I've been planning my midlife crisis for a few years now. It's mostly a joke that when Twelve turns eighteen and moves out, I'll only be 38, and able to do all the things I haven't been able to do whilst being a single parent: Travel a lot, have an adorable little two-seater classic car that I restored myself, and live in a fabulous Manhattan apartment with high ceilings and original moldings. Think half Friends and half Kathleen Kelly's life in You've Got Mail, except that I don't know where I'll work now that Fox Books has taken over everything. (Yes, I need a long-lost uncle to die suddenly, leaving me the only heir to his ethically accumulated fortune.)
Recently I realized that there's another layer to my little fan fiction. I'll have spent eighteen years teaching Twelve how to live without me, but I'm not sure I'll know how to go about living without Twelve.
I certainly could have lived without Twelve this past weekend; two no-school days plus two regularly-scheduled weekend days equals YOU'RE DRIVING ME UP THE WALL. Long weekends with Twelve have been a bad idea since she was about six. If we have something to do or somewhere to go, we're fine, but if we're just at home, by Sunday afternoon we're both in need of diversion. She needs other people and I need her to go away.
We've been working on the concept of good attention vs. bad attention: She sort of gets that when she wanders out of her room and speaks to me without interrupting (just because you came to a good stopping point in your Harry Potter re-reading marathon does not mean that I am at a good stopping point in whatever I'm doing), I am more than happy to chat. She must understand by now that when she interrupts me, plops down on my lap, and farts, I am not interested in chatting and am probably still irritated at being interrupted in the first place.
Somehow, and apparently this is due to faulty wiring in the adolescent brain, she doesn't always know or care about the difference between good and bad attention. Even though she's often perfectly pleasant to hang out with, I'm becoming less and less tolerant of this kind of intentionally annoying behavior. I've gotten pretty good at the standing lap dump, in which you simultaneously detach hands from clothing or body parts while standing up from the big blue chair, depositing the annoying farter on the floor.
Similarly, being startled by Twelve's maniacally grinning face every time I come up the stairs gets old fast over the course of four days. It's like Ramona's father's grandmother would have said: First time is funny, second time is silly, third time I'm taking away your iPod.
Again, much of the time she's a thing of beauty and a joy forever, and I have no doubt that she'll be just fine when she fledges. She'll do better than Rachel Green, at least; no matching pink marshmallow Peep laundry for her. With her well-developed sense of how things ought to be and the confidence to say so, I can just imagine her making impassioned speeches about any perceived injustice. She already says I'm far too nice to incompetent people, like the person who completely forgot to turn in my time sheet this month. My approach, given that I need to work with this person for the rest of the year: It's not a total emergency, since I noticed it in time and my landlord hasn't cashed my rent check yet, but can you help me figure out what's going on here? Twelve's approach, definitively stated: I would just tell her off.
So, when Twelve is off conquering the world (oh god, I hope she uses her powers for good instead of for evil), what will I do? I will enjoy the uninterrupted quiet, that's for sure, and perhaps I will regain the ability to focus on something for longer than seventeen minutes at a time. When I feel the need to interact with other humans I will call one of them on the phone and we will meet for a nice cocktail. When I want to leave town for the night or the week or the month, I'll just do it. I will use my passport for something other than helping to justify the file folder marked 'Important.' No more asking friends and family if Twelve can stay with them while I go off to a conference, a wedding, or simply to spend time in the company of adults. No one will demand that we go grocery shopping because we're out of organic sliced processed ham food product; in fact, I think I'll
just eat out all the time, except for toast. And tea. The markup on tea
bags in restaurants is something like five hundred percent. Unless the water is very hot, it's a fancy loose-leaf tea, and you get your own little tea pot, cup, saucer, spoon, and a little dish to set the strainer in, you're just getting ripped off.
The problem with my midlife crisis plan as it's currently written is that I'll want to do all those things with Twelve. Between our school schedules, her visits to her dad, and my lack of funds, we've done very little traveling together. We're both bummed that she can't come with me and R to a friend's wedding in Mexico during her winter break, and whenever I squeeze a weekend trip with friends out of my budget, she's always annoyed that she's not invited. With occasional exceptions, she's included in whatever local outings she's allowed and wants to do. Tomorrow I'm meeting up with friends to watch the election unfold at a pub down the street, and Twelve is planning to come along. Granted, she just wants carte blanche from the happy hour menu, but still; these are some nerdy-ass people and it can't help but be a more enriching experience than re-Kindle-ing Harry Potter.
I am not worried too much about traveling with or without Twelve. We'll do that if we want, not that we'll be able to afford it. I'm more concerned that I'm going to demand too much of Twelve once she's moved out. I don't want a reversal of our current roles in which I'm the one ignoring the distinction between good and bad attention. I don't want to annoy her, farting pathetically, until she dumps me onto the floor. I want to do interesting things with my life and let her call me when she's particularly proud of having verbally triumphed over some jerk or another. I want to click 'like' when her Facebook status update is that she aced yet another philosophy essay.
Ah, that's what it is. I want the apple to fall just the perfect distance from the tree: Far enough to know you're not part of it anymore, but close enough to appreciate where you came from.