November 29, 2016

You won't always like each other: Week 14

Just like that - the honeymoon is over. Well, not really, but it's time for a reality check. I spent months waiting to have the whole family under the roof and it was fantastic for at least 25 minutes. Then things got real.

Now, this is not to say I didn't love having my children nearby and didn't cherish every second. Rather, I'd like to say that going off to college doesn't make all those little personality nuances disappear or even fade. In fact, they seemed to come back stronger than ever. I'm still inclined to smother, one daughter is inclined to retreat to silence, the other inclined to know everything, and my long suffering spouse is inclined to immerse himself in busy-work to avoid the unending barrage of estrogen that suffocates him.

Suddenly, a swath of destruction and mess wove its way through the entire house. There were shoes where there had been none, jackets and sweaters strewn on chairs, empty glasses that never even got filled, a bathroom counter filled with toiletries. The invasion had begun.

The food got eaten, the dishes got dirty, and the house was in an unending state of disarray. And all that was good. The house bustled with energy.

Other aspects of the weekend? Not so much. For example, for several years now, I have not lived down the purchase of a brand of toilet paper on sale that wound up being scratchier than sandpaper, because I insisted we use it up. That was the break my daughter looked forward to going back to the dorm, because the toilet paper there was better. Apparently, my acumen for a bargain completely ruined what we had coined "the home field advantage". When I made sure I didn't purchase that toilet paper this time, jokes were made about who was the favorite child and that sort.
Scratchy or not, it got used.

Sometimes I just want to sue Norman Rockwell for false impersonation of the American Family Life. Because nothing in my mind matched the reality. We settled down for a friendly game of cards and a joke was cracked and within an instant one family member called another family member an a**hole. Yeah. Nothing Norman Rockwell about that. Although, in retrospect, at least it was a comfortable a**hole, due to the upgrade in the toilet paper that wiped it.

The weekend came and went without any notable event, food was eaten and enjoyed, laundry was washed and folded, friends and family came and went. Before we knew it, it was time to load the car back up for a trip that began at 7 AM and circled back until nearly 8 PM. Our chicks were back in their nests.

Now the mess is cleaned up and the house echoes somewhat forlornly with tidiness. No random dishes, no scattered shoes, no a**holes to be found.

For at least another two weeks.

Rewind - a weekend at home: Week 13

Here we are. Just before the Thanksgiving celebration, and I'm literally counting down the hours. I cannot wait for both my kids to come home, to be under my roof, to celebrate the holiday.

I think I was fair, I understand they want to see their friends, and honestly, social media makes it so easy to stay in touch, I am not desperate for face to face interaction.

Yet, knowing that at the end of those days they are here? They will be safely tucked under our roof? That I can peek at them sleeping, that I can delude myself into believing that the world will never hurt them. That I can protect them.

I'm all in.

It's a throwback. It's one I'm fairly certain we all are excited about. I know that when I was in college, going home always meant someone else took care of me. Interestingly, I've discovered that sometimes going home means you take care of someone, at least as you get older, but that's a different life phase, one not part of this series.

It's Thanksgiving. They are home, and I am thankful. (so are they).

(and I got so busy that I never published this post -- but I wrote it before the weekend).

November 21, 2016

Wow, I went all week without being sad! Week 12

This week's post is a bit of a reflection, because I got way behind and lost my goal of wringing out every ounce of emotion as I processed my empty nest.

While managing the empty nest is not always going to be linear, I realize that I finally am moving forward. I desperately scheduled dozens of things to artificially stay busy back in Week Four, and those things came to fruition lately. But they didn't feel contrived, they felt normal. They felt like an answer to "this is how I spend my time." 

In keeping with my goal of losing weight (who doesn't have that goal on a regular basis, just curious?), I have been avidly walking my dog. There is a bit of a second tier motivation as well. Our family dog is now almost 12. Last winter was rough for him & he was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy. Selfishly, I cannot bear to lose my canine friend at the same time I'm getting used to an empty nest. In order to keep him nimble and strong, I'm walking him like crazy.

Additionally, I took up a job as a mystery shopper. It's all self assigned, and it gives me a regular reason to get out of the house. I look at cars, dine at casual restaurants (and get to treat friends to lunch!), and visit retail establishments. It fills in the time when I'm not writing for a client or waiting to hear back from a freelance inquiry. Oh, I also get to write reports and share my opinion. Win/win.

Lastly, I was recruited to coach speech for a local high school (not one my children attended). I am able to spend time with teenagers a few hours a week and dispense all sorts of ideas and advice. My mom gene is fulfilled.

All these personal tasks I've taken on have filled my time perhaps to a fault. I have been busy! I like it. I'm not having meltdowns because I have nothing to do, and my time is spent purposefully. I'm helping my pet, general consumers, and other teenagers.

I'm happy. This is the point of this Week 12's belated post. Make life happen instead of waiting for it to happen to you. Enjoy what you can put on your plate instead of standing there waiting for a plate to fill itself.

My plate is full. And so is my heart.

Navigating those waters between adult and child: Week 11

This week, I learned how very difficult it is to redefine that new relationship between yourself and your child who is now an adult.

mom fixing thingsIt became patently clear one night when my child who lives pretty close to home (but still on campus) came home for a mental health break. The first day, I pretty much parented. I did laundry and made food. It was task oriented and fulfilling. Then the wheels came off. The following day was still stressful. Our child contacted us and said that she needed a day away from campus. She came home and tried to tell me about all the stress she is under as she tries to figure out what is the best move forward.

Now, recognizing that my (s)mothering hadn't magically fixed everything the day before, I went into hyper-adult mode, but still didn't leave the mother side behind. I figured that some brutal honesty, adult stories would be useful. They didn't particularly pertain to my daughter's dilemma and stress, but in my grasp to be helpful, I thought that some stories from my lifetime of experience would help her find some perspective. I couldn't have been more wrong. It was the last thing in the world she wanted to hear and she made sure I knew that. With silence.

I screwed up because sometimes there just isn't a magical mom answer. There isn't a way to fix things the way we kiss a boo boo or snuggle under a blanket. Life is hard and it won't get easier for our young birdies who are flying the nest.

And that's how it goes.  We are going to redefine our roles as each milestone happens. The fact is that my children are going to face things that I never faced, partially because they are different people, and partially because this is a different time. My advice and experience will only go so far, and what I've realized is that now, when they come to me for advice, I'm not nearly as qualified to give it as I was 10 years ago. Or even five.

Learning what our roles are as parents when are children are adults is no easier than trying to figure out how to transition from adult to parent. It's a life milestone that is only mastered with experience. I recently told a 13 year old girl I know to be kind to her parents, they've never had a teenage daughter before and everything is just as new to them as it is to her.

Now I need an adult to tell me the same thing. I never had an adult child before and I'm figuring it out as I go along. You will, too.


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