Where the Hell are all the Forks? or Parenthood Retirement & Other Pipe Dreams
I know they say that, as children grow up and leave, become independent and lead lives of their own, you’ll miss them. The house grows quiet and lonely and you call day after day looking to find your place in their lives. Wanting to be needed and necessary, yearning to kiss the booboos away and solve all their woes with some great parental wisdom acquired through years of suffering and experience. I know they say all that. But I don’t believe it.
Not entirely, at least.
Sure, the sound of an empty house might get lonely. Of course, we’ll miss being such an important part of their lives, so central to their being… yadda, yadda, yadda. But am I really going to miss constant bickering and fighting? The obnoxious teenage eyerolls and passive aggressive crappy dishwashing? How about the filth that has become our upstairs bathroom, the mountains upon mountains of laundry mildewing with urine-stained bed sheets and once-used towels they just refuse to hang up to dry? Or the forks? How about the forks that seem to disappear mysteriously after each dishwashing til were driven to buy box upon box of cheap plastic forks, spoons and those useless flimsy knives no one ever uses?
I mean, really. WHERE the HELL are ALL my FORKS? I don’t mean to be petty, but I have bought at least 4 sets, some on the expensive end, over the last four years… are they so lazy that they’re actually throwing them away rather than washing them? These inconsiderate, selfish, self-serving, entitled little jerks I call my children? Is this really happening?
I can’t imagine throwing away my mother’s dishes, or complaining about the lemon glaze on the chicken, getting an attitude because I don’t get to sit on my lazy behind and *watch* mom do all the work, or whining that I’m bored when I have God-only-knows how many toys, books and wastes of money at my disposal. I can’t imagine being half as lazy, ungrateful, or inconsiderate as my own children, when I was a child. HALF! And I certainly can’t imagine ‘missing the good ole days’ when they grow up and move the hell out. In fact, I look forward to it, and it’s all I talk about some days.
I think about parenthood retirement A LOT, and though I know I shouldn’t, I mention it openly in front of the kids… “Man, I can’t wait til you grow up and move out! I’m gonna travel the world, unfettered of responsibility…” or “I’m gonna move into a nice small, perpetually clean house, not sullied by the filth of your unsanitary nature…” or “You better hope you get into college, cuz at 18 you’re gonna be out on the streets!” or “I hate this, I hate parenthood, I hate it… you guys suck, you really suck, man, and I can’t wait til the nightmare is finally over… how many years til you’re gone?” (Ok, that last one isn’t one of my better days). I mention it without the loving filter of motherhood to soften the blow (step-parentdome has its own special problems). And usually top it off with my ever sarcastic, “Love you!” to drive the point home.
I think about life after kids a lot. But deep down, I know it’s all a pipe dream. I know, with seven kids, I’ll never be rid of them… and I wouldn’t want to be, entirely. I just want the peace of my own home reestablished, and this cannot happen as long as it’s filled with a tribe of homicidal maniacs trying to drive me to insanity. It just can’t. I want a little more quiet and a little less filth… and privacy, I want privacy. I want to be able to paint, not over pencil scribblings, filthy handprints and gum… is that gum? What the hell? I want to paint because the seasons change and I’m in the mood for garden green walls, or cerulean blue, lemon drop yellow or teal, a nice moody teal.
I want a dish set to remain intact, I want plants that I have the time to care for… plants that don’t die from the constant disruption of being knocked over or picked at. I want the kids to come for a visit… and leave. I want my daughter to spend the summer, before going back to college, telling me all the secrets her father is too stern to hear, and only a mother is privileged to know. I want my son to bring his wife and she feel obliged to say, “You have such a lovely home,” and I say, “That’s because your husband is too old to tear it up anymore… I mean, thank you, sweetheart,” with a wink. I want to love and enjoy my kids from a distance. I want the chance to miss them (admittedly, I do miss them when they visit extended family), but I want to miss them more… with good reason. I want to wring my hands over what will become of them out there in the world… rather than wringing my hands to keep from wringing their necks. Though, there will probably still be a lot of that going on, I know.
I want to retire from this parenthood thing, seriously… and I am planning my escape. Raise them well, so you can worry less later. Raise them well, so you can wash your hands of it and say, I did the best I could, he’s on his own now. I look forward to being the beacon of advice and constant source of nostalgia. I look forward to annoying my kids with incessant nagging and phone calls to tell them I just saw some old movie they used to love, or that my tomatoes didn’t make it this year, or that they need to go bail their brother out of jail cuz I’m not doing it again. Ok, maybe not that last one.
But, I really, truly look forward to retiring from parenthood. It’s all that gets me through some days. I know I’ll miss them, I know there are good times, sweet memories, lots of nostalgia building up in my memory bank… but, my guess is, the sweetest part will be when they’re gone. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and my heart has lots of room for growth these days. I honestly love my kids, and if I could go back and live a life without children, without the stress and misery and self-sacrifice that is motherhood, I… wait, lemme think. Ok, no no, I wouldn’t. I’m pretty sure… yeah, no, I wouldn’t. I really do want my older years to have them there, to have them as evidence of what we all lived through, and a reminder of why it was worth it.
But, seriously. I’m looking forward to the quiet… and the forks.