One of the weirdest things about being the mom of a teenager is the fact that I am watching him experience things that I remember doing myself, as if it was…well, ok, maybe not just yesterday. I remember my high school years so clearly, it just feels so strange that I have a son who is that age now.
Sure, a lot has changed, but in some ways it is like a warped form of déjà vu. As he gets older, he is rightfully becoming more independent, social, and doing more activities outside of the house. He has a strong core group of friends and an adorable girlfriend. It used to be that any outings were with my husband and me, as a family unit. Now, he “goes out” without us. And at his age, “going out” usually involves going to a movie, or to roam the mall, or out to get pizza, or to a party at a friend’s house, or to go to a concert. As I watch him go, I am of course nervous because he’s no longer with me as a little guy holding my hand, and I have to let him start to experience life independently. I am also excited for him, because I have so many great memories of my teen years, and I want him to enjoy his life and be happy. And honestly, I am a bit wistful. I miss going to movies with a group of friends and eating a bucket of popcorn, or sitting with my BFF at Friendly’s to discuss life’s dramas while consuming giant Reese’s pieces sundaes. I miss the excitement of going to my first concerts and live performances, dancing at parties at friend’s houses, roaming around “downtown” just because, and getting involved in any activity that included whichever boy I had a crush on at the time.
As we get older, “going out” changes. In college, and once of legal age, it was all about dressing up and going to clubs and bars to listen to deafeningly loud music, do plenty of drinking and dancing, while simultaneously dreading and hoping to meet some new guy or get to know a new group of friends. There were still movies to see, sporting events to attend, and road trips to take with BFFs. Parties got bigger and noisier and ran later. Even more than in High School, it is a time for pushing the envelope of good behavior and hopefully in the end making wise decisions.
Then later in life, “going out” changes even more. There is less of it, and more “staying in.” Movies at the theaters change to comfortable nights at home watching Netflix. Wild parties shift to dinners with friends. Clubbing turns into a drinks and dinner with BFFs at a favorite restaurant, wearing far more comfortable clothing. Road trips shift to either traveling to see family, taking kids to a vacation destination, or chick’s weekends full of shopping and talking. And dates change too. Date night in mid-life isn’t about flirting with a cute boy over a slice of pizza, or hoping to dance with some hottie at a club or going to see the latest rock band. Date nights become anything that takes us away from regular responsibility and chores, where we can spend time with our spouses or partners just talking or doing something fun.
This weekend, my husband and I drove my son and his girlfriend to a concert about an hour from home. We all had supper together, then we dropped them off at the entrance of the venue. They went in with a crowd of other young people to see a cool new alternative band. The concert hall was near a local college, and my husband and I watched groups of 20-somethings “going out” in the town to any number of bars, parties and clubs. The weather was unseasonably mild, and the amount of skin showing on the young women as they scurried by in their high boots and short skirts made us feel protective and old.
While my son and his girlfriend were at the concert, my hubby and I had at least a couple of hours for a “date night.” There were no movies we really wanted to see, and we never even considered going to hang out at a bar – that was the us of years ago, not now. So what, you ask, did we do? We went and walked around IKEA. After closing time (for IKEA, not a bar), we found a wifi hotspot not far from the concert venue, parked the car, and watched Netflix until the kids texted to say they were ready to be picked up. And as all those college kids were just getting warmed up for their nights out, we were more than ready to take the drive home, well past our bedtime, and get some sleep.
To anyone under the age of 40, our date night probably sounds pathetic and antique. But we had fun. We were able to roam around that giant retailer together with no time constraints, no rushing, no big goal in mind, no one else to worry about. It got us talking about ideas for the house, styles we liked or didn’t like, and how that had changed over time. Later in the car we giggled over our favorite dysfunctional tv characters, and some of the real live characters we saw out our windows. And best of all, we were able to let our teen have a great night of “going out” while keeping him relatively safe at a distance that made us comfortable.
I think we all gradually accept that our ideas of a good time shift as we travel through the phases of our lives. Surprisingly, rather than feel depressed that I’ve become an old fart, or like I’m missing out on some kind of excitement, I’m feeling happily comfortable with the choices I make. I’ve “been there, done that” with the exhilaration of youth. Now there’s a definite appeal to relaxing and reliving the enthusiasm through him when he comes home with stories…while I’m in my pj’s…sitting next to my cool new lamp from IKEA.
What did you do tonight?