I am on cloud 9. I gave myself a 60th birthday party this weekend, and I am reliving every wonderful moment of it. This memory in particular I think will stay with me forever. The loft I had rented in NYC, so my daughter could be part of the celebration was filled not only with my friends, some of whom have been in my life since I was 12 years old, but also family, and so touchingly many of my daughter's friends, now in their late twenties and thirties. One group I have known since they were freshman in high school, another group her college buddies, and yet another group of friends she has made over the years and has shared with me. I felt so blessed. Because I love to sing, I had a DJ/Karaoke, and when it was time to welcome and thank this "loving family" for coming to this festivity, I chose to sing them "You've Got A Friend." As my voice faltered with emotion, the room filled with close to 100 voices sharing my song. I saw arms go around those close to them, singing and swaying to this beloved song of mine. I felt I was in the temple of friendship. As powerful emotion as I have ever felt.
These people in my daughter's life, who now as adults are truly my friends too, have been incredibly valuable in developing the strong connection I share with my daughter. When she was a teen, I loved being the driving parent. Nothing gave me more pleasure than carting around a bunch of girls, music blasting, and gossip flying. I loved when they came over. They would throw down their bags and their backpacks on the floor, covering every inch of our small hallway, smoosh into our tiny TV room, 4 on the couch, two on the love seat, 2 on the floor, and settle in for a good hang. Nothing fancy in our house, not the latest technology, not a big family room with a big TV or overstuffed furniture . Just a ton of Diet Coke on hand, maybe some chips or facsimile junk food, but mostly acceptance and love. Sometimes I was invited to join for a Sex In The City marathon, sometimes I was a room away. We were not the party house, cause there was no alcohol allowed, but we were a go-to house.
I learned than, that all teens really want is to be loved and accepted. Since I wasn't their parent, I didn't care whether they had good grades, or were star athletes, or asked where their future was heading. I could just enjoy and get to know them, and in doing so, got to know my daughter as well. I wasn't their friend, I didn't want to be and more importantly, I didn't need to be. I am now, but we have grown into that relationship. Dr, Robert Brooks, a psychologist who specializes in developing self-esteem in children, calls us "charismatic adults." Getting to know your teen's friends, not in a nosy way, but in a genuine way, taking the time to really get to know what's on their minds shows them respect, and in turn earns respect from your own teen. It builds bridges, and connections that will last a lifetime. Just ask me. And by the way, 60 is the new 40!