Tag Archives: kid-free

Feeling lost

The whole family went out to dinner last night, including my parents and uncle. The celebration behind the occasion was to get together before my dad went on a cross country excursion, and my kids left for another 10 days at their dad’s house. So we all met up at La Vera’s restaurant in Santa Rosa during the Wednesday night market.

Following the dinner, Taz and I went to the bathroom before he left, except he took a really long time to come back out. So we came up with the brilliant plan to disappear around the corner and hide from him as a joke.

Except there’s nothing funny about an 11-year old who comes out to an empty table and thinks that his whole family has abandoned him.

Vintage Taz (circa 2011)

At first we thought it was hilarious, and we stood silently giggling as his back was to us and he surveyed the area. But when he turned at us with a shocked look on his face, quickly replacing it with a wide smile when he saw our familiar faces, I could see the thoughts racing through his head. Behind that smile was a valiant effort to keep the tears at bay. And any humor I found in this was instantly replaced with feelings of shame. I had placed my son in a position of facing his biggest fear – of being forgotten. Beneath all his bravado, silliness, and attention seeking behavior is an effort to make himself noticed and remembered. And it’s possible that it’s all an act to ensure he won’t be overlooked. And here he was, shaken up by a mere 10 seconds when he felt the most alone at the expense of his family’s amusement.

Needless to say, I feel like a horrible mom.

The poor guy kept his smile plastered on his face, doing his best to not even let on the appearance of tears. But I wasn’t fooled. I’m not sure anyone else in the family besides me even knew just how hard he had taken it. I tried not to make a huge deal out of it so he wouldn’t feel embarrassed or start to really cry. But I couldn’t help but apologize profusely and then insist on holding his hand for most of the walk back to the car. I overcompensated by acting ultra silly until he was finally past the point of wanting to cry and no longer wanted to hold my hand.

Ok, practical jokes are normal in families, and our family is no exception. It’s a rare day when a sarcastic quip or humorous tease doesn’t occur. But that still hasn’t stopped me from reliving that moment, and then mentally bear hugging my still-so-young son in protection against his horrible family.

The kids leave today for their dad’s house, and this time I’m not ready. The first excursion I couldn’t kick them out fast enough. I just needed a break from being a mom, and welcomed the quiet a kid-free house would bring. During that time, I heard from my daughter several times about how she couldn’t get along with her dad, begging me to come home. And I even got a call from their dad who was at a loss about how to deal with a hormonal teenage girl. Naturally I wanted to fix it all. I encouraged my daughter to talk with her dad when they weren’t on speaking terms, and I gave my ex pointers on how to handle the emotions of a stubborn and delicate daughter. But I eventually took a step back and stopped absorbing their problems. It wasn’t mine, it was theirs. And it was up to them to make it better. By the time they came back, they had wordlessly patched things up, and they also had a new brother (their stepmom had her baby the day before they were to leave). I had thought they were going to fight me on going back, but both kids were enthusiastic about returning in 5 days time.

And here we are, 5 days later, and it’s time for them to leave again.

Vintage Wine Country Mom and kids (circa August 2010 in San Diego)

During the last few days I have felt the need to soak up as much time with the kids as I could. It seemed like both the kids were too. They each had their own separate times of spending quality time with me. DQ hung with me at the kitchen table, both of us perusing catalogs and gabbing about this and that. Taz took time away from his video games each night to hang out and watch the Olympics with us. He kept prodding me to play a board game with him during this time, but time just got away from us. Now I wish I had.

They’re only going to be gone for 10 days. When they’re back, they probably won’t see their dad for a few months. I’m starting to see a tiny portion of what he goes through when he says goodbye, because I’m really, really going to miss them. And it’s possible that for the first few days, I might feel just as lost as a forgotten 11-year old kid.

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My Week Without Kids

This article publishes in the Press Democrat on August 10th.

The kids are visiting their dad this week. As a result, the house is strangely quiet. The TV, which is usually blaring with bright pictures and loud voices from attention seeking sitcoms, has been off for days. And the Internet speed is curiously faster without video games tying up the bandwidth. The living room is free of clutter, and the food in the kitchen is intact for much longer than usual. In fact, our food bill this week was much lower than usual, and it’s been really nice to cook for two rather than five. Our calendar is looking pretty bare this week, and the cash in my wallet is staying put instead of being handed over to kids who need new clothing, a soda from the store, money for half-done chores, or whatever their fancy of the moment happens to be.

I was asked recently if I missed my kids. Without hesitating, I said absolutely not. It was only after I said it that I realized maybe I shouldn’t have been so enthusiastically quick in my response. I love my kids. I love that I have them with me the majority of the time. But after a long summer of bored teenagers taking over the house, I love that they are at their other parent’s house for 7 glorious days.

It’s been a really long summer. My son, Taz, has taken to video game marathons while I’m away at work. Despite the sunshine outside, his comfort level takes place in his darkened bedroom, chatting away with friends on his headset. When he’s not doing that, his butt is planted on the couch watching TV. Dirty dishes are piling up in his room even though he’s been told food doesn’t belong anywhere but in the kitchen. When I come home from work, he’s usually back upstairs in his room, talking loudly into his headset while his friends shout back through the television. Meanwhile, the downstairs TV is still on with whatever kids show he was watching earlier, the living room totally destroyed and the kitchen showing blatant signs of whatever he ate that day through the food on the counter and the garbage on the floor.

But the noise from my son is overruled by the pounding beat coming from upstairs. Frizz, my stepson, has taken to listening to club music at extremely loud levels at all hours of the day. From the moment he wakes up at 2 pm till late in the evening, all that can be heard throughout the house is bump, bump, bump, bump. I’d like to strangle whoever thought it was an excellent idea to buy a teenager a sub woofer for his tiny room. While we are at work, Taz and Frizz compete with each other as they try to hear their own sounds above the others. The other day, Taz’s TV was on full blast, as was Frizz’s pounding music. This was what I got to come home to. The kicker was that Frizz was also wearing earplugs to drown out the noise. Tired of sounding like an ancient broken record about keeping the noise at a level that is respectful towards everyone living there (just writing that out makes me realize what an old fogey I’ve become), I fought the noise in the most mature way I could muster. I figured out just how loudly the downstairs surround sound could play my personal mix of Coldplay music. Apparently pretty loud – at least loud enough to drown out all the other music.

In the midst of all this is my daughter DQ, who is suddenly very much in puppy love with a boy who lives near us, and wants to spend every waking moment with him. Take a hormonal 14-year old girl, add in a 14-year old hormonal boy, factor in the summer break right before entering high school when both have a lot of free time on their hands, and mix it all together. The sum of this equation supersedes any stress that videogame marathons and subwoofer competitions can induce by about a million.

So when it came time to drive my kids several hours away to stay with their father for 7 whole days, I couldn’t throw their stuff in my car fast enough.

In the time they have been gone, I have enjoyed a few lazy days by the pool with a magazine in my lap and a cold drink within arm’s reach. I have gone to bed early every night, and woken up refreshingly early every morning. Mr. W and I have even enjoyed a couple nights out on the town.

In a few days, my kid-free staycation will be over. By then, I will be ready to take back the reins. But until then, I think I will enjoy this brief interlude from motherhood while it lasts.