Taking One Teen Out Of the Mix Changes the Entire Family Dynamic

Last Saturday, I had the most glorious time shopping with two of my teenagers which is something that hasn’t happened in a very long time, if ever.

This is usually how it goes down: My daughter and I get really into taking our time and looking around while my two boys complain, and sometimes lie on the floor of a department store complaining about how tired they are and how badly their feet are throbbing. I get they don’t love shopping and I am deliberate about not dawdling too much–we save our longer shopping trips for when they aren’t with us.

However, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to pull it together for a half an hour in a store when they need shoes, or I hear my favorite candle store is running a BOGO sale, and I want to stop in quickly after I get them from school. Apparently, it is too much to ask.

teens and mom
Regardless of where we go together, there is always one out of the three of my teens who is determined to make our time miserable.

I’m always rushing through the store to keep everyone happy, but it’s never fast enough. Then I get irritated. Then my kids start arguing and doing dumb things like putting straw wrappers in my hair thinking it will humiliate me so much I’ll cut the shopping trip short. Then the lunch I’ve been looking forward to after we’ve shopped is spoiled because I’m pissed and the whole afternoon is shot.

This doesn’t just happen when we shop either. It a regular occurrence when we hike, go for a bike ride, visit the local orchard, or go to a party–there is always one out of the three who is determined to make our time miserable.

Taking One Kid Out of the Mix Changes Everything

So, I couldn’t help but notice on this fine afternoon how much we were all enjoying ourselves–my son even got into smelling candles and wanted to pick one out for his room–when it hit me: we were having such a splendid time because one of my kids was missing.

It made me think back to all the times when one of them was spending the night with a friend, or off with their dad and the whole family dynamic seemed to shift and feel a bit (dare I say it) better.

I’m not sure what happens to children when one of their siblings is gone, or when one of them has a friend over but it seems like mixing things up in this way has magical powers.

Maybe it’s because they get sick of looking at each other and they start picking fights for some excitement. I thought this was a young kid problem, but I’m finding out, it’s not. My teens seem to get along better, and there’s a little extra pep in their step, when things are changed up and they have some space away from one another.

This used to bother me a lot. I’ve always craved quality family time, especially after my divorce. I figured since they were at school all day, they would behave decently when they return home.

But I’m realizing that forcing cheeriness doesn’t work, and only makes them miserable. Letting one of my kids stay home if they don’t feel like seeing a movie their brother and sister want to see, or they are very clear that the last thing they want to do is go to the mall, is perfectly fine. Necessary for my sanity even. And this past Saturday was all the proof I needed.

Driving home, I was almost in shock about how well it actually went and I looked down at my knuckles on the steering wheel and realized they weren’t white.

As much as I have visions of us all making great memories all together, the time can be just as memorable if one of them isn’t there, especially if they don’t want to be.

So, the next time I feel the chaos kicking in, I’m going to take the hint and realize I need to change our family dynamic again and leave one (or all) of my kiddos at home.

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Grown and Flown: The Book

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About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

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