There was a time, not so long ago, when the kids’ plans were secondary in our household.
This is not to say that we placed little importance in their athletic and academic activities. They were, of course, paramount in our decisions about what we might do on a particular evening or weekend.
However, decisions about which parties and gatherings they could attend were based on whether or not our family had previous, and conflicting, plans. But somehow that has all changed, and now it is us who must adjust our activities to the social calendars of our sons and their friends.
Not that my husband and I have social engagements that conflict with our sons’ schedules very often. Instead, as their social lives grow ever busier, ours is getting more and more staid.
I first became concerned about this disparity a few weeks ago, when I found myself on a Saturday night sitting on the couch next to my husband, watching an entire season of “Doc Martin” on Netflix. Our sons were dispersed somewhere, engaged in activities that I knew must have been far more interesting, or at least lively, than the one in which my husband and I were indulging.
“Don’t you think there’s something sort of, I don’t know, wrong, with the fact that they’re out having fun and we’re sitting on the couch on a Saturday night watching 7-year-old reruns?” I asked.
“Do you want to go out?” he asked.
“Not really,” I answered. “I’m too tired to go anywhere.”
“We could go to the store and get some chocolate,” my husband answered. “Would you like some chocolate?”
“That sounds good,” I answered. “You go. I’ll stay here and make sure the TV stays on pause.”
It is as though, after all of these years of trying to keep up with our children, we have finally grown tired. They have, either through clever design or simply by biding their time, succeeded in wearing us out.
And so I do not mind that they are out gallivanting around town while my husband and I stay home recuperating from the past 17 years. We deserve the rest. But I would like to get on their social calendars, if only occasionally.
I was struck by how difficult it has become to plan any kind of family outing recently when trying to make arrangements for my eldest son’s birthday, which fell on a Tuesday.
My younger son had a basketball game that evening, and going out to dinner would be difficult, especially with school the next morning, and so I decided to plan a dinner for the weekend.
“How about going out for dinner this Friday?” I asked during one of those rare moments when both boys were together in the same room. “We’ll go somewhere nice. You guys don’t have anything going on that night, do you?”
“I’m going to the movies on Friday,” said my 13-year-old.
“Me too,” said the 17-year-old.
“Why don’t you go on Saturday instead?” I asked.
“Because that’s not the way it works, Mom,” said the 13-year-old, gently educating me in the mores of his tribe. “Everyone wants to go on Friday. I’ll keep my schedule clear for Saturday, though.”
But then my eldest had plans for Saturday, too.
“Can’t we do it Sunday?” he replied. “Saturday I might be going to the mountains with some friends.”
“OK,” I said. “Sunday might work. I’ll have my people call your people.”
I already know how this will end. We will not go to dinner, or if we do, it will only be because someone else has altered my sons’ plans at the last minute, not an uncommon turn of events in the chaotic world of teenagers.
And so it will go, our sons’ social lives ever-expanding while ours shrinks, until one night my husband and I find ourselves watching reruns of “The Lawrence Welk Show” before retiring to sleep at 8 p.m.
But by then my sons will have children of their own, and as I totter along the hall to bed, a glass of prune juice in hand, I will smile knowing that at that very moment they are being worn down, too.
Brigitte Bowers is a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program at UC Merced.