In Anticipation of My “Forget These Kids” Weekend
I am a bad mother. I curse around my kids. I don’t force them to eat vegetables. I encourage showers, but if they don’t stink, I don’t care. I told them we would get a dog and they could pick it out. Turned out I lied. We got the dog, but I picked her out. Her name is Hope.
I buy ice cream and eat it in front of them without offering any. (Actually, I don’t. That would be pretty savage.)
Since the pandemic began, I’ve spent only three nights away from my children. For my 40th birthday, my husband took me on a short trip. We sent the littlest one to stay with friends, but the older two, we left them home. Alone. They are 15 and 13. Some parents think that is too young. I don’t because I know my kids, there are lots of adults around and folks to check on them. So mind your business, lady.
This year ….
…I appreciated getting closer with my children. I’ve learned more about them. I know more about their rhythms, their friends, their lives. As a parent of teenagers, you don’t often get this kind of access. I’ve learned from them. I’ve learned about painting and chess and Exploding Kittens and Wings of Fire and video game servers and Catan. It’s been precious.
But this year…
…has also tested my patience. At first, the pandemic was a welcome break for me. I was in the depths of a very bad depression, and being able to stay home, crawl out of bed only when I needed to teach, and crawl back into bed saved me. But once I climbed out of that hole, I realized that I truly am the extrovert that everyone says I am. (I disagree, but the more people that say it, I realize that being the odd one out, I’m probably wrong.) I missed having cocktails and cookouts and happy hour and karaoke. I do those things at home, with my family, but it’s not the same as hanging out with someone who chose to be my friend and isn’t merely obligated to be with me because of our family ties.
This weekend, I am leaving my children and my husband to see friends I haven’t seen in 18 months. I am calling it a Forget These Kids Weekend (FTKW. The F could also be substituted see Ceelo). I didn’t check with anyone when I bought my FTKW ticket. I didn’t think about where they might need to be or do. I apologized for my rashness to my husband. But not to my children. I thought about not even telling them I was leaving. (But I did.)
When talking with a friend a little while back, they remarked about how their children were the reason they worked so hard, how every move they made was with their children in mind. Not me.
As a child, I often felt like I stopped my parents from doing the things they wanted to. They were really young, on the cusp of adulthood when I was born. My mother was in her second year of college, my dad was an up-and-coming musician. Then I came along, and my brother only 11 months later. My mom stopped going to college. She finally got her bachelor’s the year before I got mine. My dad took a laborious job. He just retired after 35 years there.
I know it was not my choice to be born and need to be taken care of. I didn’t do anything wrong. But I often felt so guilty about it. I saw how hard my parents worked, not following their dreams, but taking care of kids. I don’t think they were unhappy, but I knew that they did what they did to take care of us. I knew they wanted more.
I, too, want more. I am blessed to have three healthy, polite, basically-good students, no-drama kids (except the baby. Typical baby of the family…a lot.) My children know I love them because I tell them all the time. I ask after them. When they’ve been in their rooms too long, I knock to tell them I just want to see their faces. I cook for them — real meals, not just spaghetti. I get them everything they need and a lot of what they want. If they call me, they know I will come for them. I even act as their assistant, taking their Starbucks order and picking it up.
But the way to heal is to let your kids get you out of the hole, but to learn to live for yourself once you’re out.
But I don’t live for them.
When you’ve had a serious mental illness, sometimes when you’re at the bottom you have to identify what you are living for. A lot of people will say they’re living for their kids. When I was down there, I’ve said that too. But the way to heal is to let your kids get you out of the hole, but to learn to live for yourself once you’re out.
So I’m going to see my homies, to hang hard like 40-year old moms can. We’re getting a hotel room and will probably be asleep by 10pm. I’m going because I’m living for me and what better way to do that than doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. I never want my kids to feel like they held me back from anything.
I started this off saying that I’m a bad mom — and maybe that’s even sometimes true. But I’m also learning to be a good me and in so doing, I hope one day my kids will also learn how to live for themselves too.