A few months ago, my teenage daughter, DQ, moved out of my house and in with her father. This was probably one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. It wasn’t easy to let go and trust that she could make a choice like this – a choice that meant she was to move to a town three hours away from me and I wouldn’t be able to see her every day. However, I knew I had to let her make this decision to leave.
I thought I would be devastated once she was gone. Thankfully, I wasn’t. I mean, I was sad. I missed her terribly. But we both made up for the distance between us by talking on the phone or texting every couple of days. In a way, the extra efforts we made to keep in touch made up for the fact that we weren’t living together. I realized that we could still remain close even if I wasn’t the primary parent she lived with.
The first weekend DQ was gone, I asked my son, Taz, what he thought about his sister not being here. He admitted to feeling a little jealous that she got to stay with their dad and he didn’t. But he also said that it might be good if his sister was gone.
“You guys were always hanging out,” he told me. “Maybe now we’ll be able to hang out more, too.”
This statement was eye opening, to say the least. What he said was true. DQ and I have a lot in common. Hanging out with her was easy. We liked the same shows, liked doing the same things, and could easily chat about anything. Taz, on the other hand, had two interests – playing video games, and talking about video games. I have no interest in either one of those, just like he has no interest in any of the things I like to do. Sometimes I’ll come in his room and sit on his bed while he plays, and I’ll let him teach me about the game. But for the most part, he would lock himself in his room and we’d hardly see each other at all.
With DQ gone, I decided that this needed to change. I needed to get to know my son better, and make more of an effort for us to spend quality time together.
It wasn’t easy at first. The last thing a 12 year old boy wants to do is hang out with his mom in place of his virtual fun. But through some persuasion (I took his games away), I managed to get him to take a break from the videogames and rejoin the family.
The first two days were ridiculous. Taz went through withdrawals from the games. He was bored. Nothing was fun enough to keep him entertained. However, I stuck to my guns. Soon, Taz realized this wasn’t as awful as he was making it out to be. We spent evenings playing board games or watching a TV program together. I took him out for coffee (or hot chocolate) dates. Without his sister there, Taz soon loosened out of the youngest sibling role of using annoying tactics to get attention, and became an active part of our family. Sometimes the videogames even took second place.
The absence of Taz’s sister didn’t last very long. A month after she moved out, DQ decided life in her dad’s town just wasn’t what she expected it to be. She was homesick and wanted to come home. Of course, I was thrilled. But the one fear I had about her moving back was that Taz would be left behind in the dust. Would all the progress we made be forgotten once his sister was home again?
The Taz was worried about this, too, even though he never voiced this. This fear was made apparent as we drove DQ back home, and she chattered on and on about everything I had missed from her life while she was away. Taz, unable to get a word in edgewise, finally voiced his frustration about being ignored.
“Just be patient,” DQ told him. “I haven’t seen Mom in a long time.”
But I understood what Taz was feeling, and made a vow to myself to continue making special time just for him so that he would know I valued him.
Every child wants to believe they are special. And they should, because every child IS special. They are craving attention from us, their parents – even when they insist they want us to leave them alone. They really don’t want us to leave them alone, they just want us to show how much we care. And the simplest way we can do this is to give them our devoted time.
Note: This article will print in the Press Democrat on Friday, March 9th.