On My Own Turf

My son has just left for camp. Last year, he went for 12 days and loved it. This year, he’s gone for a month.

I’m happy for him; I remember camp and how much I liked it, how sad I always was to leave. But now, from the parent’s perspective, I feel a bit bittersweet about the whole thing.

Today, I chatted with the other parents and with the staff, watching as kids greeted long-lost friends from 11 months ago. “How nice,” I thought, and I meant it.

I laughed as my son popped on and off the bus, raring to go.

I waved at his disappearing silhouette as the bus pulled out.

And it’s not like I’m about to break down.

But. I didn’t want to come home. I became the most social, chatty person today as I tried to talk to everyone out and about, to stall the inevitable.

I didn’t want to see the room full of his things or hear the echoing emptiness.

I miss the whining “Mom, can I…” which only yesterday was still driving me nuts.

And little things make me pause.

His scooter, which he never hangs up, was lying in front of the door…with the 2 soccer balls he should have put away. Normally, that would annoy me but today it made me a bit sad.

Then his empty Froster cup stared at me from inside the garbage.

The little note he left my husband and I on his desk, saying he will have fun and he hopes we’ll be alright, did make me sniffle a small bit.

I’m such a suck! But then, he is such a part of me and of my life.

Saying that, the one thing I keep thinking is, Now I can write. Last year when he went away, I wrote two short stories about a boy named Charlie who goes off to camp. They’re languishing in obscurity somewhere in my blog archives.

This year, I’m partway through two writing projects that I’ve been trying desperately to focus on and I’m also participating in Yeah Write’s Summer Series. Truth be told, I can hardly wait to jump into all that writing!

Does it make me an awful parent – and person – to say that? Selfish?

These are mostly rhetorical questions. Of course it doesn’t.

But I am conflicted.

I miss him but I crave time to myself.

Especially since he and I have been a bit frustrated around each other lately. He is no longer interested in doing all the things he used to want to do with me, which is totally normal. He is developing his own interests as all kids do, but he wants me to partake in them and as they’re not things that I can or really want to do, our time together the past few months has been strange.

I can’t play soccer the way a 9 year old boy can.

I can judge his soccer moves but I don’t have the focus (or interest) do it for an hour; partway through, I start looking at my flower garden, thinking about which plants need to be tended.

I can watch him scooter around a skateboard park but not every day and not for more than an hour or so.

I can play goal tender to his star striker position but again, not for more than an hour.

Each day, I will suggest some things to do together and invariably he’ll complain and say he wants to play soccer. I love soccer, but there’s only so much I can take.

I remind him I have things I like to do and want to do, too.

I remind him that I’m not his entertainment committee.

I’m firm about this, but I do feel just the teeniest twinge of guilt. And he knows how to play on that. He points out the parents who do play with their kids. He tells me about the families who organize day-long soccer tournaments. He points out adults playing soccer or tossing the ball around and asks why I’m not like them.

I’m sure even the most involved parents step back and take time for themselves at some point. Or want to.

Now I guess I have a month to do all the things I want to do, guilt-free and soccer-free.

As much as I miss him, as much as I cringe when the little things of his jump out at me, I am determined to make the most of this time to do what I need and want to do.

Soon after he returns, I will be going back to work. And then my time really will be limited.

So, this month is my luxury, my sanity and my opportunity to be selfish.

I think every good parent needs to do that every now and then, otherwise they can’t keep being good. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of those around you.

And I’m sure everything I’ve described is a normal phase in the evolution of the parent-child relationship. We all have interests, we are all growing and changing – not just the kids – and at times our individual interests will be at odds.

Like everything else, navigating this phase is all about finding balance and common ground.

And sometimes, it’s about finding your own ground, ground that has not been touched by the other members of your family.

Like camp. And like the virtual ground of the blogging world.

