Gum in Your Hair

A blog for parents under the big sky.

Raising Teens:  Not for the Faint of Heart—Discovering “Us” Again

 

Discovering “Us” Again
WRITTEN BY JENNIFER ROBERTS

 

After 24 years of seeing me at my best moments, worst moments and everything in between, he can still look at me like it’s the first time. He sweeps me off my feet and his kiss is electrifying. I have always thought that what we have is magical but in the craziness of diapers and preschool, report cards and school concerts, sports and graduation, it has often felt like a game of tag. School drop offs and ballet: Tag – you’re it! Doctors appointments and the orthodontist: Tag – you’re it! Dinner and homework: Tag – you’re it! And by the time we crashed into bed, all we wanted was sleep so that we would have enough energy to do it all over again tomorrow.

 

Date nights were difficult to schedule and expensive by the time we covered dinner, movie and the babysitter. It was nearly impossible to find time for us between kids’ activities and adult obligations. In those days, I was begging for one conversation a week with him that didn’t include one child jumping on the couch between us, one throwing a tantrum on the floor in front of us and one creating an experiment in the kitchen where he knew we couldn’t see him. It was a struggle to simply check in with each other once a week; so forget any intimate conversation.

 

And then it happened. They grew up. Our kids no longer needed to be in the middle of every conversation, they could entertain themselves and were even able to stay at home for short periods of time. We were starting to see flickers of the light at the end of the tunnel. And when our youngest was old enough and responsible enough to be left home alone (and I didn’t have to rely on her brothers to keep an eye on her, which never went well!) we scheduled a real date night.

 

Dinner at a restaurant with cloth napkins and more than one fork; where they served wine by the bottle. Tables were set on an outdoor patio with soft twinkling lights and a rich sunset sky. We didn’t once have to tell someone to sit up in their chair. No one put their spoon or fingers into their water or shed a single tear about the menu. Dinner and wine could be lingered over because there was not a single meltdown in sight.

 

“Hey, I know you. I really like you.” It was as if I was seeing him for the first time again, and damn, he was handsome! He could truly listen to what I was saying and consider his response. He was funny. And he was charming. I knew him, but in the hustle bustle of raising kids I couldn’t always devote myself to being present with him.

 

“I’ve really missed you,” he said. As I heard these words on the night air, I knew I had missed him too. Deeply missed him. I have no idea what time we made it home. We were in no hurry.

 

After that, we couldn’t get enough of being together. Date nights became a regular event and we even started to meet for lunch in the middle of the week. I’d message him to find out how soon he’d be off work and then plan my lunch hour around that. Sometimes it was pizza or a burger, but I could hardly wait to see him again. We told no one, especially our children.

 

It wasn’t enough. Saturday morning when the kids were sleeping in, we’d wake quietly and sneak out for breakfast and a drive in the mountains. Our phones would start to blow up around 10:30 as they began to rise and found no pancakes or French toast waiting. Were they mad? Of course. Did it matter to us? Not at all. It was like having a brand-new relationship. We smiled more. We kissed more. We talked more. We made time to be together. It was now at the top of the priority list.

 

We were having so much fun; and we still are! No longer just doing dinner and a movie, we’ve gone on ghost hunts, trips to Yellowstone Park, hiking with our dogs, taken a weekend to camp without kids, cheered through our first Major League baseball game and we’re learning to tie flies. Now we’re making a list of things we want to learn and experience. Fears about having an empty nest? Hardly!

 

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Jennifer Roberts is the mother of a blended family that includes her husband of 21 years, stepson, nephew, son, daughter and countless teenagers who love to hang out around her kitchen ranging in age from 15 to 25. On any given day, you can find her mopping mud off the kitchen floor, breaking up wrestling matches or trying to figure out where her mascara disappeared to!