Family Time Gets Personal

I clung to dinnertime together as long as I could.

My college freshman spent August working, saying goodbye to friends, and preparing for meals away from home more than at home with us. Now that she’s gone, I’ve joined the club of sad moms who remove additional plates that we inadvertently set for a missing family member.

In anticipation of Elena’s move and for a short time after we returned home without her, I held on to this sorrow. I felt it most when I was supposed to feel it—the family time when she wasn’t with us—like Labor Day when we traditionally take a family bike ride.

Before you cry with me over the loss—because you’ve felt it yourself or you’re anticipating what it’s bound to feel like—let me tell you what I discovered.

Family time gives way to personal time.

By personal time, I don’t mean time for myself. I mean personal, one-on-one time with each of my children, including the adult one not living at home.

Before, the usual gaggle of multiple individuals gathered in communal activities took precedence.

In the pressured panic of delivering dinner to the table, I’d resorted to yelling for everyone to help, rather than directing my requests to certain individuals.

When I disciplined, I spoke to all my kids as a group with my newly-adult daughter staring blankly at the lecture she’d heard more than enough times.

When we left for anything in a rush, I herded the group to the car, not taking into account that our lateness (and my stress) might have been caused by me.

My group thinking worked for years to manage a family, but now I can see how it also limited individual interaction between family members as individuals.

A personal dynamic, like the one I had when my first child was my only toddler, is now reappearing out of circumstance.

Three for dinner instead of five. With one off to work and one at college, the conversation focused our youngest in a more grown-up role.

One driving the car to high school with me in the passenger seat instead of the driver’s seat. He practices these complicated maneuvers to get out of our garage with only inches of clearance from the curved rock wall, and no one but me cringes.

The texts—yes, even a text—of a day’s highlights from a college student are the highlight of my day. Less is more. Less communication of the minute-by-minute “intrusions” leads to more sharing about day-by-day important happenings.

How did I doubt that the sorrow of this loss wouldn’t be filled?


  1. Camille
    Sep 5, 2012

    And does it feel so good to be writing again?

  2. Teresa
    Sep 5, 2012

    Absolutely. This is my first post in many months and I forgot how much I loved it.

  3. Rebecca
    Sep 5, 2012

    Well, I’m crying even though you said not to. =)

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