When my sons were little, they shared a room. I had painted it a green color that was called “Dill Pickle”. It was a cute color that matched the perky juvenile feeling of a room for a couple little monkey brothers. The boys moved in together when my youngest was 6 months and the older one turned 3. In that room they went from cribs to toddler beds and finally to a bunk bed. I spent many evenings listening to their cute shenanigans when they were supposed to be falling asleep. I awoke many mornings to their (not so) low chatter, playing together in their room while their dad and I slept in (to a whopping 7 am ha, ha, ha) on the weekends. When my eldest turned 12, they parted ways. Each in their own room, we succumbed to the necessity of teenhood and the natural pull of privacy. Instead, now I hear them yelling across the hallway as they play video games simultaneously together, but in their separate quarters. Now, their Dad and I wonder if they are still breathing as they slumber past 11 am on the weekends.
About a year ago we had our bedrooms painted and at the time I tried to get my youngest to move from Dill Pickle to a light gray, anticipating that he’d want something more mature as he turned 13. Still at the tender age of 12 and reluctant to make a change, he refused and we repainted it the familiar Dill Pickle. Lo and behold, just weeks after his 13th birthday he asked to change the color of his walls. I had called it, but too early...he was ready in his own timeline, not mine.
Happy to indulge him but not wanting to have a painter in my house during COVID, I decided to take on the job myself. We found the color he wanted and I set to work. Plugged into my favorite tunes, I painted over the Dill Pickle. And while I rolled over the green with the new gray I was awash with the memories that those walls carried of an earlier time in my parenting. And as I painted, I was not just saying goodbye to the warm, playful color, but that phase of my parenthood; the school-aged years of playdates, Legos and the pleasure of reading to my kids. With each stroke, I was ushering in the next, and final phase of parenting my sons at home. It was beautiful to relive the joy of those early years when they needed me for everything, and a little scary to think about navigating the teen years, a time marked by their increased separation from me. I was flooded in moments sour and sweet, of conflict and resolution, of cuddles and pep talks, centered around topics we all thought were so monumental at the time.
I didn’t think that painting the room was going to be so much more than just changing the color. It gave me pause to recognize that I have grown as a parent, and I had developed strengths while ushering them to this new threshold. And how I’ll use that grit, resilience and parenting muscle to get me through the teen years. Who knew that painting a room would be a parenting rite of passage, but it was. The insight was as unexpected as it was deep and meaningful. This experience helped me feel ready to be the parent of teenagers.
Jenny Michaelson is a PCI,
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