Marriage, of course. That’s a big change. I have felt quite solitary for most of my life, and getting married at 36 certainly changed that. On the other hand, my habits were quite established by then, and I married another solitary soul. So we each accommodate each other’s need for solitude quite easily.
But then we had kids. Babies are constant in their presence, taking for granted that one is there to serve them. And that feels right; here I am, dear, with my breast or my shoulder or some food or some entertainment. And my mind can float above it all, maintaining its solitary perspective on my suddenly crowded life.
Sometime in the last two years my younger daughter stopped having me help her go to bed. She had taken a long time to detach herself from me, only stopping coming to sleep with me when her own light sleep made her unable to block out my snoring. Even after that, she took a lot of my time at bedtime. Now I don’t always even know when she goes to bed, if she doesn’t happen to catch me and say Good night.
My husband and I have produced two very different children. Our oldest likes to be alone; our youngest is quite social and has plans with friends many days a week. She is the outlier; she is the one who initiates family time, cooking with her dad, card games. She may feel forced into a solitary mode that the other three of us find so natural.
We make the effort; we spend time as a family. Recently Scott got a new truck and we all went for a ride, then stopped at a railroad bridge over a creek and walked the stiles, peering down at the turgid water below. Eliza wanted to keep walking, extend the adventure, but Lena, Scott and I had had our fill pretty quickly. Back home, we all retreated into our bubbles—laptop, TV, desktop. Eliza made cookies, bouncing in and out of our bubbles, asking for help to get things from high shelves or find ingredients. I am happy to have someone to draw me out.
I is a strong pull, but We is stronger. As we prepare to let Lena go off to college and adulthood, I am glad to have our more social child still at home to keep us connected and connecting.