That was what I thought when my husband and daughter moved two-and-a-half hours away for his new job. My son is a senior, and I agreed to live in a small apartment with him to let him finish his schooling with his friends and soccer pals.
The rose-colored glasses I wore must have been scarlet, because it's the first week and nothing is working like I planned. I thought I would be the cool mom and hang with my son and his friends. Not. I barely see him. After school, he has practice or games and other social commitments. Those fun dinners are just me eating alone in a silent apartment.
What happened to my dream? What happened to getting to know my son? I feel like I don't know him at all. I miss my husband and my daughter.
The weather is getting a nip in the air and the leaves are starting to turn and my year has only just begun. Suddenly the town I have lived in for nearly 20 years isn't the place I want to be. The studio apartment seems dreary and foreboding. Or is that just the dark paneling and the leaking tub faucet?
I begin hearing noises -- scratches and other unfamiliar sounds. Could they be mice? Am I hearing things? Or are they just the unfamiliar creaks of an old house? I lie awake at night trying to analyze the sounds between my son's snores. I'm not crazy or sleep deprived from bunking on the Cadillac version of an air mattress. Something is making its home in the walls. I email the landlord about the freeloading pests and scour the place looking for evidence of critters.
My son breezes in and I pepper him with questions. He raises and lowers his shoulders, a solitary gesture that supplies a single answer. I want to corner him and force responses to my inconsequential chatter. He turns his back to grab a clean T-shirt to change before he is off again. And I'm left with only the unwanted guests in the walls.
I work on my book, trying to get something accomplished, but my life bothers me. I call my new home just to see what I'm missing and to fill an empty void in my wide-open appointment book.
My daughter answers on the first ring filled with stories about her new school, classes and a teacher who is unreasonable. She babbles on and I make the appropriate noises of sympathy and suggestions. Then it hits me. This is what I'm missing. The car rides home from school were never my son saying much. It was my daughter monopolizing the conversation.
This is the child I could live with for a year. My son is his father's child in temperament. Why use more words when only one -- or better yet, a gesture -- will do? Why hadn't I realized this when I built up my expectations?
On a rare night that my son is actually home for dinner a few nights later, we opt to go to his favorite pizza place. I broach the subject of my unease. I'm here, away from my husband and daughter, and I need to feel a part of his life. I can't do it any other way. He looks confused and wary. He isn't used to a needy mother and his eyes betray his belief that an alien may have kidnapped me.
But as I talk, he relaxes some. We even laugh about his motor-mouth sister and I think even he realizes he misses her just a bit. In the end, he agrees to try. I compromise too. I only need one sentence from him about anything when he comes in the door. I don't care what subject. Just one sentence ... His shoulders stiffen in aversion, but he nods his head in agreement. I feel better having let out my anxiety.
The next afternoon, as he flies in to change from soccer practice, he stops. I may have the crazed looked of a caged animal wanting freedom. He scratches his head.
"The coach made us run extra sweet sixteens tonight," he tells me.
He runs out the door, and the silence returns. But it's a start. I'd asked for a sentence. Maybe by the time our nine remaining months of togetherness are over, we will have graduated to whole paragraphs of conversation.
I've changed my goals. Raising children was never supposed to be easy, but teaching conversation skills to a teenage boy is going to be work. I'm hoping to use reverse psychology on the critters in the wall. I'm only going to shrug my shoulders at them and say nothing. Maybe they will decide to leave. All I know is, I'm staying!