I’m in a weird place and it’s been brewing for a while. At least 6 months.
I’ve been fighting off a lingering apathy. I’ve been sinking into routine. I’ve found myself driving to work on a Tuesday not looking forward to it at all. Then I’ve been on my way home Friday and feeling the same lack of enthusiasm towards the weekend.
My routine each night is semi-deadening. This is where it is the worst. After dinner Shani and I go sit on our bed while the kids go through their routine of showers, reading, lights out. During that time we play Candy Crush or scroll through Facebook, waiting for 9:15 to finally arrive so Shani and I can go downstairs, watch a show, and have a glass of wine. Yet half the time it’s not really until 9:30 that Jack’s in bed. Shani often declares she’s too tired to go downstairs. Plus even when we do make it down, most of the shows we watch (Breaking Bad, Homeland) have so much adult language and content that we don’t want Jack to hear. So we end up awkwardly waiting in semi-silence until Jack finally falls asleep. The whole time I look at the clock, add an hour for the show, and let the idea of waking up early to go to the gym slip away. I’m heavier than I’ve been in 12 years.
Weekends are strange and filled with dead, misplaced time. I’ll have plans to build a rack with Alex for our camping gear. Shani and I will have discussed going to Jersey Java as a family to play Bananagrams. But then Alex will put off getting dressed to watch a show on the iPad. Jack calls his friends and when they can’t hang out he retreats to his room to pore over baseball stats and says he doesn’t feel like going to the coffee shop. Then we’ve got Alex’s basketball game. We have to go to a party that night so once again we’re up late and I guess I’m not going to the gym yet again. Sunday I’m teaching at church. Shani has an appointment that afternoon. More Candy Crush for me while I wait for Alex to finish lunch. Shani and I will cook dinner together Sunday and have a glass of wine while we do. The monthly goals I set for myself go untouched as the weekend comes to a close.
In truth all of us seem off except Alex. He remains unrelentingly sweet. He wants to snuggle and watch Justice League on the couch, and honestly sometimes I feel like just blowing through all 24 episodes of season 3 with him and letting the whole weekend go by with him nuzzled against my left side.
And the cause has dawned on me: we are in transition. That time has come and it is deeply sad to me. My oldest son doesn’t want me anymore. Or at least not as much; it is sliding away.
This is natural. It is healthy. It is good. We have worked to help him get here. He wants to do his own things. He wants to be with his friends. His favorite thing to do is no longer be in my presence. I am losing my status as the most wonderful thing in the world.
But I’ve spent 10 years attacking fatherhood. I’ve tried to soak in every bit of it. That has been my primary occupation. That’s been priority #1. I’m not Mike anymore, at least not first. My foremost identity and purpose is Jack and Alex’s dad. My priority is him. Yet Jack’s priority is to orchestrate a sleepover. My energy and love and effort is less and less needed. In fact it is often not welcomed.
And this is leaving me purposeless and without direction. I wander and grope through my day. It leaves me and Shani disconnected and distracted from each other. I can’t seem to get started on anything or conjure the energy to take on the projects I let sit.
The transition is on me like a raincloud, like a spell of dementia, like that cranky ache in my lower back. I’ve done my job and my son is becoming the driving force in his own life — and he is leaving me behind to sink softly into the couch.