“I don’t care if you like me or not,” I say. “My job is to be your mother, not your friend. If I do it right, eventually—when you’re an adult—we’ll be friends. But right now that’s not the goal.” She rolls her eyes at me. I feel self-righteous, even though I’m lying.
I’m lying because I do care when my kids are unhappy with me. I care a lot, actually. There’s very little that feels worse to me than one or both of my teens being angry with me, particularly if I feel like I’m doing the “right” thing and they’re being unreasonable. (Let us not get into the relationship between “teenager” and “unreasonable,” lest we slide down a slippery slope into the pit of hormonal doom and no return.) I devote an enormous amount of time, attention, and energy to parenting the best I can, and in these tumultuous teen years, it often feels like a thankless job. Not always, of course; sometimes the rewards are sweet (if short-lived). But whether or not I’m being 100% honest about caring if they like me, the fact remains that my job is to try to turn these human beings into self-sufficient, productive members of society. And that means: