I just had the dubious pleasure of spending about 55 hours in a car plus 13 fun-ish-filled days of vacation with my three teenagers. I learned a lot about them.
I already knew (or thought I knew) that they aren’t that much fun. After I saw this Ted Talk from Susan Cain, I realized that pretty much the men in my family are Introverts. I am an Extrovert. That’s why I thought they are no Fun. But, it’s just that they have their Fun on the Inside.
But, regardless of our innate personality differences, as my kids have gotten older, it has become harder to KNOW them. I mean, I know them. I know that my daughter throws her clothing all over and is a very private person and incredibly confident. I know that she is moody, takes forever to get ready, can sleep for hours and is an oddly picky eater and a vegetarian who doesn’t really like to eat and only does it to stay alive unless it’s chocolate cake.
But, I really got to KNOW her on our cruise when we shared a room for a full seven days, which is the most time I’ve spent with her since her 16th birthday. (Whereby she ordered me that we were going to keep our room clean and immaculately organized and proceeded to throw all her clothing on the floor but also offered to do my hair and makeup and provided me valuable feedback on my footwear choices.)
So, you ask, what did I learn about these amazing people that came out of me?
I learned that they are their own people. No matter how much I try to Jewish Mother them, I cannot control them, their thoughts, actions, or feelings. My second son, being a sensitive and kind sort, chooses to give in to my motherly manipulations, but this is voluntary. The other two mostly do not. I must accept this fact.
I learned that I did a good job. Never mind that they know how to wrangle a knife and fork at a formal dinner and understand that it’s not actually more polite to cut your dinner roll (it should be torn by hand). I did a good job where it matters. My kids really like each other. This means they like other people. My kids do not fight. I’m not exaggerating. Someone else commented on it. No bickering, no sibling rivalry, nothing. Nada. Sure the older two pretend to beat the younger one up, but it’s mostly for the photo opportunities.
I learned that my sons are incredibly smart but still know how to act like children. Oh, the converstions they will have. And the places they will go. It amazes me how two people whose combined age is under 30 could know so much. Neurophysics by the pool? Pshaw. Advanced molecular engineering over pizza? You know it. But also, Romping in the surf like excited puppies for hours? Oh yes. Practical jokes, fart noises and owning up to the stink. Those are my boys.
I learned my daughter is so much better than I was. She has confidence and grace I didn’t even dream of having at her age, but knows how to be silly when the situation warrants it. She walked up to a bunch of other young adults on our cruise and introduced herself. By the second day, she had a group to meet every night. But, she never ditched her family, not even once, and was actually the most insistent on family time of anyone. She forbade me to talk about my weight or to put my appearance down. She takes things in stride. When my camera broke, or I other forces threatened to ruin our vacation she powered forward (but does she care too little? Should I worry? Is she too strong?)
I learned my youngest has a sense of humour but you can only push him too far. That none of my kids NEED other people to validate them. That my middle child has an innate nice-ness about him, a patience, a calm that belies his age. I learned that my daughter would rather have one expensive pair of jeans than 10 cheap ones (she definitely is smarter than me.) That she carries herself with a grace which barely hides a simmering tendency to tomfoolery.
I learned that my kids see different things as important that I would think they would at their age. Popularity, running with a group, being the best or the prettiest or the most isn’t what they value. Instead, they care about our family, about innate happiness, about joy, about worth. About Carpe Diem and if you see a luggage cart it means take a ride.
I learned that time is almost up. This was only our second big family trip, and might be one of the last.
I learned to imprint every moment in my mind like there would be another like it. But, mostly, I learned that they actually ARE that much fun. But, just in their own, unique, perfect way.