“Aren’t you excited to have all your kids for the holidays?” asked my friend who has never in her life uttered a negative word about her children.
I smiled wistfully and thought hard about how to answer that loaded question.
I am down to one silent son at home. He’s a senior in high school and leaves the house before I get up in the morning. No, I’m not such a bad mother that I leave him completely to his own devices, though I’m sure he’d love that. When the kids were wee little things I came up with the brilliant idea to let the father do the morning duty since he was rarely home from work for dinner. Give him the first 45 minutes of the day and I’d take the next fourteen hours. For some reason, my kids don’t pull the same stunts with their father: “I don’t like homemade pancakes with fresh blueberries anymore,” “I can’t find my backpack/math project/gym clothes/lunch money.” All is peaceful in the morning as long as I don’t emerge before they are all gone.
The silent senior son stays at school until dark, supposedly studying or working out in the gym. This is my third kid and I have learned to simply accept the explanations that please me. Sometimes he eats dinner. Sometimes he doesn’t. Perhaps he had pizza after school, maybe he really doesn’t eat. But, when he flexes his muscles, I stop worrying that he’s malnourished.
Things are civil around the house. It is quiet. It is calm. My spouse still works long hours and the three of us have adapted to the absence of the other children and the ensuing chaos quite well.
When my daughter returns, she takes up residency on the couch in the basement. She pulls every blanket from every bed to wrap around her “freezing” body. She uses my mascara and surreptitiously slips it into her own make-up bag, making me think I’ve lost my mind as well as my beauty products. She leaves long locks of hair wrapped around the bathtub drain, in my hair brush and around the perimeter of the sink. She steals her brothers’ sweat pants, socks and favorite T-shirts, denying the charges even as she wears them. She needs ice cream daily, eats an inordinate amount of cheese and demands daily dinners.
When my middle son returns, we rarely see him. He sleeps until mid-afternoon, rises for a bowl of cereal, plays a few video games and takes to his bed for a nap. He rises again, turning his nose up at the aforementioned home-cooked dinner and goes out for pizza, after “borrowing” a twenty. He comes home long after I’ve gone to bed. He is supposed to turn the lights out so when I wake up every hour on the hour, I’ll know that he is home safely. In the morning, every light is still on and there are often one, two or more of his friends asleep in our basement.
Am I excited to have all my kids home for the holidays?
“I sure am!” I answered.
And, believe it or not, I meant it.