I reconnected with a high school friend a few weeks ago. We immediately tried to figure out a date when we could meet up. She lives at the ocean so, of course, I wanted to go to her house; who doesn’t love the ocean?
We decided our first meeting would be a chance to catch up and go over old yearbooks. I told her I’d bring my teenage daughters; they could entertain themselves with her younger sons and the universal language of video games.
My husband was busy over the weekend, but I figured it would be a fun road trip with only me and my daughters. As the weekend approached the thought hit me: “What have I done? Why have I invited my daughters to come along? Why didn’t I use this opportunity as rare mom-time away from the house?”
Until a couple days ago, I hadn’t even thought about leaving my daughters. I’m home alone every day of the week while they are at school and now that they are teens they don’t require a lot of care when they are home.
But teens are everywhere. They are on my computer, eating my food, watching my TV, setting their stuff down on my counters, desk and tables, getting their laundry dirty, taking up lots of space. I’m not complaining, I don’t mind being around my girls, but why I didn’t see the chance for an isolated road trip is beyond me.
I think part of it is because I am used to having them around all the time. But when they were small, I used to take off for a day or weekend often. I’d go visit my sister in Portland or go scrapbook with friends.
It was beneficial for me to get away from small, needy children and it was nice for my husband to have a weekend with them by himself. I learned early on to just let my husband handle the kids his way. I didn’t dictate what they should eat or do. I have a philosophy about fatherhood: The more you dictate what you think is right or wrong, the less willing they are to do it on their own. I knew when I left my husband with my kids they would be happy and safe.
I remember coming home after a whole weekend away at a college friend’s house in Portland. I was selling Pampered Chef and had gone to her house to do a show for her. My kids were so excited to see me and tell me what their weekend had been like: “Dad bought cheeseburgers at McDonald’s!” I didn’t think this was a particularly big deal until I understood exactly what they meant.
McDonald’s had a buy 10 for 10 buck deals, so my husband bought 10 cheeseburgers on Friday night and that’s what the kids ate all weekend. They loved it so much I heard about it every time dad was gone for a weekend: “When dad was alone with us, he bought cheeseburgers;” as if I didn’t feed them properly when I was alone with them.
But regardless, I know they miss me when I’m gone, cheeseburgers or not. I was looking at a scrapbook I put together of “love notes” from my daughters. They were always drawing pictures for me and I’d hang them on my bedroom wall. When I remodeled my room a few years ago, I took them down and taped them in the scrapbook. There are several “Welcome Home Mom” cards and pictures. They always seem relieved to have mom back in the house, even now.
So maybe I should have gone on this road trip alone; missing mom has its advantages. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, even if they are old enough to get their own cheeseburgers.
Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is never alone; she has teenagers. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website livingwithgleigh.com or on Facebook at “Living with Gleigh.” Her column is available every week at maplevalleyreporter.com under the Lifestyles section.