“I wanted to tell you I understand now,” said Kristina. “I get all those things you used to say. ‘Hang up your coat! Don’t leave your shoes in the middle of the floor!’”
“You mean you understand why I used to nag you all the time?”
“Yes. Oh my goodness!” She threw her head back and rolled her eyes.
Turns out her boyfriend is giving her some payback. He’s getting on her nerves the way she used to get on mine.
Hmmm, maybe I’ll have to admit boyfriends have their uses after all.
“There’s a shoe rack by the door. It’s RIGHT THERE. It’s just as easy to put the shoes there. But no-o-o-o, he drops them two feet away, so the hall looks messy. And then after he takes dishes out of the kitchen cupboards, he leaves the doors wide open. WHY?”
Kristina was down from school for the weekend and we were chatting at the kitchen table. I was looking forward to catching up, but I didn’t know I was going to get the platinum parenting validation:
“Now I get it. I understand how I drove you insane.”
It wasn’t completely unexpected. She’s been on her own since September, and every time we talk to her, we hear notes of maturity. New insights, better manners, more thoughtfulness. You can strategize and coach and teach all you want, but independence is the real teacher.
But Kristina’s not the only one who’s more grown up.
Suddenly, my husband and I are living in adult-land, too.
A world of calm and quiet. In adult-land, there’s no T.V. and there are no video games. At least, in our adult-land. I make a point of joining Kristina in the shows she likes, and finding something in them I can genuinely relate to. I believe it’s an important way to connect to your child. (Confession: Just can’t do it with the video games, I’m afraid.)
But to be honest, it’s not always so great for my own my own mental health. I thrive on the spa-like quiet we have now. Dinner for two without making any special effort. Communicating in our own couple shorthand.
The privacy that allows conversations to unfold and deepen naturally.
In adult-land, I don’t have to be a role model for anyone. I didn’t realize how conscious I was of that. Maybe too conscious. That takes a lot of energy! It’s unexpectedly relaxing to just be my own flawed self around the house.
And I don’t come home to a pile of shoes in the middle of the hall. Adult-land is more esthetic and easier on the senses.
It makes me realize anew how important it is to visit adult-land regularly before the kids leave home. We all know this, of course, but over and over again we allow other items to rise to the top of our list.
You need to relate to your partner as the person you fell in love with, not just as your co-parent.
But not only that, you need to relate to the non-attending, non-adapting, non-role modeling parts of yourself.
I’m not saying this point in life is all joy and no pain. Of course not. I miss being able to give Kristina hugs every day. Her sense of humor. And yes, I miss the feeling of bafflement that only comes from talking to a teenage girl.
I even miss some of the things I used to nag her about, like getting make-up all over the bathroom counter.
And I don’t think I’ll ever believe she’s really old enough to drive. That’s always in the back of my mind.
Still, I feel new little green buds and shoots sprouting and shooting in different directions. I think adult-land is going to be an interesting place for all of us.