I am a creature of habit. I like structure. I like to be at home. But sometime during the months of February and March I start to need something more. Perhaps it is the fact that I haven’t had enough sunshine. Perhaps it is the longest stretch of time with nothing to look forward to. Whatever it is, it’s a rough patch on the calendar for me.
This time last year we were preparing for a spring break vacation. We don’t usually take those but last winter we had feet and feet of snow and frankly I just needed to get the heck out of Dodge. So we rented a condo in Orlando while my husband had a business trip. The plan was to do nothing but soak up the sun. We didn’t really care about doing the Disney thing. Our main criterion was to find a property that was inclusive with much for our kids to be able to go off and do without needing our constant supervision.
We found a place that had several pools, a giant slide, bicycles, basketball courts, restaurants, game rooms, tennis courts and a schedule full of activities for kids to attend that included ice cream socials and karaoke nights. My husband and I had hoped that the teens would go off and enjoy their freedom while we were able to lay by the pool and read.
But was once we arrived, we couldn’t shake those kids to save our lives. We practically begged them to go. But they wanted to be with us. They were more than willing to attend any of the activities but only if we were going along. We were perplexed by the situation. Here we had these teens that do nothing but complain about getting out of the house and wanting to be away from us but when taken to a destination specifically designed for that, they did not.
I was reminded of last year’s spring “break” this past weekend. My oldest son is still awaiting his license. He is very close. I suppose within the month he will be getting it. But in the meantime, he is pretty much trapped with us. Or is he?
Being 16 years old now does not bring the same wealth of opportunity to be out and about as it did when I was a teen. With the new laws in place, getting your license at 16 does not mean you pile your friends into the car every Friday and Saturday night and take off. In fact, under the age of 18, you are not allowed to drive with anyone other than siblings until you have had your provisional license for months. Imagine being 16 or 17 and not being able to go out on the weekends with your friends…think back to your adolescence. How different would things have been for you?
On Friday night, our local Rita’s opened. We all piled into the Denali and drove across town to get our Rita’s fix. Our kids jumped out and went to get their favorite ices and custards. I looked around the parking lot and into the nearby local restaurants. I was struck how much activity there was. Couples out alone without children but for a Friday night there were not many teens hanging out. I thought about how it was a Friday night and my 16 year old and 15 year old were with their younger siblings and their parents getting Rita’s. THAT was their big excitement for the night?
My husband and Son #3 were gone most of Saturday at a wrestling meet which left me home with Son #1, Son #2 and Daughter. We were taking care of household chores preparing to celebrate my father’s birthday the next day for Sunday dinner. They were all extremely helpful but once the chores were complete, it was obvious that my teenagers were antsy.
Son #1 took off to do some longboarding which left Son #2 at home alone. Son #2 recently fractured his fibula and is casted for 6 weeks. His activities are more limited than ever . This weekend he would have been wrestling at National Preps and it was obvious to me that he was becoming a bit squirrely. I looked in the woods to see Son #2 swinging a maul over his head trying to split firewood in the backyard. I stood there watching him for a bit. I thought to myself, “He’s bored out of his mind.” Taking away athletics from that son is like taking away his air. Later that afternoon, I caught him on the trampoline – in his cast. The mere fact that I had to tell him that it wasn’t a good idea made me laugh. I admit, I felt sorry for him. I felt badly that he wasn’t able to make big high school Saturday plans. Then I felt antsy. Then I felt sorry for myself that I wasn't able to make my own Saturday night plans.
During the course of the day I sent my husband several “love” texts. I was missing him. Missing time alone. Missing date night. Weekends away. Just being without children and enjoying each other’s company – as lovers – as friends. I reminisced on the days when we were younger and dating. I listened to my old 70’s music while I cleaned and cooked. I felt nostalgic. I felt sad. I missed the days of youth and young love when all that mattered were the plans you were making for your weekend. I missed it for myself. I missed it for my own teens that were not able to engage in their own weekend Saturday night date. I shared the song from the old Jefferson Starship song, “Runaway” with my husband–
“You don't know how much I love you
But I love you like the sun
I like to put my arms around you
And we could run, run, run, runaway
Let's run, run, run, runaway
Let's run, run, run, runaway
If you knew how much I...miss you
I miss you more each day
I'd really like to come and see you
And we could run, run, run, runaway
Run, run, run, runaway
Let's run, run, run, runaway”
It dawned on me that perhaps it was strange that I as the adult was the one looking to escape from my teenagers. Why weren’t they the ones trying to escape from me? After all, on a daily basis I hear how much they can’t stand me and how much I get on their nerves.
So on Saturday night I announced that I was going to the grocery store. Big fun right there. Living on the edge. My oldest chimed in that he wanted to go with me. I am always shocked by that. Mostly because there wasn’t a chance when I was 16 that I would want to go to the grocery store with my mother on a Saturday night. Then again there wasn’t a chance that my mother would be at the grocery store on a Saturday night. He wanted to take the time to go shower but I didn’t want to wait so I declined his company, told him I was in a big hurry and off to the store I went.
When I returned, Son #1 was not home. My husband informed me that he had gone to the mall with a friend. She is older and has had her license long enough to have a minor in the car with her other than a sibling. I was glad that I had told him that he couldn’t go to the grocery store with me. He was able to get out on a Saturday night at 16 years old and go have some fun. I think I may have even been jealous.
Later that evening my husband and I were watching a movie with the other 3 children when I asked what time he had told Son #1 to be home. He told me that he had not given him a time. I laughed at this thought. I remembered being 16 years old and out with friends. I remembered using up EVERY last minute left of my curfew. I remember sitting in the driveway until the last possible moment. Pushing the limits of my independence. I remembered timing ourselves to make one last stop at 7-11 before heading home. Yet my son was out at 16 without a curfew and neither my husband nor I were worried. Somewhere around 9 p.m. my husband texted Son #1 to find out what time he thought he would be home. He texted back – around 10:30 p.m. This amused me. I thought “If I were the one out on a Saturday night, I’d still be using up EVERY possible moment. In fact, if I were out with my husband tonight – I may not come home til dawn.”
So sometime after 10:00 my husband and I headed upstairs to our bedroom and at 10:20 p.m. the garage door went up. Son #1 was home. The next morning we asked him if he had a good time. The answer was “Yes.” He then shared that he had bought two new books at Barnes and Noble. Again, that was a far cry from my own Saturday nights at 16.
I wondered if the law was different would my teens be out doing more. I wondered if the driving laws were the reason that my teens were home with the family so much. I wondered if those days of teenage freedom had been calmed by the lawmakers’ decisions to make driving as a minor more difficult on a Saturday night.
I wondered if it had just been the way we’ve parented. I wondered if despite all of that bravado about needing to get away from us and not being able to stand being in the house with us – perhaps we aren’t so bad as parents after all. I don’t know.
But this one thing I do know. It’s awfully ironic how at this stage of parenthood, my husband and I are the ones conjuring up a way to sneak out on our teenagers…