The admission that I really like having my teenage kid around has brought up some very strange reactions lately. There are the people who think I’m just plain strange and the others who think I’m lying. Strange I can sort of accept, lying not so much.
But that’s not the worst of it, there’s the whole subset of people who think people only speak about their kids in this way to affirm their position as “good parent”. It sounds “right” to say you miss your children. Quite frankly I find that odd because parenting isn’t a competition. It doesn’t make you a better or worse parent if you talk about your attachment. Or even if you have that attachment.
The truth is my son went on school camp for a week recently and it felt like three weeks. I missed having him around. It felt very quiet and a bit lonely in the house and I didn’t like it at all. And while he’s been on many camps and slept out more times than I could even begin to recount, this time was different.
It was different because he’s 16 and on the cusp of a much bigger trip when he heads off overseas on a school trip for six weeks at the end of the year. And then he leaves school in two years with grand plans to travel the world. These are both things I’m trying to sweep under the carpet and pretend don’t exist (a coping mechanism I do not suggest that anyone else adopt).
But what I’ve come to realise, as I’m getting used to these stints away from home, is that it makes people uncomfortable to hear how much I miss him when he’s away. It seems, after you’ve dealt with the people that think you are odd or competitive, that conceding you miss your teenager is somehow a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that says either you are incomplete without your child (I sort of am) or that your child is tied to your apron strings (sadly he isn’t).
The most common response I got when I told people he was away was how lucky I was I didn’t have to do the school run, cook meals and do his washing. “It must be so peaceful,” they enthused. “It’s a holiday from parenting, you’re so lucky,” they gushed.