The shape of Friday nights has shifted many times for me. Starting when I was about eight and my brother was one, my parents instituted a standing Friday night dinner date. Each Friday night about 7:00 pm, Janet, and later Pam, arrived at our house, my parents went to dinner at the Black Horse Pub, my brother went to bed, and I stayed up late, ate junk food, and watched Dallas and Falcon Crest — Dallas I viewed from the comfort of the family room couch with Janet/Pam, and Falcon Crest I listened to, old radio show style, from the bottom of the staircase so I could race upstairs and into bed as soon as I heard my parents walk in.
Then I was old enough to be the babysitter. I’ve blanked those Friday nights out a bit. I’m sure I was my general responsible self, and I think Tim and I ate a lot of Kraft mac&cheese. After my freshman year in high school, because my parents were giving and understanding and tried to be fair, they rehired a sitter for just Tim so I could go to Friday night football games and hang out with my friends and “have a life.”
Then came college. Enough said.
Fast forward through the first few years of true adulthood and marriage. Three babies in four years was what really changed the landscape again. At first Friday nights looked and felt the same as every other, just one long continuous day into night into day into night. Then as the kids got a little bigger, Friday started to feel like Friday again, but different. It became pizza and movie night. Not less great because it’s cliched. First the movie part was just for us after the kids went to bed. Netflix. Remember when Netflix movies came in a red envelope in the mail, and you watched the movie and then returned it through the mail so you could get the next movie on your list? When the kids were old enough to realize they were missing something, movie night became family movie night. And that was even more great. I miss that. I really do.
Here’s what my Friday night looks like now:
Claire, fifteen, and Katie, thirteen, arrive home from school. After swarming the kitchen, playing with Finch the puppy, and bickering a good bit, they consult each other about possible outfits for their respective evening activities. They disappear upstairs.
Jim gets home. He has a hockey league game tonight and apparently needs a power nap first. About three minutes after sitting down on the loveseat, he’s out for the count.
Owen, seventeen, arrives home from school after staying to work on an engineering project. Grabs a snack and heads upstairs for a nap. Like father like son.
Everyone in my family is home, yet I feel like I’m here by myself. I grab a fork, open the refrigerator and extract two leftover turkey meatballs. I need sustenance because who knows when I will eat dinner?
I play with the puppy. I weed the garden. I try to get the puppy to stop playing with the weeds I’m pulling from the garden. The puppy falls asleep. I go back inside and snag another meatball.
It’s 5:00. All is still quiet above as Jim awakes, rounds up his hockey gear, and goes to his game. I wash some dishes. I dry some dishes.
It’s 5:45. Claire comes down ready to be driven to the local Hibachi restaurant for a friend’s birthday dinner. On the way she comments that the restaurant’s website has spelled “Japanese” wrong. I hope they’ve allocated better attention to food preparation.
I’m back home at 6:15. Owen is leaving for his girlfriend’s house. I nag about being careful on wet roads and being home by curfew and end with “have a good night, I love you.” He looks at me and smiles, sort of.
Okay, just one more meatball. They’re not even homemade, and they’re cold. Not sure what the attraction is, but don’t judge.
Katie’s friend Campbell is dropped off to get ready for the 8th grade dance. At 6:45, they swan downstairs in their Luau-ready dresses, giggly and pretty. We snap a few pictures by the front door since it’s started raining again.
I drop the girls off at the middle school just before 7:00 and head home. Now I really am alone (well, except for Finch). I have two hours to write this post, play with the puppy until he sleeps, eat some dinner (not meatballs), and maybe read a little more of the novel I’m in the middle of. Then I’ll head back out to pick Katie and Campbell up from the dance, deposit them at our house, drive across town to pick up Claire from at her birthday friend’s house, and then wait up to make sure Owen gets home safely. Yes, staying up until 11:00 (when he has to be off the road according to his junior license) is past my bedtime and constitutes waiting up. This is Friday night now.
Waiting defines much of life with older kids, Friday nights and most other days and nights, too. The little chunks and snippets of time in between dropping off and picking up and waiting up are quickly adding up to the weeks and months and years I have left with my kids still at home but not usually here. And along with the physical waiting is the waiting for them to figure things out — about themselves and about the world around them, all the wonderful and difficult things. Because they can’t be told. When they’re thirteen and fifteen and seventeen, even good kids won’t be told.