I’ve never really thought I was a great mom, but somehow my kids have turned out really well anyway.
Although I spent a lot of time with them since birth, it wasn’t always quality time. Or even often quality time. I rarely played with them. Instead, I let them play with each other or entertain themselves. I didn’t think it hurt them.
Sometimes this is my greatest regret and biggest source of insecurity. I wish we had done more fun things together. The reason we didn’t was usually either because of my own depression or lack of money.
Yet somehow now that they are teenagers, I still see signs in my younger two that an element of friendship between them remains. They’re going to be 16 and 18 in the next few months; they’re less than two years apart.
It was sometimes hard having them so close together in the early years. They had always been lumped in together. Often mistaken for twins when they were younger, they were inseparable for many years. They shared a bedroom for most of their lives. But by the time they were in their early teens, they wanted to be different from each other, recognized as distinct individuals.
More than anything, they wanted and needed space. We were finally able to afford a four-bedroom house two years ago, which enabled them to have their own separate rooms. Even still, they spend most of the day in their separate spaces. I’m so grateful that we were able to do that for them, even if at times it has been a difficult sacrifice for us to make financially.
Today I saw an amazing glimpse of who they used to be when they were little. My husband and I took the two of them out to have kind of a last-hurrah fun day before school starts Monday (leaving our 20-year-old to do his own thing.)
We went school supply shopping, went out to eat in a hipster neighborhood in Fort Worth, then drove up to a very corporate but fancy and unique area in Plano. We were in the car for a really long time. And just like when they were little, as we were driving from Fort Worth up to Plano, they were playing chess together on their phones, their heads leaned in to each other and having fun and silly conversations with each other.
I had nearly forgotten that that kind of behavior used to be an everyday occurrence. It was really cool to see it return, even if briefly.
I have questioned myself on many occasions about whether the move here was good for the family. After all, it was solely my idea. That’s a lot of weight on one’s shoulders. I was the one who was most strongly motivated to move back here, which was prompted by my discovery of my illness just before I turned 40 and my intense fear of dying in my hometown in Michigan.
It wasn’t always a good move at first. My oldest dealt with it very poorly and I have frequently regretted making a decision that so negatively affected him. My middle child got hit by a car–ironically, four years ago to the day yesterday. (In fact, enough bad things happened in enough years on yesterday’s date that we started to fear the day was cursed. I opted to go out and do fun stuff as a way of facing my fears and laughing in the face of the cursed day.)
But we now live in a beautiful house we could have never afforded in Michigan. We finally have enough bedrooms for each of the kids to have their own, and I don’t know if that would have happened there either. My husband’s line of work is very much in demand here, which it wasn’t in Michigan.
I think the best thing by far, however, is the way the move enabled my younger two kids to see their futures in a new light. They both initially said they wanted to move to some different state as soon as they graduated– which I supported, because I’d be a hypocrite if I begrudged them the freedom to explore their own desired place to live the way I have. They didn’t want to go back to Michigan, but they didn’t want to stay here, either.
But I also have to say that I wasn’t sad at all when they both said tonight that they will probably stay in the area after graduation. My youngest (a sophomore) wants to make a lot of money, so we talked to him about careers that will enable him to do so. He overwhelmingly seemed to agree that this is a good place to do that. My middle child (a high school senior this year) wants to major in computer programming, another field that is in high demand here.
Driving around and taking them to see more parts of the area other than just the suburbs we live in gives them more of an idea of what’s out there. They both said they’d be interested in possibly working and living in either downtown Dallas or the booming Plano/Frisco area. So my goal over the course of this year is going to be taking them to see more of those places.
They’re both tentatively thinking of starting out at community colleges, then transferring to finish the rest. And they’re open to the idea of living at home while they’re doing some of that.
My oldest still wants to move back to Michigan and may very well do so at any point. But I also suspect that one reason he hasn’t done so yet (since he planned to move 3 years ago and has enough money saved) is because being in a big city with a lot of job opportunities is hard to walk away from.
I don’t know if I did anything right or what I can take credit for, if anything. But my kids are all so kind (don’t even get me started on how gentle and patient they all are regarding my illness) and they all seem to have good plans for their future. Even if they’re not necessarily planning on going away to university all four years, they do have future plans.
They have hope for their futures, which I did not for mine at their ages. They don’t feel like they have to get away from where they currently live in order to have opportunities. Even though they look forward to living on their own, they also don’t seem opposed to the possibility of having to stay with us for a bit as a strategic move.
And one of the last things they asked tonight, surprisingly, was about what our plans were for once they were all moved out and well-established in their own lives. Honestly, that’s still hard to imagine. I want them to have a soft place to land if the transition is bumpy in the first few years. But I know that eventually they’ll all really be gone for good, and I can’t see us needing a big four-bedroom house anymore.
Maybe we’d downsize to a cheap apartment in Arlington, the first place we lived when we moved here in the 90s. My husband still likes apartment living, although I don’t like the lack of privacy. Maybe we’d move up to Plano or Frisco, where there are many more job opportunities for my husband, once we’re no longer tied to our current location to keep our kids in the same schools with their friends. Whether we’d go for an apartment or a townhome or just a much smaller house, I don’t know.
I like the idea of a bungalow in the kinda artsy, kinda homey Lower Greenville neighborhood of Dallas. At least it would meet my husband’s preference of being more walkable than the burbs. I’d honestly like that, too.
But the fact of my kids maturing into adults really snuck up on me. They’re all at different stages of maturity and my relationship with each of them is different. But the one thing that’s the same is that I’m finally starting to see who they might be as adults, and they’re so capable and level-headed. I hope they’ll stay friends with each other and still want to be a part of my life too.
If I achieve those things — their friendship with each other, caring about me and my husband, and self-sufficiency — I will really feel like I hit the jackpot, even if it was in spite of myself. But if they have hope for the future because I moved them down here, well, that’s what I hoped for all along.
Quite honestly Holly, I think you are an amazing mother. You have done a fine job raising them and it is so great they are close to each other. Some siblings just like to fight for some reason, but yours actually love one another. See I think you have taught them the importance of family, which today is very rare.
Thank you so much, Alyssa! I am so sorry I haven’t been able to keep up with responses, but I always appreciate how encouraging you are! You’re a gem and I’m happy to know you.
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No worries Holly! Life gets busy sometimes and it is very hard to keep up with everything. I find you to be a very special gem as well and I am so glad we have been able to connect!