I always think that life would be so much better if it contained actual background music. Just like in movies, the perfect song would start playing during integral moments of your life. You know, like… Whatever it Takes by Imagine Dragons at the pinnacle moment in your marathon, You Oughtta Know by Alanis Morissette after you get dumped and you’re drinking with your girlfriends, This is Me by Keala Settle at any moment when you’re totally killing it and living your best life. Important moments would just be so much better with background music.
We sat down opposite our daughters a year-and-a-half ago at their favorite restaurant. It was the Friday before spring break and we were gearing up for a big Staycation! So the only reason our children were in good spirits was because there was no school for exactly nine days, not because they wouldn’t be on a beach for the next week. Like all of their friends.
We were about to tell them that we were probably, almost positively moving to Atlanta. As in, away from Cincinnati, the only city they’d ever really known. We were going to relay this in an excited, upbeat type of manner, in a celebratory atmosphere where they might be so inclined to also feel excited and celebratory. But as we sat down and I looked at their very trusting and innocent faces and then I glanced around and took in the very loud, crowded and public space around us, I realized that it was a truly horrible decision.
Do you know that feeling that what you’re about to do is a really bad idea and as you become aware that what you’re about to do is a really bad idea, you’re also aware that it’s too late and you’re going to just have to keep going?
Yeah, me too.
This is when Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins should have started playing.
There we were, in the restaurant, with world-rocking, earth-shattering news to share with our children, amidst a sea of strangers. We ordered drinks and appetizers and then told our daughters that we were probably moving. Oh, and by the way the reason why the “probably” was important is because we weren’t completely sure just yet and therefore they couldn’t tell anyone. (Cue: It’s a Mistake, Men at Work.)
So to recap: we took our tween and teen daughters out to a crowded restaurant, told them that we were probably moving away from friends and family, that they’d have to start new schools in middle and high school and that they had to keep it a secret until further notice. And also we still weren’t on the beach. It’s probably no coincidence that soon after this experience Kate “suddenly” learned that kids can actually emancipate from their parents in court and has “casually” and “jokingly” brought it up ever since.
I tried to think back to where we heard this bit of advice or why we thought this was a good idea, as their faces changed from laughing and happy to full-on shock and grief. They were like caged animals looking for a place to escape. They simmered silently and I can totally imagine So What by Pink blaring in the background as they directed their quiet rage toward us. Maybe this is why I had heard somewhere that telling your children big news of this sort in public (like a favorite restaurant!) was a good idea because they would be less likely to throw a tantrum or bite you or kick you in front of other people.
But as Kate looked at me with tears and a little bit of murder in her eyes and asked, “Why did you take us here? Why didn’t you tell us this at home? I hate this!” and If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher really should have been playing in the background, we realized this had been a terrible decision. We got most of our food to go and headed home.
As we drove home and in the hours that followed, we answered questions and talked about the what-ifs and we did our best to explain the situation. There were tears and there was some yelling and some door slamming. It was like Battle of the Bands. We were all, Everything’s Gonna Be Alright by Bob Marley and they were all “Forget” You by CeeLo Green. And then we were like, You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones and they were all, We Are Never Getting Back Together, by Taylor Swift.
This was turning their whole life upside down and they needed the space to deal with all of the feelings. And I don’t know about everyone else’s kids, but our children have A Lot Of Feelings.
I think sometimes I can underestimate my kids and treat them like “kids” instead of like humans. In an effort to control the outcome and wrap up the experience with a pretty, little bow, I robbed them of their own authentic experience. We needed to let them have their big, messy, loud feelings and to express them in a safe place. (Crying and slamming their doors to We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister)
Ryan and I had already spent weeks and weeks discussing this possibility, unpacking all of the pros and cons and weighing the What Ifs, we had worked through a lot of the big emotions. It had been really difficult, all of this talking and imagining and what-iffing… it had been a Herculean effort for me to keep this to myself and I was exceedingly proud of this fact. I think this dinner out was really celebrating the fact that we were adulting kind of well in that moment and that I had kept it together. The problem is, we brought our kids along when we should have just gone out alone.
Eventually, after everyone had calmed down and there was at least the glimmer of hope on the horizon, the song, Hard to Say I’m Sorry by Chicago would have been appropriate.
I just felt bad, like I had ruined something in them. Not only had I Come In Like a Wrecking Ball, but I had forever tarnished this moment that could have been special and perfect, and they could have called upon it fondly… remember how mom and dad told us that we were moving to Atlanta? That’s when I knew that they were the best parents ever.
Of course, now that it’s been well over a year since then, I know a few things to be true and I’ve included the songs that should accompany this poignant, end-of-blog-post montage: 1) We didn’t ruin them (I’m Still Sanding, Elton John), 2) Moving to Atlanta has been one of the best gifts we’ve ever given them (You’re Welcome, Dwayne Johnson/Muana), 3) How we told them about this was never going to be easy, but it’s not nearly as pivotal a moment as I’ve made it out to be in my mind (Complicated, Avril Lavigne) and 4) They will never think that we’re the best parents ever (Loser by Beck). At least not right now… but one of these days, they’ll realize what amazing, kick ass parents we’ve been this entire time and then Ryan and I will rock out while We are the Champions plays.