What do I envy about my children’s lives?
Sometimes, late in the evening, I relax after a long day with a hot bath, my computer nearby streaming something from Netflix, an iced beverage beside me. If I feel like it, bath complete, I can keep right on watching in bed or I can surf the Internet and post nonsense to Facebook, or I can chat into the night online with a west-coast friend. I don’t have a bedtime.
Granted, if I do stay up indulging myself, the morning call to my treadmill that is meant to start the day might be met with a grumpy thump on the snooze button. I really do get up early and work hard all day, but the choice to relax and stay up late, like eating too much chocolate, is often more alluring than minding my very real need for sleep.
And then there are some nights I can’t sleep. After turning this way and that, finding the pillow too cool and then too hot, flipping the covers off and back on in a hurry, sipping some water, putting drops in my eyes, and wondering if I should go downstairs to make hot milk, after moments like these I’ll reach for my computer just for some way to try to wind down. It’s not a good solution and I usually end up cross with its light rather than enchanted by anything I find to look at.
It was after just such a night when I had gone to bed at a decent hour but then woken so often I finally got up, made a snack, warmed a cup of milk and carried my computer up to bed to watch something, anything to take my mind off being awake, that I was reporting on my night to Fourteen.
“I can’t wait until I’m a grow-up,” he said, “so I can stay up late and eat and watch whatever I want. It sounds really fun.”
On that morning as I went about my routine, sipping tea while I made school lunches and kept Fourteen and Eleven on their way to their buses, I wanted to retort—well, I wish I was fourteen and someone told me when to go to bed and fed me and made sure I got where I needed to be with my homework done and my equipment clean and provided money for the bills so there’s electric and water and … but before I complained I thought for how it must sound to him. When I was living the strains of being the adult, he was seeing freedom, just as I was seeing the freedom to relax in the care of a grownup.
In the first-ever guest voice here at Overneath It All, Fourteen comments a further:
As a teenager, being an adult seems wonderful to me. I suppose that I’m in the middle between childhood and adulthood, and at this stage in my life, adulthood looks to be the better of the two options. Certainly, adults have more freedoms and can stay up as late as they want, but what really appeals to me about being an adult is having my own space in the world.
To have one’s own space is a great thing, be that space a house, apartment, or even a dorm room. From my experiences at sleep-away camps, it is a liberating experience to be able to do just about whatever I want. I also find the idea interesting to be able to really make a space in the universe obviously my own.
Another thing about being an adult is that it looks like an accomplishment. Many people ask me “What do you want to do when you grow up” or “What do you want to be when you grow up” in casual conversation or when trying to make small talk. My answers to these questions have varied greatly, but generally end in “but I’m not sure.” As an adult, I would rarely be asked this question, and I think I will try not to ask it, as it pressures kids into deciding their futures too soon.
Fourteen lives his questions and they’re not small. From my vantage point I’d love to encourage him not to be in a hurry to grow up. That’s best left unsaid, but I can ask myself, would I really want to be a kid again? What do I actually envy about their lives? It would be fun, I think, to go to school again. I’d be better at it this time, would enjoy learning, would take stellar notes, wouldn’t be stressed out by studying, and could probably do fairly well on exams and papers. I’d love to be taken care of—meals planned, shopped for and prepared, laundry done, outings, special events, and vacations booked and paid for—for a while. But life is a series of learning experiences, something I don’t have to go to school to explore. And I’m enough of a control freak that being cared for would become claustrophobic quite quickly. I don’t envy my children many of their first-time experiences, like travel abroad or performing on stage, because I get to experience these firsts with them, through their eyes, anew. So I guess what I envy my children most is sleep—they both fall asleep easily. Eleven sleeps ten hours a night; Fourteen between eight and nine.
On the other hand, when I can’t sleep, I’m in my own room in my very own house, a place that is expressly my space. I own Radiant Om Yoga, another space I’ve designed just the way I want it to be. Nobody bothers me about what I want to be when I grow up because I’ve had three careers already—it’s better not to inquire! And I just discovered Orange Is the New Black on Netflix; what’s not to love???
Happy First Day of Spring, gentle and lovely readers. May it be sunny where you are, xoR