Yesterday, due to 1) a rare black hole in the sports schedule universe, and 2) compulsory down-time resulting from “natural consequences” of poor behavior choices the previous week, we had a free day. Granted, there is always something to do and even doing nothing is actually doing something, so there is really no such thing as empty time, but yesterday our schedule was oddly open and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to do something.
Feeling a little raw from being a tough-love mom during the previous week (see #2 above), I suggested that my three kids and I go out for a special lunch of pizza and bowling at the Flatbread Company in Somerville and then head over to Lyndell’s in Cambridge to get coffee (for me, of course) and some of the best cookies on earth (for the kids, but I was also planning to eat one, just to show my willingness to sacrifice my own health to join in the family fun).
From the wailing and whining and impassioned protests, you would have thought that I had said, “hey kids, let’s go out for succotash and then take in a four-hour Italian opera.” What’s a mom to do? Other than get really mad and insist that everyone “shape up” so we can go have some damn family time. And then yell and lecture about how ungrateful they all are. This did not get the desired result.
Seeing the futility of the situation, I called the whole thing off and went to my room for some focused pouting. I put away clothes and felt sorry for myself. I cried a little, thinking about how I dutifully do all of the things that have to get done for our family and never get to just have fun with my kids. And I thought about how they will never give their dad a hard time like this because his attention is a more scarce commodity, which makes me sad for them and jealous of him at the same time. It feels bad to think about all of this, but I take comfort because it is familiar. I know how to do disappointment better than I know how to do happy family.
When I live in the “now,” I can fill it up with all kinds of projects and driving and work and tennis and coffee and driving. It is sometimes easy to forget that the time with my kids is short, because well, it isn’t always fun (see #2 above). When I do pick my head up and look around, I panic that every day we do not go out for pizza and bowling and cookies, is a lost opportunity to make happy family memories. Memories that will make them laugh and reminisce together as adults. Memories of what a great mom I was which will make them pick a really high quality nursing home and visit me frequently when I am old. It is hard to know how to accomplish this since I didn’t grow up with that kind of family feeling. I want it now – for myself and for my kids – so much and I keep grasping for what I think it might look like and spend too much time worrying that I am not getting it right.
Then the beau comes along, with his sweet bald head and penchant for simplifying complicated things, and says, “maybe they just want to be at home, instead of do stuff with you, because they already have that feeling.”
And I realize that he could be right. (Again, dang it.) I guess my homebody kids might want to be here, snuggled in on a Saturday with their pj’s on all day, because, to them, home feels like a safe place to get away from it all. Maybe they can ignore me because they trust that I will always here. Maybe they interrupt me to tell me seemingly unimportant things (especially if I am working) because they do need me. And maybe jumping on each other and teasing makes them feel connected. Maybe they can experiment with bad behavior choices because they know, without a doubt, that I will always love them no matter what. Maybe they don’t want to go do anything with me because just being together in our house gives them the feeling I have been blindly grasping for. And I wonder if I will ever get better at seeing that I already belong to the family I have always wanted.