My husband's been traveling for business and my son's at college taking a class, so my daughter and I have been enjoying rare "girls-only" time along with our lovely pups. We've spent a lot of time in pajamas, and have indulged in mindless TV, movies, board games and, best of all, long talks. The next day we were looking forward to more of the same, but, unexpectedly, a bunch of her friends texted that they'd found a Groupon for a bouncy yard rental castle (there's got to be an actual term for this). I love that my almost 17-year-old gets such a charge out of bouncing in a blow-up castle with her friends. Long story short, the bouncy thing didn't work out because, well, it's not a takeout pizza -- you've got to reserve it in advance, but the excitement for these kids had built to the point that they just had to get together. They settled for gathering at the home of one of her friends. I planned to pick her up at around 10:00 p.m. (boys and girls, so no sleep-over). I dropped her off and drove home. I was alone.
This was a strange and tantalizing situation. From birth I've not been alone. I went straight from my family's home to college where I had room mates. Upon graduation, after my family had moved to Florida, during my plan-less weeks I lived in my best friend's family's home in Alexandria, VA. After a few weeks, with all my friends taking a little time before settling down into their adult lives, I found some strangers to live with from "the Washington Post" (I didn't make much money!). After 6 months in a darling, albeit flea-infested, cottage at Tyson's Corner, I finally moved into an apartment with some of my very best friends. Those were wonderful years -- much like girls-only time with my daughter, but with jobs and boyfriends. From the apartment with my girls, I moved in with my boyfriend, who is now my husband. I've never lived alone. Many of my friends have, at one time or another. My husband has. Even my son has lived alone for a year.
Sure, during my years as a stay-at-home mom I was alone during the day with my husband at work and the kids at school. But that was different. With the family at school and work, there was always a self-imposed pressure to make something of my day. They'd be coming home at 4:00 with homework and 5:30 with a hearty appetite. I needed something to show for my time. Groceries, cleaning, laundry, organizing and cooking effectively used up the 6 hours each day.
Yesterday the pressure was off. After dropping my daughter at her friend's, I put on music that I never hear and poured a small glass of wine. I carefully chose exactly the veggie gems which appealed at that moment and created a masterpiece. I resolved to use a couple of the hours ahead to find a movie to rent that nobody would choose, not even my sweet daughter. Like a lot of moms, I'm the default "peacemaker" so I would never impose my choice on the bunch of 'em.
Just as I was ready to plate my entree, I heard the chime from the other room -- there was a text. My daughter needed to be picked up early after only 3 hours with her friends. The host had an appointment. I had to smile. It's nice that the kids do their own social planning now -- it's good for them to actively create portions of their lives. The parents all know one another, and there is an express understanding that the host will always have a parent home, etc. For the time being, none of the kids in this group have followed through with getting their licenses, so I can be sure she will be where I dropped her off. But the outcome of yesterday's get-together is a perfect illustration of how child-like these wonderful kids are, despite being wise beyond their years in so many other ways. When the kids were planning, I caught snippets of it: "Bouncy house -- yay! where? whose yard? oh, that stinks, laser tag? you don't want to? okay. movie? which one? no, I want to see the first one before the sequel . . . . her house? . . . . his house? okay."
I wolfed down my fabulous food and retrieved my girl. I was so happy to see her! The momentary thrill of being alone suddenly revealed itself for what it was: a novelty. We happily tucked into another game of "Sorry!"