Blogging From the Pit

I had so many ideas for blog posts. I planned a lighthearted account of the sans-children escapade my husband and I took to Niagara Falls. I thought I could elicit a few chuckles talking about our current household of three adults with different work schedules and how we juggle things. Or a look at the issues with young adults that I hadn’t anticipated (does having my name listed on my offspring’s checking account affect my credit score? Especially if they regularly run the balance down to $.050?) I could muse on how kids who are launching into the world are on different developmental timelines, just as babies and toddlers are.

Or I could log on, open a new post and sit here looking at a blank screen, lost in the bewilderment over the upending of the world. When it looks as if every rule for life is changing, how can I form communicate coherent thoughts about what it means to be helping my kids make their way? I’m not even sure what the world is going to be or how it will look. Much different from what I expected a few weeks ago. I know that much. I’m not sure I can form coherent thoughts about it.

I don’t know what advice to give my children, either. Does it make sense to get a college degree? Who knows?  I’ve always urged frugality and saving, but maybe saving money isn’t smart any more. I remember the part in Margaret Atwoods The Handmaid’s Tale where they shut down the bank accounts. Possibly it’s smarter to spend all the money now and get concrete stuff for it, or else move to coffee cans buried in the back yard. Or eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow seems so uncertain. The eat and drink part seems easy; the merriness, not so much.

After years of being subsumed by the needs of others, I thought I’d take my first opportunity for a breather and turn my focus inward for a year or so. Try to work on some health issues, get myself well and rested, and not jump into volunteering or activism for anything. That now seems like the idea of stopping to take your vitamins and make your green smoothie while the house is on fire.

I know, big picture, life has always been uncertain, the rules have always been changing and people have always been clawing their way out of the pit over and over. You think you have medieval existence figured out and then everyone around you starts dropping from plague. You see life progressing with the new wonders of the twentieth century. It looks like life might finally be getting easier, when bam! – a world war and Spanish flu. Humanity has often teetered on the brink.

I guess now we do what people did in those situations. The next thing. And then the next. I suppose I urge my kids to look around and see what they can do to make life better in some way for someone. I suppose I do the same myself.

img_2321

Here are some trees, doing their thing, unaware of what humanity is up to. Just doing their thing because they’re here today to do it.

 

 

Major League Adulting

My 18-year-old son has done some major league adulting the past couple of weeks, tackling challenges that can leave even the most seasoned grown-up looking around in panic for a more adulty adult.

First, he cast his first ever vote by absentee ballot. I always vote, and have always kept my life boring enough that I was sure to be in town on election day, able to go to the polling place. Absentee voting was new to me, but between the two of us we figure out how to get him a ballot. I only helped him with the easy first step.

After he received the ballot, he earned his stars on the chart for grown-up responsibility by researching every candidate and issue before marking his selections. I didn’t realize he would have to get it notarized before returning it. But he figured out how to do this all on his own. This is the kind of thing that can shut down people much older than he is. It makes my heart sing to know that voting is important enough to my offspring that he made the effort to go find a notary by himself. I wonder how many people stop at that point in the process.

His second major bit of adulting involved an injury. He wrecked his bicycle and hurt his wrist. He messaged me a few minutes after the incident, and I urged him to go to the Student Health Center immediately. Once again, I helped him as I could through the first steps, even describing to him what I saw on Google street view to help him find the building. Once he was in the doors, though, he was on his own for the first time handling a medical emergency. I prepared myself to jump in my car and drive 95 miles right away if they wanted to send him on to the hospital. However, they sent him away with an ace bandage and the opinion that it was unlikely he had a fracture.Stymied in my frantic desire to save the day in a motherly way, I hopped on-line and ordered a box of instant cold packs delivered to his dorm overnight.

Version 2

He sent me a photo.

A few days later, my kid had a follow-up with the health center and they decided he should go get X-rays. They put an actual brace on in the meantime. This was last Friday. He messaged me saying he needed to get it done over the weekend. Again, I pulled on my SuperMom cape only to be told to pack it away. I made plans A, B, C and D for getting together with him and going for the scans at a place covered under our insurance. Then I talked to him on the phone and he was all like “I can do it at the hospital near campus. They have a deal with the school. It’s a flat $35 fee.” Oh.

