Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Homeland Security

A truth revealed itself to me this morning. We mothers spend a fair amount of time wishing our kids would be home and get home safely. We spend roughly the same amount of time secretly wishing they would go away…just for a little while.

The truth is, we love our children. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that we like spending time with them. Given that my nest is sometimes empty, I’m cherishing every family meal as if it were the Last Supper. As surprisingly educated verbal lobs bounce across the table (who knew they were actually learning something in school?!), I listen in amazement as they spout opinions and ideas that have merit and thought behind them.

But it definitely goes without saying, in fact, we parents are afraid to say it, that teen and young adult children make our lives kinda complicated. As parents, we’re not really sure what we’re supposed to do. (Shhh, don’t tell them this. They think we’ve actually thought this through.)

If you ask the kids, they’d say that we have no business being in their business. Sometimes they’re right. We should leave them alone to make their own mistakes, dress badly, wake up late and find their own jobs. But seriously. When have you met a mother who has minded her own business? I’ve never studied Greek or Latin, but I’m pretty sure that “Mother” means “I care too much” in both of those languages.

The high school child has told us, in no uncertain terms, that our opinions have no value, our comments are unwelcome and the information dissemination will be on a need-to-know basis. (Need-to-know can be interchanged with need money.) Frankly, the Geneva Convention should have a section on “Humane Conversations with a Smart-Ass High School Kid Who Knows Everything.”

Once the college child, a.k.a. Human Cyclone, has arrived in one piece on terra familia firma, they spread their crap and circumstance all over our formerly well-ordered households. They are Peanuts’ Pig Pen to our Martha Stewart. Suffice it to say, you know they’ve arrived.

But that’s not the tricky part. What throws our yin and yang into cosmic imbalance is that while they were away, despite our best efforts, they started doing things their way. God, that’s infuriating! How dare they fold clothes differently than dear old Mom! The nerve of them to hang their jacket on a dining room chair!

When my kids were little, I remember feeling bamboozled when I would pick them up from child care and they would fall apart in front of me. The ever-competent teachers would assure me that the kids had a marvelous time that day and were smiling and laughing mere seconds before I walked in the door. So why wasn’t I greeted with a flurry of hugs and kisses instead of tears and whining? It’s because they waited for me to fall apart – an odd concept that continues to prove itself over time.

You see, our kids go out into the cold, impersonal world and put on their best faces. They act brave and funny and interesting and social and perhaps even polite. And then they walk in the door of our home, take off their wall of defense and spew back all of the low self-esteem, inadequacies, anger and injustice they’ve been holding in all day or all semester.

That’s the hard, cold truth. They save it for us, because right now, we’re their most important people. The ones they trust to keep loving them despite their attempts to make us feel otherwise.

I guess that’s OK. I’ll take what little I can get, while I can still get it.

But dammit, washing a dish once a week won’t kill them, will it?! Oh, who am I kidding?


At 11:40 AM , Blogger kenju said...

Ah, yes, I remember it well. I am really happy to be past that point in my children's lives. It's good to see you post again.

At 5:34 PM , Blogger Star said...

Karen- what an awesome post. YOu hit so many nails right on their heads.

At 7:20 AM , Blogger panthergirl said...

That was wonderful to read, because every single word of it is true.

One of my favorite parenting books of all time is "Get Out of My Life, But First Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?". I saw the author speak and he said so many things (as you have) that ring true for all of us.

So happy to see you at Michele's!

At 10:02 AM , Anonymous colleen said...

Well said. I remember both my sons at the age of 16. They pushed for more freedoms than they would get and I had to give them more freedom than I wanted to. Somewhere we met in the middle. Michele sent me here today.

At 2:07 PM , Blogger Carmi said...

Ah, you always speak such wise words, Karen. The dad and son in me both nodded continuously throughout the entire entry.

I think that the child-parent/push-pull dynamic is all part of the process of growing up, of leaving the nest, flying on our own, that kinda thing. But it doesn't make it any easier for long-suffering parents.

As long as you're putting it into words, however, I know I'll find comfort when connecting here.

I do hope you're doing OK. I've once again been a bad blogger-friend. Life's just been very challenging in recent months. I don't discuss it openly on my blog - don't want to come across as a whiner, after all - so I'm hoping the folks who matter understand that just because I'm not commenting as often as I'd like doesn't mean I'm not sending good thoughts their way.

Have a great Sunday!

At 4:07 PM , Blogger craziequeen said...

Hi Karen, what a frank and interesting post.....

It was nice to see you at Michele's place again :-)

This is an issue that both parents and children can identify with.


The adult in us knows dish washing is not fatal, but the inner child knows it is a dangerous occupation....



At 5:30 AM , Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said...

An excellent parent post, Karen.

At 7:39 AM , Blogger rashbre said...

Isn't there an endearing moment as a returning offspring rescopes the home, creating both territory and checking the supply of interesting edibles?

And Hello, I'm here today via Micheles!


At 8:39 AM , Blogger ~Easy said...

Hi. Michele sort of sent me. Actually I was supposed to go to the one below you, but I've visited him before, and not seen you so I thought I'd stop by here as well.

My kids are younger, but my oldest just became a teenager recently, and a lot of what you mentioned--and my friends warned me about--is staring to happen


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