Lately, I’ve been counting down the minutes until I can pick up my kids from school or their father’s house. I pepper them with questions about what’s time while we were apart, getting lackluster responses in return. I’m pretty sure they can hear the desperation in my voice.
I got divorced, then all my kids hit puberty one right after the other. We all went down like a row of dominoes as the vibrations in our house changed from happy and carefree to solemn and angsty.
It wasn’t long after my ex-husband left that my kids starting going through puberty and choosing their friends on Friday night instead of staying in with me (as they should). As a result, I started feeling a loneliness settle deep into my bones and clutch onto my soul.
Honestly, this is like nothing I’ve ever felt.
The newness of my rare alone time wore off rather quickly. Sure, at first it was exciting to walk around my house in my underwear eating cake by the handful. I didn’t have to hide my sugar intake or worry I was making my kids uncomfortable. My kids who used to spend every single night here. My kids I rarely got a break from. My kids who were always pulling on me with their wants and their needs and their questions.
Now, their heads are in their phones. They are FaceTiming. They are taking some much-needed alone time in their room. They are out with friends. They are scooting off to practice. They aren’t as forthcoming with information. The questions have stopped along with them asking me (over and over and over) to take them out for ice cream.
You see, I used to be needed–so damn needed.
My ex-husband needed me to make doctor’s appointments for him. He needed to talk things out after a hard day. He needed me when his father died. He needed me to bake his favorite cookies because he didn’t know his way around a mixer. He needed me to tell him his shirt absolutely didn’t go with his pants before we headed out to dinner. He needed a hug everyday before he left for work.
He needed me.
My kids needed me to help them with their homework. My daughter needed me to help her braid her hair. My youngest son needed me to lie next to him in order to fall asleep. My oldest son needed me to calm him down when he was really nervous. They needed me to make dinner and plan fun events involving other families.
I still have a role to play here, but my kids need me in very different, hands-off ways. Like picking up food for their slumber party on a Friday, dropping them off at the dance, and making sure they get up for school on time.
And they’ve shown me what they don’t need, too: constant questions and hovering and me projecting my need to be needed onto them. They are growing up really freaking fast and, damn, it’s hard to let them.
No one needs me to tuck them in at night or make them a grilled cheese sandwich. No one needs me to show them how to make their bed or to kiss a scrape.
But when your teens do need you, it’s for something big and private. You can’t casually drop the issue at the local playground in front of a bunch of other moms because (1) you don’t go to the playground to get your dose of validation over how hard it is to be a mom any longer, and (2) because if you go to a fellow parent about the struggle of parenting a teenager, you risk invading their privacy and being looked at like you and your family are screwed up.
So you don’t talk about the parenting frustrations as much because the shit we deal with as our kids get older is heavy and weighed. The aftertaste it can leave if you open your mouth about it doesn’t wash away like the potty or sleep training struggles.
So you don’t open your mouth.
This whole divorced with teenagers thing has given me a real taste of loneliness. I can honestly say, up until recently, I’d never been lonely before.
Having friends and family has made it bearable, sure. But the truth is, they have families of their own to tend to.
Sure, there are perks that make me happy, but it all also reminds me of how lonely this newfound independence can feel. At this phase in my life, I’m decorating my house my way. I don’t have to consult another adult because there are no other adults living here. I can get out the paint cans and sharp, new objects without worrying if my kids are going to hurt themselves because they have zero interest in doing these kinds of things that used to draw them to me like a magnet.
I can sleep in whatever position I want because there isn’t a man who resides on the other side of the bed, or little kids who beg to sleep with me, or even crawl in my bed with me after a bad dream.
And with that comes not being needed a fraction as much as I used to be.
I know it won’t always be like this — there is so much the future has to offer. The love of my life is out there, I can feel it with everything I have in me.
My kids will get a bit older and need me a bit more, I hear. They will have kids someday and they will all pile in here and this feeling, this sinking hole in my mind and chest, will be a distant memory.
At least that’s what I hope, because this isn’t something you just get used to. It doesn’t get lighter with each passing day. It’s not something you can sweat out or sleep off. Believe me, I’ve tried.
And really, I’ve had enough, I’d like to ask the loneliness to be on its way because shit, this is hard.