When I retired from my first career, there was a great opportunity on the horizon. Something to look forward to, with loads of planning involved. Right up my alley of interest and expertise. I expected the transition to be seamless and easy. After all, how difficult could it be? A massive reduction in my overall responsibilities, right? Yeah, not quite. I might have underestimated what life would be like as a stay home Mother and Wife. On the days when I didn’t feel overwhelmed, trying to adjust to the changes in my day-to-day life, only then did I inch forward towards my goal.
What I very quickly discovered, upon waking each morning and being fully present in the early hours of the daily routine, was my 2 teenaged children are a bit of a handful. For the first 15 years of their lives, I was kind of halfway present. One part of my mind was already chewing on the problems and challenges of work and the other part of me was half listening to the drama unfolding at home in the morning. Because I was not fully living in the moment, I was not really effected by it all. The whole scene kind of washed over me and I emerged on the other side of it and went about my day. My stuff was more important, significant, challenging, etc.
Now, I wake up and my kids daily-teenage-angst-life-dramas are suddenly top of mind for me as well. It makes me wonder, some days, was it always like this and I didn’t notice? Or has it been ratcheted up just for me? Like a little present for me to unwrap each morning. Complete with detailed instructions for assembly which ends up taking up most of the best hours of my day. It is uncanny. I had no idea teenagers required this much parenting. Which begs the question, what was happening before I was home full-time?
Some days I am far more emotionally drained, being at home, than I ever was at work. Which probably stands to reason, as I have a whole bunch more of me, invested in my children. But, it is astonishing to realize, I was missing all this. However, some days I wish I was back at work. I know, this time is precious and my relationship with my kids will be better for this time together…..right? I hope so. Because, it often feels like these interactions are not worth it for any of us.
Today my son and I had a typical scene in our little family drama series. I’m assuming this is a common theme at many households. I wake him up because his alarm is not doing the job, but he does not jump to it, rather drags himself into the shower. After a ridiculously long time in the bathroom, grooming himself to his standard of perfection, he demands money for food and it astounded that I will not comply. He tells me that his school performance will suffer, inferring that this situation will be my fault.
I hold my ground. I give him examples of random food items he can grab while he walks through the kitchen packing up his school stuff. He is incredulously angry with me at the suggestion. (He is a bit of a foodie, so he probably doesn’t relish the idea of apples, granola bars, cinnamon buns and frozen muffins as a meal). Anyway, I restate what feels like a broken record, “it is your responsibility to get up on time to allow for everything you need to do in the morning”. It might not have been that nice, because he had really pushed my buttons.
So another day begins. My cortisol level feels as high as it ever was when I was working. But, lucky me, the cause of the chemical spike leaves for the day. Generally all is well. I can switch gears and go about my day, in my new life, rather peacefully.
I always leave these altercations feeling a bit mystified. I can’t quite remember what it was like to be a teenager. Even if I could, I’m not sure it would help too much. Times were different. There were pressures from the 80’s I wouldn’t wish on my teenagers and there is stuff they are dealing with that scares me to the core. Such is the turbulent time of life, growing from a child to a young adult. No wonder they need 7 years as a teen to manage it.
As I navigate my new life, I wonder what we were thinking when we decided to travel for a year with teenagers. Almost immediately I look for the stories of families who are in the same boat and I don’t find hardly any. Then I wonder why that is? Possibly the moody, sullen, technology addicted do not make good travel mates? That could be a good enough reason right there.
Then I start to think of it in other ways. For our family, one of the biggest sources of tension is the schedule. Getting teenagers out of bed in the morning is how we all choose to start our days. One could argue, ‘that is life, they need to get used to it’. However, in the new technology age of the workforce that generation Z will be entering, do they really have to get used to the typical corporate grind? And even if they decide on that life, why on earth do we impose it on them during the time when their bodies are growing and changing so rapidly? This I do remember and even then I thought it was cruel and unusual punishment.
I wonder if that one key difference, how we schedule the start of our day, will make our travel year successful? Well, we are going to find out. And we are going to talk about it. And we are going to have side projects. My son will be creating music. I’ll be blogging and making videos. My daughter will be taking photos. And we will be learning. (My husband has to work, but will be on the same time zone and close by for meetings, etc.)
All this brings me back to the original idea, ‘what were we thinking ?’ and ‘maybe there is a reason’ that few families are doing this. I look at all the travelling families with small children and do not wish that on myself. I clearly remember how challenging it was to have small children trying to adapt to changing routines, different foods and general travel stress. Our family group did not whether those storms very well. Maybe it would have improved over a longer time span. But, maybe it would not have!
The good thing is, our teens are onside to be away from everything they know. They are excited for this year away. I’m not delusional, though. When times get tough, the fact that they agreed to participate will not be enough to avoid some kind of melt down. After all, they are capable of a huge flare of temper over food! I think I know what they are capable of, now that I have spent a few months with them, fully in the trenches. How they will react to life on the road is hard to say. But I am eager to teach them this life skill of travel and introduce them to a few wonders of the world along the way.
Incidentally, my son texted me later in the day to apologize. Not just a short string of words, but a real, honest, from the heart kind of thing. After he had eaten he felt like a heel. Go figure! I am happy for this, because I don’t remember getting very many apologies from grumpy bosses over the years!
¡Eso es vida! I'm not sure if that is a common phrase in Spanish - but, that is life! My son and I, sporting our new adventure bands, designed by The Bucket List Family. The colors are reminiscent of the prayer flags in Nepal, (where/what inspired them!)
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