Did he at least want me to drive down and go over there with him, for moral and logistical support? He didn’t see any reason for it. Oh. He did it. Got himself to the hospital, handled the paperwork and got X-rays done, all on his own. In case you’re curious about what the scan showed, I am, too. He goes back to Student Health tomorrow to find out the results.

I wish I were able to help him more, but can’t say I’m displeased at his level of competence. Whatever happens with grades and school, he’s obviously developing the skills to cope with adult life. But I’m still ready to jump in the car if he needs me.

I Love Halloween

Here’s a Mad Lib about me:

I love celebrating _________ (holiday).

In this case, Halloween. This year, I’m saying “Boo” over my work schedule, which keeps me occupied until nine o’clock Halloween night.

When my kids were younger, we took them trick-or-treating every year, whatever the weather. Umbrellas exist for a reason, after all. Then we’d have a party at our house with their friends and the friends’ parents.

Before we even had children, the spouse and I carved jack-o-lanterns. In the years since my kids have outgrown trick-or-treating, I still have loads of fun passing out candy and seeing the trick-or-treaters in their costumes. I guess my husband gets all the fun this year. But I did get my pumpkin carved:

img_2332

 

Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

Life on the Boomerang Roller Coaster

My empty nest didn’t last long. As suddenly as the oldest fledgling flew, they returned, with circumstantial drama and a broken heart (which, of course, hurts a mom’s heart, too.) Things didn’t work out with the new roommates nor with the significant other, and a few weeks later we now have our 21-year-old back with us.

roller-coaster

Aerial view of my life.

In what seems to be typical timing, everything blew up at the very moment Hubs and I were packing to leave on vacation, our first trip without kids in…oh, twenty-one years. We were scheduled to leave our house at 7:30 on a Tuesday morning. Around 8:00 the night before came the text messages followed by a tear-filled hour-long conversation in which it became clear that said kid needed to get out of their situation and return home immediately.Greyhound Bus Lines now emails me every day, believing we’re bff’s because I bought one ticket from them. Continue reading

You Can Leave, but the Mom Jokes Will Follow

I have a new hobby: tormenting my oldest child with joke messages about everything we’re changing now that said kid has suddenly flown the coop.

In my last post I mentioned that I wasted no time, sending a text ten minutes after they left the house, saying “We rented your room.” Start as you mean to go on, is my motto. I waited a few hours to message them with “I sold the rest of your stuff on ebay.”

Hubs and I now find ourselves in charge of the pets that got left behind — a cat, a rat and a hedgehog. After a couple of days, my typing fingers got busy again. I told the offspring, “Since you left us with all of these pets, Dad and I have joined a support group for custodial grandparents.”

The next message I sent included a picture, with a caption:

redesigned-basement

We did some work on the basement. The living room is next.

 

Following that, I sent one saying, “Even with all the ‘grandkids’, we were lonely, so we got a dog.”

new-dog

“He’s really gentle with people he knows. His name is Sweetums.”

Then this: “Check out my new wheels! I traded in the minivan.”

new-wheels

I think I’ll get around to the living room redesign this weekend. I have something like this in mind:

newlivingroom

I have a thousand ideas. I could keep this up for a loooong time. I love how the age of the Internet makes it easy to keep in touch.

 

 

Emotional Whiplash

I’ve been afraid of changin’
Cause I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older, too
(From the Stevie Nicks song, “Landslide”)

Two weeks ago, we had a plan, or so I thought. My 21-year-old (who prefers the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them”) would continue to live with us for at least several weeks, while continuing college. Their significant other would move into the house as well, temporarily, from the small town where they can’t find work. The S.O. would seek employment here and the two of them would eventually get an apartment in our city, maybe in two to three months.

Eight days ago, I was helping my college junior collect bugs for an entomology lab. The next day — one week ago tonight — the offspring announced that friends in Colorado had a room open and said both of them could move in there. In fact, it would happen over the coming weekend. Both of them would look for jobs once they got to the new place. Friday, my kid withdrew from college and started packing. Sunday night the abductors new roommates arrived and slept at our house, while I spent a sleepless night stalking them on-line. Early Monday morning, they packed what they could fit into a Mazda hatchback and drove off to collect my child’s S.O. before continuing to Colorado.

