The ellipses are important in the title here.
When all the kids are home it’s sort of magical. They sometimes live in their own world, orbiting and multiple times a day they cross orbits with me. It’s easy to see why this happens, I work for a full 8 or 9 hours and there’s a good 45 minute commute each way. Given that they aren’t around me all the time.
When my oldest isn’t home that orbit is a little less even. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, there’s just a change in the dynamic. My oldest is, literally, four years younger than I was when I had her. That’s a strange thing to think about. The other three don’t defer to her, they don’t treat her like their mother. They treat the situation in the unique way it is: she’s home and they are making the most of their time with her.
Yet when my oldest had to leave for a day for something school related she talked about a friend’s relationship with their father . . . and that same person’s sister’s relationship to their father, too. It’s not far from what my middle daughter does with me. She argues with me. She combats me, nearly on every little thing – even if it’s something really small and I’m simply making an observation.
In short…she’s a teenager.
I make no secret that my middle child has hit puberty full-force and she knows I say so here. I see reflections of how dismissive, rude, and impolite I was as a teenager and it makes me shudder. When I say something eight times and hear nothing in return only to see she’s had headphones on her head the whole time I want to rip them off her ears.
Yet the discussion with my oldest revealed what I am sure happens in a lot of homes. Detached kids, moodiness, anger, even combative discussions.
Okay . . . yes, I have that with my daughter. My relationship with every child, though, is completely different. What I do with one son I won’t do with another. What I say to my sons I don’t necessarily say to my daughters.
The biggest thing that stands out to me, though, is the fact that my middle daughter doesn’t avoid time around me, she avoids time around everyone. That’s what teens try to do. Yet at the end of every night, whatever happens, my daughter gives me a hug goodnight. I kiss her on the cheek and she says “I love you, papa” . . . a habit she’s taken to since her Italian classes started. I cannot think of a day that has not happened.
So even when she’s at her moodiest or I am angry or we clash . . . we end the day knowing one thing all five of us have known since we started this journey by ourselves:
We’re stronger together than when we’re apart.
That will always bind us.