“When was the last time we headed out to do something this late?”
Kid-free, wild and crazy and living it up, we headed out for a night on the town. It had been awhile. It was also 5:30pm. And truthfully, it was pretty exciting.
I’m a homebody, an introvert. I love staying at home with my kids, it suits me. However, there is always the danger of slipping from homebody to hermit. It’s an easy line to cross. So sometimes I have to push myself to go out and do things I would kind of rather not, only because my couch isn’t there and I have to put on real pants and a bra, and there are people and noises and lights and-
My oldest son is heavily wired against anything new or different or deviating from his comfortable routine. When he was younger this led to meltdowns and anxiety attacks and working with therapists to help him adapt because try as he might, the world just does not always spin the exact way he would like it to.
But I understand, somewhat, because I like things to be a certain way, too. But I tell him to try new things, taste something new because you just might like it, or not and that’s okay. You tried. Now you know. If I want him to go out and experience the world, push himself, just sometimes, I have to walk the walk.
It’s one of the most difficult parts of parenting, isn’t it? Keeping an eye on your own hypocrisy. Realizing that you really can’t eat sandwich crusts and two cups of coffee for lunch while extolling the importance of healthy eating because someone is watching you. Even when they don’t listen to you, they’re watching. Maybe especially then.
So we went to a concert, left the kids at the grandparents’ house and made a weekend of it. Of course, spending extra time with their grandparents isn’t exactly a hardship for them. I think, if given the chance, they would trade us in for their grandparents. I mean, they’d feel bad about it. Probably. It’s just they get to eat chocolate cereal on the couch and watch cartoons, and well. I can’t really compete with that.
They had fun. We had fun. And I know, I know. It’s important to get away from the kids and focus on my relationship and maybe remember that I’m a person, separate from my kids, separate even from my marriage. But I missed them, and I found myself thinking about how they would have liked the drum circle we happened upon, how they would have loved all the empty space in what may have been that saddest, loneliest mall I’ve ever been to.
We may bring them along, next concert. We think they’ll like it. My oldest may very well hate it. But we never know, he’s certainly surprised us before. And even if he does hate it, we have to keep trying. Not because I want to make him someone he’s not, but because I know how hard it is to go out and break from routine and do something else.
On the final, exhausting drive home; kids picked up, van full of dirty clothes and haphazardly packed luggage and empty food containers, I asked them, “Did you miss us?” While craned around in that uncomfortable spine-twisting neck cramping way that I typically spend ninety-percent of a car trip doing. It was kind of boring, not being needed for something every two minutes.
“I missed the Wii,” my oldest said.
That Wii, a constant source of contention and frustration between the two of us. But where the games are predictable, where he can control who says what and who does what and can always hit the reset button if things go awry.
The world is never going to go exactly the way he’d like it to. Or even the way I’d like it to. Some people will always look at my son and see a disorder and not a person. Sometimes trying new things will be an unmitigated disaster. But I want him to know that he always has a soft place to fall. That home is where he can hit the reset button, rest, and try again.
That I would always rather he try, and fail, then to be so rigid or afraid that he never tries at all. Mostly because it’s a lesson that I’m still trying to learn myself.
So next time I’ll try heading out at 6:00pm. I’m just that daring.
Jill Vettel is a writer and stay at home mom of three in Durham, NC. She is not hermit. Not yet anyway.