Hello Teenagers, Goodbye Romance
I see you snickering, over there. You with the little kids who are on you, literally attached to your body like koalas, every single minute of the day. You dream of a time when your children will be self-sufficient, when wiping someone else’s butt will be a distant memory, when no meal requires you to cut food into tiny squares, when the chorus of “Mommy mommy mommymommymommy MOOOOOOMMMMYYYY!!!”s is no more and you will have some of your own life back.
You’re snickering, because how can I possibly say that having teens is harder on a healthy love life than little kids? Do I just not remember what it’s like to having living, breathing, endlessly-wailing appendages of needy need?
I remember. I really do. What I can tell you is that there’s a magic age range—a sweet spot, if you will—when your children are old enough to be less needy and more predictable. Tweens can do things for themselves (lots of things, really) and they’re starting to have their own lives, but they still go to bed early, and they sleep through the night when they do. There’s some years in there where you’re lulled into believing that children don’t kill romance. “Why, this isn’t so bad,” you think, as you and your significant other break out some wine and cheese one night after the kids are tucked in. “I can work with this!”
But then… they turn into teenagers. And that’s the end of romantic evenings. Sorry.
Let me tell those of you who aren’t there yet what it means to have teens in the house when it comes to, um, getting cozy on a regular basis. Having teenagers means that they never go to bed. I mean, yes, I do enforce school-night bedtimes, on account of I am a giant meaniepants (and also because teenagers are chronically sleep-deprived and grumpy, and I am losing many battles here, but I’m still waging war), but even those bedtimes are… not early. And—let’s be honest—they’re not even really enforceable. Really all I can do is insist that the kids are in their rooms at a certain time of night, and then if the lights are out and they’re quiet, we just call that a win. Their regular bedtimes aren’t that much earlier than I would like to be in bed. (And by that I mean the time when I would like to be sleeping, because I am old and the alarm clock goes off early.) Thanks to that magical circadian rhythm shift that tries to happen in the teen years, both of my kids suffer from insomnia (read: their bodies want be late night party animals, and there is no alarm clock they can’t sleep through), which also means that—much like toddlers—one or the other of them may appear couch- or bed-side well after bedtime to announce that they can’t sleep, too.
Oooooh, baby. That’s so nice. I love it when you… oh, hang on. I have to go get some melatonin for this whining teenager. (Mood. Killer.)
Let me tell you something else about teenagers, lest you think, “Well hey, no problem, be flexible and just forget about evenings, maybe.” Teenagers have sixteen different places to be and they need rides to all of them (and money, too, though that’s not as germane, here), and you would think that would mean you’d have plenty of time without the children around, but you would be wrong. In reality, if you’re lucky enough to have a parenting partner, that simply means your shared Google calendar is a twisted mass of transportation negotiations (you take this one here, I’ll take that one there), and the chances of having a significant chunk of time with no kids around (if you have more than one child, anyway) is somewhere between slim and none. And when the kids are home, it’s not just your kids. I was so eager to be The House, you know? I thought I was being smart. Oh, we’re The House, alright. I gave birth to two children, but I can’t tell you the last time there were only two kids here. I’m okay with telling my own kids to go amuse themselves for a while and sneaking off with my husband, but when other people’s kids are here (and when there’s a kid who has similar designs on one of my kids, *ahem*), I need to behave. And stay clothed. So that I can pop into the room every so often to make sure everyone in there is also behaving and clothed.
This is where I should tell you the solution—wrap it all up with a few scintillating tips on how we manage to “keep the flame alive” or whatever, right? Well, we’re still figuring it out, I guess. A well-placed, “Oooh, baby, do you come here often?” in the aisle at the grocery store can be a good intimacy-builder, even if all it does is make you both burst out laughing.
Also, we’ve discovered that if a teenager is protesting an exhortation to get on up to bed, it can be useful to point out that you’re planning to take your pants off, and sure, they can stay, but things are probably going to get awkward. Honestly, if I hadn’t seen it (several times) with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe someone could scuttle up the stairs so fast while doing a face-palm.
Hey, romance is hard to come by once they get to this age. We make it any way we can. We try to cling to the knowledge that those kids will be out of the house soon enough, and then we’ll never even have to wear pants.