“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so someone in the house is happy to see you.” – Nora Ephron
Oh, sure, we all complain. We all get weary of feeling like we are being pulled in a dozen different directions every moment of the day. We have moments of wanting to scream – whether it is from having young children and hearing Mom. Mom. Mommy. Mom. Mommy. Ma. Mom. MO-OOM! all day, or from caring for an elderly parent who calls incessantly, requesting help with a tv remote or because they are confused which medications to take..or it could be because of a sick pet who has made messes all over the house and is up five times at night…or never ending chores and errands that fill a whole weekend…or needy co-workers with chaotic deadlines. No matter what the source, we all reach a point where we are tired of responsibilities, and we want some alone time. We dream of running away to a deserted island all by ourselves, no one to take care of but ourselves.
At least we think that is what we want. But in reality, isn’t it really the opposite? Even if we don’t want to admit it, don’t we R.W.’s have a basic human desire to be needed? Men do too, I suppose…but I think for them, they get their energy more from feeling appreciated and admired. Women need to be needed. Which makes us feel loved – and indispensible. How many of us have exasperatedly proclaimed like any good martyr “I don’t know how my family could ever cope without me!” while secretly being happy that they would be just ruined without us.
Truth is, they could cope. If we did run off to that tropical island, our loved ones could survive and be just fine. Sure, it may be messy, and not the way we’d like it, but they would find their own ways to cope. To test this, take a trip away from home, even for just 24 hours. Upon arriving back home, you will likely be greeted by dishes in the sink, unmade beds, leftover pizza, a bored pet, and uncompleted homework. But they will have survived.
My husband and I are currently binge-watching the Netflix series Shameless. For any of you who are not familiar with the show, it is aptly named. It is a frequently shocking, sometimes disturbing, ‘dramedy” about the most dysfunctional family you’d ever see. At the core are six siblings who have grown up with no parental guidance (at least no good, healthy guidance) in the south side of Chicago. And although it is of course a tv show, it is an illustration of the power of survival. The kids are messy, rough, crude con-artists – but somehow they keep a roof over their heads and (some) food on the table. But whoo, boy, could they use a mom.
When our children are little, they need us for EVERYTHING. Eating, walking, getting dressed, making decisions. But as they get older, their dependence on us lessens. They learn to do things for themselves, and make their own decisions. Some good, some bad, but we don’t have to take care of them every moment. It can feel kind of wonderful to have more freedom…. Until…. we miss it.
This morning before I left for work, I got a text from my son from school. He had apparently forgotten to tell me he was out of lunch money in his school account. He had no cash on him, and no food in his backpack. I had two options. One, exhibit tough love and teach the Sophomore that he’s old enough to keep better track of things and let him go hungry. Second, realize that it is easy to forget these things and that even if he had told me, I could have forgotten to give him money. I had visions of him passing out from hunger. So of course I made him a lunch and dropped it off at school.
I haven’t made him a school lunch in probably about two years. You know what? It was kind of fun. It made me feel….well, needed. In a really basic, simple, mom-ish kinda way. The best part? Was his text at lunch time. “This lunch is fantastic. Thank you.” I even got a “love you too.”
He may be five inches taller than me, learning to drive, and headed to college in a couple of years. But today, he needed his mom to do something nice for him.
So I suppose I’ll put off that trip to a deserted island… at least until tomorrow. Because what would they do without me?