There’s a market in the UK called Waitrose. It’s one of my favorites. Long before Whole Foods nation took over, and after people started caring about produce and meat quality, I discovered Waitrose. I’ve been going to this market for over two decades. But this time, it was different. This time I went to Waitrose for just myself, as in, I went shopping for food that only I was going to eat for at least two weeks.
A precursor to empty nesting, perhaps? But I arrived in London without any kids in tow for the first time in 23 years. Husband was in LA looking after our youngest, more on that later, and I decided that when no other son could accompany me, I would still make the trip regardless. Shopping for just me was hilarious. I bought figs and grilled artichokes; feta cheese and oat crackers; beetroot hummus and olives. And lots and lots of white wine. When I got to the milk section I had another good laugh. Normally it’s gallon-sized organic whole milk for us; this time it was pint-sized skimmed. And eggs…I grabbed two dozen-filled cartons out of pure habit and had to go back for the half carton. No meat desired. After all, I was a vegetarian for eleven years before having babies.
Cooking for one can be fun for some. I have a friend who makes a meal out of dinner time, preparing all sorts of interesting recipes for herself. She doesn’t look like she eats much, but damn she’s enthusiastic about the prep. And I get it. If I wasn’t careful I’d be eating crackers and cheese and the olives stuffed with cheese. I’d avoid the effort most nights which would be great, until it became depressing. Alone time for me needs to be planned out more than it used to. It’s not my fault; I’m really not used to it. My life has been programmed for so long and surrounded by my boys, that when I find myself alone without an idea of what the day is supposed to be, I tend to freeze up. Waste time. Get bored. Get anxious.
But, if I ‘plan’ the day to be alone, then I find myself present in that day, finding lost time, embracing the pace, not anxious at all. I write more, clear out my head – and the odd cupboard, and even think about what I might want to cook myself that night. It’s a funny thing, perspective. It’s literally an internal shift of focus, ever so small at times, and then boom – the sweet spot of the day arrives.
And now here I am at the end of my stay. Husband arrived after two weeks looking after our youngest. When I left them alone, Husband was trying to convince me extend my time in the UK to be with him longer, saying I was being an over-protective mama-bear not willing to leave her 16 year old alone for a few days. Then he arrived after his solo parenting extravaganza and said – and I quote – ‘there’s no f’ing way you can leave our son on his own. He’s a teenager with a driver’s license, a credit card and a way too cheeky grin on his face!’ Duh!
The transition I am making with my boys flying the nest is very interesting. I’m not a controlling person and yet I realize I’ve controlled every aspect of their lives by default for so long. Sure they started taking on their own social lives a while ago and I long since stopped going on play dates to check out what their friends are really like. They lie about stuff in a natural self-defining way, and they have friends I have never, and sometimes, will never meet. There are new things influencing them that I need to guess at and I don’t know if they brush their teeth every day. My mom once told me one of the hardest transitions for her was knowing how well she looked after mine and my siblings’ health and how angry she would get when she felt we weren’t doing a good enough job. I am still very much needed and enjoy being needed by all of them, but the physical transition is real. The boundaries by which nap time, feeding time, driving time define your day, your year, have significantly altered. And in London I can spend the entire day without hearing from the boys at all because of the time difference. Husband has been elated that he’s had access to what he thinks is my full attention. ‘Jennifer!’ he bellows happily throughout the day and I’m usually within earshot…and answer! What’s easier: Husband on his own or …four boys, two dogs (one with an old lady cough that sounds like she’s dying) and a million of their friends to feed every day??? I’ll let you guess.
Truth is, I am still transitioning with my birds that have flown and remain with my antennae attuned across the seas at very strange hours in octopus mode, over three time zones. Trying not to control, trying to just be there, be supportive, listen without always offering up answers (that I may not have). And it ain’t easy. But, and it’s a pretty big but, I have lived this past month in London freely. Without the constraints on all my time, I have taken my time. With everything. And everyone. And that has felt really good.
The phone rang during a dinner we were having last night. It was the third time in a row so I guessed it was the kids. I excused myself and saw all the missed FaceTime calls. I saw there was a weird link to hit in my messages which immediately took me to a group FaceTime chat with all of my boys in different cities. ‘Mom!’ they said in chorus. ‘You are the hardest mom to get a hold of! We’ve decided dad’s had enough time with you by himself and you need to go back to LA. It’s not fair. He doesn’t share you well.’ Oh I had to laugh. And to think my boys wouldn’t really notice all that I do for them. They don’t hand out awards in motherhood, we all know that, but that call was firm validation that yes, our kids do notice. I need to get back to LA – I’ve been told by all of them except the youngest who is clearly living his best life. So back I go tomorrow leaving Husband’s caress into the arms of my teenage boy and his fifteen new bff’s. London to LA…and back again. That’s how this blog started and some things don’t change, thankfully.