jamie, and I took Jamie’s fourteen-year-old daughter Maya out. It was Lucia’s idea. She’s been talking about it for months — how she wanted to go out to dinner with Jamie. So they made a plan and then because it seemed like such a good idea, I decided to take Maya.

It was a temporary mother-daughter swap. We’ve been family friends since our kids were infants. We’ve gone on family vacations together and celebrated holidays together. We’re all comfortable and relaxed around each other, as close to family as you can get.

Maya and I opted for dinner at a local taqueria. During our dinner of tacos and burritos, I asked Maya lots of questions and she shared what she’s doing in school, ways she’d like to spend more time with her own mom, and how she was feeling about her big move to high school next year.

After dinner, we walked to an ice cream shop and got scoops to go. We walked back to the car, much more comfortable than we had been at the beginning of dinner. It was so nice to spend this time together, like mother and daughter, but without the history, the expectations, the entrenched roles that so many mothers and daughters get locked into. When I dropped Maya off I hoped she’d enjoyed herself as much as I had.

Shortly before getting home myself, I got a few texts from Lucia, “Sorry, we’re tequila tasting right now and I’ll be home around 1 am” followed by, “Also, I love menthol cigarettes.”

Jamie is one of the funniest people I know and I could imagine her and Lucia sitting at a table in the different Mexican restaurant that they went to coming up with ways to freak me out.

When Lucia finally did get home a half-hour later she told me that she and Jamie had mostly talked about college. I’m sure that they did talk about college, but I imagined, based on the wide range of topics Maya and I covered, that they talked about a lot of other things too. But I understood Lucia’s clipped summary of her evening — it wasn’t my business what she and Jamie had talked about.

It’s an age-old truth — adolescents, especially girls, have to find a way to separate from their mothers. They have to devise tools to step out of the familiar, close-to-home image of their mothers. Unfortunately for the mothers, this is often painful and rejecting. But it’s not personal. It’s imperative to make this shift so that the daughter can make herself in her own image, n