Well Intended: A family’s time of individual discoveries
Published 6:10 am, Tuesday, July 21, 2015
It’s time for me to get a life. I am not even slightly fascinating to my teenagers. At dinner time, I can get them to turn off their electronics at dinner and to answer the few repetitive questions I pose, “How was your day? Do you have any homework? Did you call your father?” Even I am bored by this exchange. In an attempt to engage, I dig for news stories and funny Facebook videos to share.
My evenings are now nearly free. No one wants to walk to the beach with me after dinner. The kids aren’t interested in watching a movie with me. Online conversations with their friends have replaced the books we used to read aloud together. They play video games (often together) instead of the board games we used to spread out across the coffee table. They offer to let me join but quickly become frustrated with my poor coordination and navigation skills (I crash into everything).
I realize this is an important part of their development. They need to individuate. I knew that this was coming and am glad that they are becoming curious, engaged, opinionated teenagers. I understood that there might be some conflicts and that these would be necessary steps for all of us. What I hadn’t considered was my own need to separate and establish new routines.
I set myself up for this to some extent. As a single mother I might have overly indulged their tastes and preferences and delayed my own for weekends when they were with their father. I (like so many parents) can identify dozens of vehicles from the Thomas the Tank Engine movies. I know the words to most of the songs we learned in toddler music classes. I would venture to guess that I have seen every animated film since 1998 at least once. When they came home from school, I gave them all of my attention (whether they wanted it or not). And now it’s important for all of us that I step back.
I remember when my own parents receded to the back of my consciousness. The freedom of having a 1969 VW Squareback and the ability to make my own way to ballet lessons, the beach, to a friend’s house or to a frozen yogurt establishment was incredibly freeing. I could begin to sculpt out my own life. It was important for me to believe that that Mom and Dad didn’t understand anything that really mattered. I quoted philosophers they had never read and impressed myself with my own cleverness. I loved them, and when I needed them I am glad they were always there, but I needed to be my own person. The only way that could happen was for me to step away a bit.
I am not sure what I’ll do with my evenings. The shift has happened so gradually that I’ve added in a few more hours of work or have gotten caught up on the laundry, but that hardly feels compelling. I have the time and space to grow again and to stretch beyond the definition of myself as a mother of young children. In the years that come as my teenagers grow into adults, I’m excited to explore the next phase of my journey. Maybe I’ll finally write that novel!
Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.