IMG_2049

Sigh.

This is what young adults will do to their parents. Their life plans change so suddenly and drastically, they leave us with emotional whiplash. I said, “I brought you a stink bug from the garden and this is the thanks I get?”

I had a vision in my mind of getting to know their partner better, helping the young couple furnish their first apartment together, being close enough to have them over for dinner once a week. Calling up occasionally and saying, “Hey, let’s go to a movie, my treat.” Something gradual. Something that would give me time to prepare mentally and emotionally. A bachelor’s degree was in the vision somewhere, too.

I cried real tears. A lot of them, to be honest. My husband even had a little weeping the morning they left. But I suppose the joy of being twenty-one years old lies in being old enough to make your own decisions, but young enough not to be bogged down with worries of everything that could go wrong. The world is out there waiting for you to discover it. $700 in the bank, no car and no job lined up? Eh, it’ll work out.

I spent so many years immersed in the lives and needs of my two children and my mother. Adding in the job I do for a paycheck, I had little time for anything else. Now I suddenly find myself with only my husband and a houseful of pets. In a short period of time, my mom passed away and both kids moved out. At least the 18-year-old will be home for holidays, school breaks and some weekends. He’s doing it the correct way, in other words.

Since I often cope with anxiety and sadness through the use of humor, I gave my firstborn about ten minutes after pulling out of our driveway (roommate driving) then sent a text saying “We rented your room.” A few hours later, I followed up with “I sold the rest of your stuff on Ebay.” I suppose it’s not exactly like sending your kid off on a ship to America from the Irish shore in the 19th century, expecting never to see them again and not even to know for several months whether they arrived safely.

When this child was six, they promised to live with me forever. Liar. Or maybe they simply meant in my heart and mind. I admit, the former feels as if it has a big hole in the middle right now and the latter is still spinning.

 

 

 

 

We All Need Help Sometimes

If you’ve been on social media at all the past couple of weeks, I’m sure you’ve seen this photo by now:

30720-c196a38ecdd51c31213e1f320d1f9b69

The sign posted in a private boys’ school in Arkansas. I don’t remember the name. Bootstrap High or something.

Let me tell a story on myself. One day last week, I was checking out at the store with more than $100 worth of groceries when I realized I didn’t have my wallet. Everything had been rung up and bagged already. Thinking back through my day I had a pretty good idea where my wallet might be. I called my 21-year-old, who was home at the time, and asked them to find it and bring it to me. My offspring came through immediately and without complaint, saving my bacon. I suppose they could have said, “Well, Mom, this is really your problem to solve…”

The best part of the story is that the store employees didn’t try to shame me in any way. (I had that one covered all on my own, thanks, apologizing to them approximately five times.) The clerk even offered to put my food in a cooler while I waited if I thought it might take a while.

Have I ever taken anything to my kids at school after they forgot it? You bet. Have there been times they forgot something and I didn’t take it to them? Of course. A couple of times, one of them went off without a piece of homework or a book and I was at work, so I couldn’t bring it. Similarly, I wouldn’t have called my kid out of a college class to bail me out of my situation.

We all need help sometimes. We’re all human and fallible. Can’t we cut each other a little slack? I’m a person who has a hard time asking for assistance from anyone, ever, for anything. It’s a great failing of mine that I work hard to overcome. I didn’t want to raise my kids to be that way. Yes, sometimes I felt hassled and frustrated, but last week I received a payment in kind.

I understand some parents feel their kids get into a bad habit of taking advantage and they need to say no to requests like this. That’s cool, too. Because the parent involved knows their child and family situation the best.

What’s not so cool is the public shaming of parents and their kids so a school principal can feel smug. Maybe this shows me to be a terrible person, but my immediate reaction on reading the sign was a fervent hope that the principal would lock his/her keys in the car by accident and that all the parents, students and school staff in the vicinity would refuse to assist in any way.

How about we let parents and kids figure out for themselves how they want to handle these situations? How about we not hold children to higher standards than we hold ourselves? How about we offer each other more encouragement and support than scorn and ridicule?