Our tradition started, much as they often do, by accident. My son had recently passed his driver’s test. He was preparing to drive to my mother-in-law’s home for the weekend. Because she lives two hours away in another state, I was, naturally, nervous about him being on the open highway so far from home.
After giving my son the requisite list of rules and mom clucking, he smirked and said, “Don’t worry, Mah, I’ll just drive good and fast so I’m off the road sooner.” With that, he gently pulled his car out of the garage, music thumping as he rolled down the windows and gave me a thumbs up. His song choice—Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone”—made me laugh in spite of my worry. He arrived safely at his destination, much to my relief. And despite his threats of speeding, he obeyed all traffic laws.
Thus began one of my favorite silly traditions with my son.
Every morning, before he left for school, he would roll down his windows and play a different song. We would both “dance it out,” me in my bathrobe in the doorway, him in a hoodie in the driver’s seat. Sometimes, the song was relevant to the particular day, like when he chose “Shipping Off To Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys for St. Patrick’s Day. Other days, it was a song designed to make me laugh out loud. There’s nothing like starting your day with a little “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Ester Dean.
No matter what the song, it made us both smile. It set the tone for our day. And, now with social distancing and school being canceled for the foreseeable future, I miss those few minutes of connection with him in the early morning hours. Sure, we are finding other ways to connect, but I’m missing the silly little tradition I’ve come to rely on to keep us feeling close.
And, though I miss my morning driveway dance parties with my son, it’s my quiet early morning ritual with my daughter I miss the most.
My daughter and I could not be more different: I am the extrovert to her introvert. Over the years, it’s been hard for me to meet her where she’s at when it comes to the ways she spends her downtime. My idea of relaxing is lively conversation with good friends over a glass of wine on a Friday night. My daughter arrives home from school on a Friday and is in pajamas with her nose in a book almost immediately. From the time she was small, she’s always needed time to adjust to an activity or family gathering before she can enjoy herself.
The same thing goes for easing into her school day. My daughter was up long before she had to leave. She quietly approached her day before the sun even rose. Every morning, we could be found in companionable silence while her brother and father were still asleep. Some mornings, I sipped coffee and listened as she watched an episode of The Office that we’ve both seen dozens of times. When she would catch my eye and smile, it would set the tone for my day with her.
I miss that time now that social distancing school hours have made us more lax about our wake up routines. Connecting with my teens has been less about those big milestone moments I’ve collected for Facebook and more about the series of small moments that build consistency and connection in our lives.
These small moments, now temporarily shelved, have bonded me to my teens in ways I have never expected.
When I hear someone quote The Office character Michael Scott, I smile and think of how my daughter would be amused, too.
When I hear “Can’t Stop This Feelin’” by Justin Timberlake in the grocery store, I have to resist the urge to break into the bathrobe dance moves that make my son giggle from the driver’s seat.
To start my day with my teens in their own way, on their own terms, is a gift I cherish. And, in these uncertain times, I’m hoping they’ll forgive me for when I force dance parties while doing the after dinner dishes and marathon binge sessions of our favorite shows. I’ll take what I can get for now. But you can bet I’m planning a big, Broadways-style comeback in my doorway on the first day my teens go back to school.