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A few weeks ago my husband and I left town overnight, leaving our two teenage girls—both high schoolers—at home by themselves.
I’m going to stop right there and ask you to remember what you did when you were a teenager, and your parents told you they were going to leave you on your own for a period of 24 hours. Then they sweetened the deal by giving you some cash, and told you that you could invite a few friends over.
I don’t know about you, but I recall lunging for my Princess phone, dialing my girlfriends and telling them to stock up the El Camino with Tab and Doritos on the way over because we were going to party like it was 1979.
Well, that didn’t happen here. Our announcement made our younger daughter actually glance away from the computer long enough to shoot us a forlorn look and ask, “Wait, without us?” Then she turned back to her screen, dejected, and not before delivering a dramatic, “Well, you two have fun.” She promptly updated her Facebook status with not one, but two sad emoticons.
Our older daughter wasn’t any better. There’s nothing she likes more than a nice hotel, so even before we had a chance to explain the circumstances, she had grabbed a suitcase and stuffed it full of shorts and crop tops.
We’ve actually pondered the possibility that there won’t come a time when they’ll appreciate being on their own.
Don’t get me wrong—my husband and I are happy that our kids want to spend time with us, and grateful that we have the close relationship with them that we do. We’ve been warned—repeatedly—from other parents to “Enjoy it while you can, because it doesn’t last.”
But then again, we think, could it? We’ve actually pondered the possibility that there won’t come a time when they’ll appreciate being on their own. I can see it now, my husband and I as senior citizens, waving goodbye to our girls and our grandkids as a voice rings out after us in that same tone, “Well, you two have fun.” We’ll shuffle off as fast as our walkers will let us, excited for another 24-hour period alone.
So what gives? Are they just bummed to see us go because then they’ll have to get their own Starbucks? Or are we just that cool, that our kids want to spend more time with us than we ever did with our own parents? We’d like to go with this theory, but I think what has really happened is this: We’ve already passed the phase where they don’t want to hang out with us, and now—shockingly—they actually enjoy our company.
As we come to have more of the same music, movies and life experiences in common, I think they’re appreciating our company more, too. Our family trips are filled with favorite restaurants, concerts, museums and good conversation. We share the same desperate need for coffee and the same love of a strong Wi-Fi signal. In short, we’re good enough, we’re smart enough and doggone it, our kids like us.
Will my husband and I continue to escape once in awhile to enjoy some alone time? You bet we will. But we’ll try to take their bitterness at our leaving as a sign that they’ll actually miss us and not that they’re angry or feeling neglected. In fact, we’re hoping that soon they’ll be sending us off with a cheerful, “Well, you two have fun ... ” and that time they might actually mean it.