But I won't lie: The smaller, fiercer part of my anger is perfectly explainable. I am struggling with being at home with teenaged boys this summer. They are affable, mostly kind, always clever — but they are not thoughtful. Rather, they are thoughtless. I think there's a difference between the two: the first is more active. My teenagers' thoughtlessness is most definitely passive. (Although when it is coupled with the sarcasm that is the province of the teenager, it does seem a lot to bear.)
Oh, you know the drill. It's the same complaints parents always trot out. Why do they put the milk back in the fridge when it's empty? (Because they do not want to take the extra step of recycling the container.) Why do they not hang up their wet towels? Why do they not change the toilet paper roll when a new roll is sitting just under the dispenser? Why do they do nothing beyond what they are forced to do?
I am tired of teens disappearing before the clean-up from dinner. I am tired of picking up mildewed towels. I am tired of nagging, nagging, nagging (pick up your room, wear your retainer, don't leave dirty dishes in your room, get off the computer and go to bed). I am tired.
Last week the dishwasher broke. It's since been fixed. But when it broke, it was ready to be run (read: stuffed with dirty dishes). I was forced to wash them all by hand. I asked my children to help towel-dry the dishes as I washed them. I requested ten minutes of their time. I did not mean exactly ten minutes, but that's what my kids took me to mean, each (on consecutive nights) tossing the towel on the counter (hang it up?) and ambling off after ten minutes, despite the job being unfinished. I complained to someone: "Let's say I was driving my child to the movie theater, and I said to him, 'Well, that's ten minutes of driving! I know we're not there yet, but you can get out and walk the rest of the way to the theater.'"
In four months I turn fifty. In six months I will have been a parent for twenty years. I am balking at the practical elements of that role: the cleaning, the feeding, the cleaning, the feeding. I rebel, but only in my head. (Only in my head, because I love my children, and in general I love being their mother.)
I imagine myself leaving for a few weeks, not forever, never forever. On my return would I find people forced by my absence to become more self-reliant, forced by my absence to become — dare I say it — thoughtful?
In my darker moments I wonder whether it was I who failed to teach my children to be thoughtful. I believed that modeling thoughtfulness, which think I do, mostly, was enough. And maybe it is, or will be shown to be, once my kids are out of the teen years.
I am writing this because I feel alone in it. I am half-hoping that you, whoever you are, will tell me that you feel the same way, at least sometimes. But for your sake, I am also half-hoping that you don't understand a word of what I've written here.