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12 thoughts on “On My Own Turf

  1. Beautiful, perfect words and observations that I feel, too.

    Sometimes I think “parent” and “conflicted” need to sit side-by-side in the thesaurus. With one in college and one entering high school, there’s not a day that doesn’t go by that conflict or conflicted enter into the equation. It seems that we mamas do struggle with the guilt of “alone time” all while we crave it, too.
    I want him (the teenager) with me all of the time and I miss her (the college junior) every day. I know I can’t keep him with me forever and my little girl is getting all grown up as I watch her turn into a responsible student and eventual nurse. It’s the alone times that you describe that will help us move forward and be happy when they are gone.
    Oh my goodness…I turned a bit melancholy on you. I’m so sorry! You struck a chord in me today (as you often do) and it set me to rambling on the keyboard.
    Enjoy your month, soak in the writing and the rare time you’ll get to yourself. The month will fly by and your sweet soccer boy will love you all more for it. xo

    • Oh god, don’t apologize. What a lovely message! Thank you – I needed to hear this. I may have already known its truth, my husband may have said a few similar things, but it always helps so much more to have someone say they feel the same. And with your kids a few years ahead of mine, it helps to know where we’re heading. So, thank you.
      I can’t believe how much I have already done, writing-wise, since he left this morning. I feel calmer for it, despite feeling conflicted about his leaving. I think little realizations like that even help.
      Thanks again – you simultaneously made me smile and brought an almost-tear to my eye. xo

  2. Absolutely. A child needs to know that his parents are people with needs and desires, hobbies and interests too. It is very difficult. I have been through this with my sixteen year old son – still am going through it to some extent – and I don’t think there is an easy, one size fits all, answer. Your response seems very healthy, and eminently sensible, to me. xxx

    • Thank you, Alienora. I’m not always that sensible and definitely get frustrated when he’s asked me day after day to play soccer. Then of course I feel guilty. But knowing you’re doing the right thing does, I think, help one remain calm and patiently repetitive. It’s so good to hear about others’ experiences. xx

  3. Goodness, sounds like have had some similar conversations w/our 9 year olds this month! I use that “I’m not your entertainment committee often!”. It is tough to have to play to their interests sometimes. I haven’t had to play soccer, actually might like that, but instead have had to learn about the solar system and the universe and the periodic table of elements. Oh, and creepers and such from Minecraft. The feeling you have: excited to have the time to yourself, but the guilt too must be a universal mom thing. The good news is he went to this camp last year. I remember your posts last year, you were nervous about him. But he did so well, this year at least you can relax knowing he’s having the time of his life and he is safe. And you can write…write…write! Just knowing from experience that feeling of starting work again, and NOT having that time you used to…I just wish I appreciated it and took advantage of every opportunity while I could, because now it’s just really tough. Have a fantastic month (not playing soccer) and maximizing all those activities you do want to do. Then when the body comes back? You might just be itching to play soccer again? Who knows?!

      • I knew what you meant 🙂
        Thanks, Robin. It is so great, as I commented to the others, to get that reassurance that this is a normal thing. Mom guilt is terrible and I’m pretty good at it. I knew he’d be going away and I kept thinking I should really play with him, but for him it was never enough. And of course, he’s a kid. I have to find a way to communicate that we can love being together without having to be doing the same activity. Not always, but sometimes. And he’s very social and I’m not. Really, he needs more friends in the neighbourhood because by 9 it’s probably less common to hang with your Ma. In the past, he’s at least had day camps whereas this year, with him being away for a month, I thought it would be nice to spend the week together. I’m sure while I’m turning myself inside out, he’s happily oblivious to the whole issue 🙂
        p.s. I also heard another dad in the park the other day using the same line on his son.

  4. Ready for another pointlessly long comment?

    First on wanting time for yourself: That’s normal. As a human being, you’re somewhat selfish by nature. You might be tired of my Darwinistic reasoning, but the ones who’s brain focused on the interests of others instead of themselves where unfortunately purged from our evolutionary path a long time ago. If one wants to survive for a decent amount of time, one has to fulfil personal interests, not that of others, not selflessly anyway. If anything, Empathy is an exceptional trait, not selfishness. And I suspect even that noble idea was created by our subconscious need for social recognition.

    As for the parenting aspect of your post: Congratulation. Sometimes, love for others reflects that selfish aspect of Human nature, and we want to have that person close to us and, especially in the case of a young child, protect it from outside variables that might harm or change that person, sometimes restricting their exploration of the outside world. You have shown that the love you bear for your son is true, and fuelled by a desire to see him grow as a person.

    So congrats for being a normal human being and congrats for being a great parent! Have fun on your “Do everything you wanna do month” and good luck going back to work (again. I think I’ve said that like three times here already… Well here’s a fourth: Good luck going back to work!)

    • Thanks for your comment, DS. Good advice and I appreciate your views. I don’t think it was pointlessly long at all 🙂 Also, thanks for the well wishes. Ugh. Work.

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