Oh, girl. I know you don’t know how it feels. But when you call me “second mom” I get a sort of butterfly feeling in my stomach. Because I know I don’t have a daughter. And as of the current moment, the prospect of me ever having one that is a teenager isn’t promising. I love my boys to pieces. I would never exchange them for the world. But you, my “not daughter daughter”, you have a little box in my mind labeled “fragile”.

We met from our driveways. You, my neighbor. Me, a mom of three littles. You babysat my boys. And we saw your face around our house more and more. And the door has always been open for you, not-daughter-daughter. We’ve had meals and ice cream and makeup and chit chats. We’ve talked about boys and feelings and disappointment and school and sex and friends and college. We’ve formed this bond that is different for me . . . because this mama does not have girls. But oh, do I treasure the glimpse into girl-hood you give me.

You remind me what it is to be a teenage girl. You remind me of the way everything is as big as all of life because everything is as big as your life. You remind me of the way that one person’s opinion of you one day can make or break your identity because you are still forming that identity. And girl, you remind me to tell myself I am still forming my identity, too. That it doesn’t stop simply because we girls are no longer teens.

You remind me of the way dreaming works. That I need to trust those feelings in my belly when life feels really good and when doing something fills you up. You remind me, as I talk with you, that every single day is a new one. That every single experience is its own. That we are all special. Just like everyone else.

Girl, I’ve watched you learn what it is to fail. To have your dreams crushed hard-core. I’ve watched you flourish. Becoming this sort of adult-like woman who has moxie and might. I’ve watched you learn to understand your parents and their love for you. I’ve watched you figure out what drama is worth it and what just needs to be left at the door. I’ve watched you have joy, sweet girl. I’ve watched you have tears.

I’ve learned that the current verbiage is to say that something is “lit”, what SInsta means, what Snapchat habits look like, what is currently in style for the teen scene, and also, all the ways you are bucking the typical teen trends. I’ve gotten to watch you go to prom, get “promposed” to, delight in visiting your not-boyfriend at college, do school projects, apply to colleges, and make friends. And I even felt my heart burst into a million bajillion pieces watching you as the lead in your school musical. I have watched you grow and it’s been my pleasure, girl. Thank you for letting me be a part of your world.

You are not my daughter. But your mama let’s me be your “second mom.” In fact, because she’s awesome and she’s my friend, she welcomes it and celebrates it. And I owe her a huge thank you for that. She tells me she wants you to have people like me in your life, who she trusts to help you in times where you won’t go to her. She is such a good mother that she recognizes that she can be good with the help of her village. I’ve watched you, “not daughter daughter” grow closer to her. And I’ve watched you understand her view on your life. I’ve watched you understand that parents have to parent. And I have listened to the growth in your understanding for all that your parents want for you.

It’s a cool place to get to be. On the periphery of parenting. The place where I know you value my advice but at the end of the day, you are not truly mine. The place where I can give you my opinions because I have not known you as your mother has. I’ve just known you as a teenage girl who was growing up right as we came into your life.

You are not my daughter, but we mamas know that it isn’t in birthing babies that we learn to mother. It is in the actual getting to know you humans that we learn what it is to nurture, love, and care for your hearts.

To all the girls who let us not-your-moms be a part of your growing up—gosh, we are the luckiest. And to all the mamas who let us into your daughters’ lives and hearts, thank you for helping me understand that someday, my boys will have “second moms” too.

Ashli Brehm

Ashli Brehm = Thirtysomething. Nebraska gal. Life blogger. Husker fan. Creative writer. Phi Mu sister. Breast cancer survivor. Boymom. Premie carrier. Happy wife. Gilmore Girls fanatic. Amos Lee listener. Coffee & La Croix drinker. Sarcasm user. Jesus follower. Slipper wearer. Funlover. Candle smeller. Yoga doer. Pinterest failer. Anne Lamott reader. Tribe member. Goodness believer. Life enthusiast. Follow me at http://babyonthebrehm.com/