I don’t get to see my teenagers much during normal life.
If my daughters need to be at school early, and if I’m lucky enough that they have a ride, sometimes I don’t get to kiss them goodbye before they set off for the day. They participate in after-school sports and activities, so normally I don’t pick them up until after 5 p.m. In the evening, my three teenagers are normally in their rooms. They are finishing their homework or Facetiming their friends or watching Netflix. They are getting ready to go to their next practice or a volunteer event or a school function. On most nights, they’ll sporadically come by and see me in the kitchen where I remain as needed.
They occasionally come downstairs. I don’t think it’s me they seek out, but instead a snack or to bring down their lunch bag or to search for their extra gym shorts in our always-messy laundry room. If I’m lucky, one may strike up a conversation. They’ll tell me about a test or an upcoming project or plans for the weekend. I can usually tell if one had a bad day or if something is bothering them. If I’m feeling brave, I may ask if anything is wrong, which is when I typically receive rolled eyes or unintelligible grunts. If I’m lucky, they’ll share some tidbits of what’s going on in those crowded minds.
When school closed and we embraced social distancing, I didn’t make too big a deal about it. I simply said, “I’d like you up by 8:30-ish,” and that was it.
I wasn’t sure how It was going to go in our home.
With three teenage daughters, I often refer to our life right now as the “House of Hormones.” We are used to going places and doing things. We have track meets and soccer games and sleepovers. We go out to dinner and see movies and travel.
What was I going to do with three bored, surly teenagers?
But each morning, as I sit on our couch sipping my coffee and checking emails, one by one my girls come down the stairs.
One settles in next to me, close enough that I can smell her coconut shampoo. She scrolls her phone and I can feel her bare feet tapping mine at times. Another sits on the opposite couch, stretching out with her laptop, starting to see what her assignments are for the day. And my youngest, now the tallest female in our house, curls up with a book for an hour or more, usually with the dog lying right next to her. I can’t help but notice she’s sitting in the same position as when she used to read her picture books so many years before.
We chat a lot throughout the day—sometimes about the pandemic, but mostly about plans afterward. Will we take our postponed spring break trip to the same location, or go somewhere different? What’s the difference between big colleges and little ones? What was it like after 9-11? When did things go back to normal? What’s for dinner?
I’m not one to agonize over deep meanings of events. I am often pragmatic and accepting of situations.
But I can’t help thinking that this time together is a gift for so many of us. I normally have to plan, or even demand, quality time with my kids. I have to ask the questions and carry the conversations. I have to try and eek just one small piece of information out of them to assess their mental well being, or to be honest, to keep my own intact.
And now, every morning, I get to do this.
It is a gift.
It hasn’t been perfect around here. Nobody wants to unload the dishwasher or walk the dog in the rain. There are complaints about the snacks, and socks and scrunchies everywhere. And I’ve had to break up quite a few squabbles over things that are so ridiculous. Like, do normal people have to say things like, “Don’t use your sister’s sports bra as a slingshot, you’ll stretch it out!”
But there have also been game nights where we laugh until we cry. There are opportunities to comfort without feeling rushed. There’s reading books and extra hugs and dinner at our table each night instead of on the run. I get to watch quiet moments my husband has with each of his girls, and my heart turns soggy with love.
And although I miss our other life, and although I am sad for those who are ill or who are on the front lines fighting this stubborn disease or who are impacted financially, I am also grateful.
They say the teenage years go by the fastest of all. I’m going to make the most of this time when the world forced us to slow down.
Originally published on Playdates on Fridays By Whitney Fleming