My children are grown, and I’ve noticed something interesting over the past year. The youngest is 19 and about to start his second year of college; the older two are living on their own. From December 1988 until August 2013, my days were filled with working and my sons. Diapers, risk management when they learned to walk, toys, looking for lost toys, bedtime stories, school, and sports. Lots and lots of sports. I enjoy sports even though my talents for them came from the shallow end of the gene pool, so I also enjoyed watching the boys play. Baseball, basketball, soccer – it was fun. Time-consuming, and not always played in what one would call pleasant weather conditions, but fun. Still, more than once I found myself thinking, as I was driving to another game in Rome (New York, that is,) that a break from all this would be nice. I’d get to do activities that I chose, rather than having them foisted on me by my sons’ schedules.
So now they’re grown and mostly out of the house, and I have the opportunity to do what I want on a Saturday night. And you know what?
I can’t pick out anything I want to do. That’s right: Faced with what parents of younger children see as “freedom,” my response is – meh.
Tonight is a good example. Here are some of my choices:
- The Chiefs are playing a doubleheader over at NBT Bank Stadium.
- The New York State Blues Festival is going on right now in Clinton Square.
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is playing at three different malls within a 10 mile radius of my house, including theaters showing it in 3-D.
- I have season one of Breaking Bad on DVD that I borrowed the other day from the library.
- I also borrowed the DVD of Ken Burns’ PBS series The Dust Bowl.
- I am surrounded by unread books.
- I have a guitar and a list of songs I want to learn how to play.
- I have an Xbox 360 and a cabinet full of games.
And yet, with all these choices, I can’t pick anything. It’s on nights like this that I wish I could make all my friends from Balticon magically appear. I could discuss movies with Christiana Ellis, talk recording with Bryan Lincoln, laugh my ass off at anything that comes out of Norm Sherman’s mouth, crack a beer (or more) with Tee Morris, talk about writing with Katie Bryski, Abbie Hilton and Lauren Harris, talk about anything with P.C. Haring, and basically have one hell of a fun night. I apologize to those I left off the list; it’s not a slight – it’s for the sake of something approaching brevity.
So yes, the kids are grown, I can do whatever the hell I want, and for the life of me I can’t decide what to do. I am not anticipating waves of sympathy coming my way from those of you with kids at home, especially those still consumed with getting the nighttime ritual of baths, pajamas and story time done. Believe me, I remember all too well how tiring it is. My oldest is taking the bar exam in 10 days, yet it feels like yesterday that I read him The Hobbit as a bedtime story. Sometimes, I catch myself half expecting to walk in the front door and find the middle one excitedly working his way through his latest video game purchase. Or walk into the family room and find the youngest building something with the K’Nex that he played with constantly for so many years. It’s a trite cliche, and if you’re a parent you’ve heard it way too many times, but it’s true – they grow up way too freaking fast.
Parenting is chock full of challenges, but what I’m surprised to learn is that you still have challenges when the kids move on. For years, the kids fill your every moment, and then one day they don’t. And you find yourself on a Saturday night wondering, “What the hell do I want to do tonight?”
Right now, I’m leaning toward a good book and a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad.