"My Daughter, My Best Friend"

Being a single parent to an only child means forsaking some friends - but gaining a best one.

One single adoptive mother shares her relationship with her daughter.

May I tell you a secret? Before I adopted Eleni, I had friends—lots of them. I had an A list: my closest, dearest confidants; a B list: people I admired, laughed with, worked with, or just generally liked; and a C list: those who drifted into my world when their lives were in upheaval and drifted back out when their circumstances changed.

But then a funny thing happened: I became a single adoptive mother, the sole parent of a baby girl who didn’t like to sleep. With less time on my hands—and fewer cells in my sleep-deprived brain—I had no choice but to drop my C list, cut back on my B list, and expend what energy I had on my A list and baby Eleni.

To be honest, this didn’t bother me. As Eleni grew in stature, and in years (and discovered the fine art of napping), she became my good friend, a loyal little pal who was a blast to hang out with. Today, almost seven, Eleni has seen the best of me and the worst of me, and still thinks I’m top dog among mothers. So what’s the problem?

Well, here’s the second part of my secret. Eleni, I believe, worries that I spend too much time alone. The other day, for instance, she received two birthday party invitations in the mail. Her face brightened at the prospect of all that fun, but then it clouded over. “Mommy, do you mind if I go?” she asked cautiously, studying my face for approval. “Will you be O.K. alone?” (Incidentally, Eleni uses the same tone when she talks of her birth mother in China. “It’s O.K., Mom? You don’t mind if I miss my Chinese mommy?”)

Since I rarely deny Eleni time with her friends, I immediately gave the go-ahead. In fact, my selfish brain was already plotting ways I could spend time alone—reading a magazine, taking a nap, calling a friend, staring at a wall, or, most likely, paying bills or going grocery shopping while my daughter partied hearty. Once Eleni saw that I meant business, she let out a whoop, no longer concerned that her poor mom would be alone on a glorious summer afternoon.

Of course, our story isn’t over. On this particular occasion, Eleni went to her parties, I met up with a friend from out of town, and the two of us reunited at the end of our separate excursions. For now, Eleni doesn’t stray far from home, and our lives are deeply intertwined. But what of the day when my daughter seeks out longer adventures? Will I be lonely? Will my life feel empty? It’s hard to say.

Last summer, I got a glimpse into the future by way of one of Eleni’s running jokes. Every morning, as she left for day camp, Eleni would throw on her backpack and proclaim, “See you in two weeks, Mom! I’m going to sleep-away camp!” She’d then giggle uncontrollably, testing the prospect of leaving home—and its security.

Most days, I’d laugh along with her, but sometimes I felt pangs of anxiety. (Because here’s the last part of my secret.) Eleni has meant more to me than my A, B, and C lists combined, and the longer she’s with me, the more I grow attached to her. Some days I ask myself, How could my life ever be the same without her?


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