I had three kids in three years and they are all very different. But, there’s one thing between them that stayed true across the board: as soon as they turned twelve they no longer wanted to do anything with me, their mom.
Our fun pizza dates turned into me asking them to come to get pizza and soda with me and them asking each time if we could just get take-out.
When my kids were younger they were so excited to do things with me
No longer could they not sleep the night before a beach day. I clearly remember their younger years: they’d be awake and make several trips down the stairs because they could hear me packing the beach bag. I would be making subs or fried chicken in between loading up the car with toys, towel, and sunscreen to get a leg up the following morning, and they would wander in, too excited to sleep.
How things have changed….at the mere mention of a family beach day, I would get nothing but moans and groans. As soon as we got to the beach they were suddenly bored. The walks we used to take looking for shells and sand dollars were clearly and sadly tortuous for them.
Shopping with me? No way.
Going out for ice cream with mom turned from being the highlight of their week to something dumb.
Taking a walk or a drive just to get out for a bit was no longer a welcome excursion and I had to fight every step of the way to get them to go with me.
Fighting with the kids never worked
All that fighting never worked. In fact, it only made them push back harder. The more I wanted them to go, the less they wanted to go. And, the less they wanted to be around me, the worse I felt and so we were in a vicious cycle.
Last summer I got really tired of listening to myself try to bribe my children into hanging out with me. So, I stopped.
It was a blazing hot Saturday in July and my friend was having a pool party. My kids are friends with her kids, she was making hamburgers and hot dogs, and I was bringing their favorite dip and brownies for dessert. She has a beautiful, saltwater pool and literally lives less than ten minutes away.
But still, it was too much trouble for my teens to get themselves into their bathing suits and come along. They wanted to stay home because they were tired (from their very strenuous summer vacation I take it).
I stopped arguing and let them make their own decision
I didn’t argue. I said, “Okay, I’m going to go and you guys can stay here,” and that’s exactly what I did.
I was gone all day. I ignored their texts about stopping to get them fast food. When I got home they were restless and wanted to go get ice cream. I told them I was too tired to go back into town and they should have come with me because sitting in the air-conditioned car eating ice cream by myself was kind of lonely.
I don’t think they believed me but the next time I wanted to go to the beach and they hesitated, I told them I was going to go anyway. Then I added it was too bad they weren’t coming because they could invite a friend and we could eat lunch at that restaurant they love that has a deck right on the beach.
They all came.
We had lunch and had a pretty good time. Around one in the afternoon, they became restless after being on the beach for four hours so I asked if they were cool with staying another half hour and we could go.
Once I stopped pushing, it all changed
That’s when it all changed. I stopped pushing them to come with me and I’d go live my life anyway. I started making compromises if they did come so we all felt like there was a happy medium. And I was very clear if they wanted things like a new shirt, they had to come shopping. If they were craving fast food, they needed to come with me.
I wouldn’t be making special deliveries any longer. The price for a #3 at McDonald’s was the long ride home with their mother.
My kids have started doing things with me again and they like it. So do I. Actually, I love it. I’m not saying they agree every time I want to hang, but instead of refusing to do anything with me and acting like I am the most humiliating person in the land. More often than not, they are happy to spend a little time with me.
And when they don’t want to come to the beach or for a walk with me and the prefer staring at a screen or being in their room, I go without them. I need to live my life and do things that make me happy and honestly, it’s liberating and exhilarating not to spend so much energy trying to convince my kids to hang out with me.
Also, eating ice cream in your car alone doesn’t suck, so there’s that.
More to Read:
Why Parenting Teens is the Loneliest I’ve Ever Felt as a Mom Read Katie Bingham Smith’s insightful essay on why this is the loneliest stage of parenting.
Pediatrician Goes Viral With Her Back to School Advice Dr. Hope Seidel helps parents make peace with their decisions about school this fall.