Last night my three kids were out on the front porch talking and laughing. Our two ducks were snoozing under the hydrangea bush, and my youngest went out to snap some pictures. When he yelled for his sister to come and see their beloved pets, his older brother joined in too.
They ended up sitting out there talking for a long time. The conversation moved from the ducks to memories of when they were younger. I sat on the sofa and could hear every word through the open window. The crickets were chirping, there was a light breeze, and I closed my eyes thinking about how lucky I was to have this moment.
I fought the urge (more than once) to go out there and join them. The voice in my head was telling me to go out there and be with my kids and enjoy the evening with them. Since they are all teenagers, their days with me are ticking by. Shouldn’t I be soaking up every ounce of them that I could? Was I being lazy by not moving and simply eavesdropping on my kids?
No, I wasn’t. I’ve learned over the years that sometimes, one of the best ways I can enjoy my kids is from afar. There were so many times when they were younger that I’d catch them playing so nicely together it would make me tear up. Then I’d interrupt them by trying to get in on it, snap a picture, or tell them how sweet and amazing they were. That would ruin the vibe every time and I’d think, Why can’t I just leave them alone?
When I give them space to make memories without me, I noticed it enhances their relationship. If they wanted me to join them on the front porch they would ask me to come out.
I’ve had to get used to them making memories without me. I am divorced and they spend part of the time with their father. It’s not always easy when I hear them talk about how fun their weekend was at the lake or their vacation to Florida with him and his girlfriend. Their childhood memories are about them, not me. I do not need to be in on everything they do. It doesn’t always feel natural to me as their mother to be without them during a family trip or vacation but I don’t need to project that onto them and make them feel guilty. I have my own life and it’s good for them to see that.
Most of my favorite moments as a child involved me and my sisters. We spent hours playing outside on our tire swing under the maple tree. We played in our playhouse and picked plants outside and pretended to cook them up. We had barbies playing marathons and loved spending summer days in our basement watching Soap Operas while our parents were at work. When we were teenagers there were many nights when we’d order pizza and plant ourselves in front of MTV. When we could drive we went to the local Chinese Buffet and went shopping together. Those memories are so precious to me and I want my kids to have the same experiences.
There is going to come a time when I’m not here any longer. The most important thing to me is that my kids have a relationship with each other when that happens. Just because I am gone, I don’t want them to stop having family gatherings or celebrating holidays together.
Being able to witness their bonding has been one of the best gifts I’ve ever had. And yes, it’s hard not to butt in when they are having a conversation. Still, lying on the sofa with the hum of your kids truly enjoying each other is the greatest feeling in the world.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.