I took my daughter on a date last Saturday. We drove up the coast, stuffed our face on a rooftop deck with seafood, and kick off our flip flops while watching the boats go by.
I love having alone time with each of my three children, especially now that they are teenagers. My daughter, my sweet girl who used to be glued to me and wanted to mimic everything I did, has just turned 14 and we don’t talk as much as we used to.
It’s as painful as it sounds but I’m kind of getting used to the silence between us. It’s like the way you reluctantly throw cauliflower in your grocery cart, telling yourself if you make it a habit to replace starchy carbs with vegetables, maybe one day you will learn to love it just as much as the bowls of pasta you used to devour. All the while knowing it’s it a fat, juicy lie.
You can hear about the distance the teen years bring over and over, but until you experience it yourself, you have no idea the void it can leave in your heart. So, when she started talking to me about how much fun she’d had a few nights ago when her friend spent the night and I’d let them go rogue in the candy aisle of the grocery store, I sat back and slurped my soda, taking it all in.
“Then, we did something I’ve been wanting to tell you, but I’ve been afraid to tell you because you’ve seemed really tired lately.”
Oh shit, what is my daughter doing that’s so dreadful she’s been wanting to tell me but afraid to tell me? Was it vaping? Did they find my toy box full of vibes and lube and show them to their friends via SnapChat? Did they prank call some random woman and tell her that they were supposed to meet her husband by the dock at midnight but he didn’t show up?
Then, as she proceeded to tell me they numbed their ears with all the ice we had in the freezer and tried to pierce their ears, relief set in. But so did that annoying asshole we call guilt.
After I knew everything was clear and the only thing I was dealing with was a sore ear that needed to be treated with some hydrogen peroxide a few times, all I could hear in my head over and over on this beautiful Saturday afternoon was, “You’ve seemed tired lately.”
We all know how this goes; our minds translate comments from our children like this and twist their meaning:
You aren’t interested.
You don’t care.
You are too preoccupied with your own life.
You are too tired for me.
I don’t want to cause you anymore tiredness.
Clearly, the bags under your eyes and the groggy way you walk to the fridge means you don’t want to hear about one more thing in my life, and I can’t come to you.
I am going to do bad things like break the law and when I get interrogated I’ll tell them my mom was just too tired to care as I get cuffed and thrown in jail.
Yes, parents are tired. We have the caffeine addictions, the forgetfulness, and all the aroma therapy hidden away in our drawers to prove it. And yes, our kids are probably the number one reason we are walking around in a zombie-like state most of the time.
When they aren’t keeping us awake with their crying, wet diapers, or sore mouth from cutting a tooth, we are lying in bed awake with worry trying to go over our mental to-do lists in our heads.
Most of the time we are putting their needs first and trying to squeeze ours in as an afterthought.
We get used to this though. We realize we are going to be really freaking tired for at least 18 years and we begin to forget what it felt like before we had these children who took so much of our spirit and energy to raise.
They see this. But what they don’t know is that we wouldn’t have it any other way.
How do we let our kids know that, yes, we are dog-tired? We want our mommy, a warm blanket, and a back rub most of the time. There are days we don’t know how we are going to do it all in the conscious state that life requires, but then we look at them, and they are all the motivation we need.
Yes, we are beyond exhausted. But never so out of it that we don’t want them coming to us with things they need. Even little things, like asking for help studying for a test.
And we never want them looking at us, slogging to the bathroom with zero energy to pee sighing all along the way thinking, I just can’t tell her what happened at the party because she’s too tired and won’t want to deal with it.
That afternoon, my daughter made me realize my kids see, feel, and taste my exhaustion, and that is okay. I am a mother to three teens and I’m allowed to be tired. What’s not okay is my children thinking I am too tired for them, that I’m too tired to make them feel as if they can come to me with anything and everything.
“If you come to me with something, anything, I don’t care how big or small, I am never too tired for you. Please remember that, Anna,” I said.
Then I told her brothers that same thing as soon as I saw them.
Yes, this will be another phrase I repeat to my kids that is sure to drive them bonkers. But I’m not going to slow my reminders down (no matter how drained I am). Because what if they look at me one day and want to talk to me about something big like birth control or sex but think, no, she’s too tired? What if they are at a party and have too much to drink and are afraid to call me to come get them and try to solve it themselves because I was really tired when I dropped them off? What if someone puts their hands on them in a way they shouldn’t and they decide against telling me because I’ve been sapped lately?
I’d like to believe I could just perk up like a limp houseplant who has gotten a much needed drink, but I can’t deliver that kind of miracle. Not on the regular anyway.
The only thing I can do is remind them, all the damn time, that though I’m tired, I am never, ever too tired for them. They are the greatest loves of my life and I would choose these these weary days raising them over and over and over again.