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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Planned Obsolescence
January 9, 2011 - 5:26pm

When my son was around ten, we discovered that we could access Jay Leno’s headlines on the computer. Since we both have a taste for low humor that my husband doesn’t share (for example, at one time we could reconstruct the “Asshole” routine from “Spaceballs” verbatim), and because I work late on Wednesday evenings and miss dinner, we developed a private Wednesday night ritual: I come home and fix a light meal for myself, and then we pull up the headlines and laugh hysterically as I eat. Initially we read the transcript of this section aloud to each other; then, a few years ago, we found we could access the archived show itself.

Over the years, we’ve embellished the ritual: now we watch the headline segment, then visit Failblog, Probably Bad News, and a few other favorite silly sites. By the time we’re done, I’m exhausted, and until recently, I’d have to watch more than I really wanted, because he’d meet my attempts to disengage with, “Just one more?”

We tuned in this past Wednesday night, as usual. I have noticed that Ben hasn’t been laughing as uproariously as he used to at the headlines. On Wednesday he seemed distracted. I asked him if something was wrong, and he said, no, he was just tired. I said, “Are you sure you’re enjoying this? Because we could do it another time.” He responded that of course he was, it was great. He started laughing after that, and I realized, He’s humoring me.

Our Internet connection was a bit slow, and it took some time to load the Failblog videos. After several minutes, Ben said, “Maybe it would be better to save this for another night.” I agreed, and went off to bed, and he immediately switched back to the ballgame he’d been watching when I arrived home.

He’s outgrowing this, I realized. He has other, more immediate things to focus on. I wondered how long it would be before he abandoned our ritual entirely; whether he already considers it a burden but just doesn’t know how to tell me.

Last night, I went to hear him play with his band in a club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. At home, he’s still a goofy kid, but in this environment, he was a complete adult: relaxed, focused, and completely task-oriented. He played brilliantly, and I was so proud of him. This is becoming his real life, I realized. He’s outgrowing his childhood attachments, outgrowing me, moving on.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. But this is so hard.


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