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Bring On The Empty Nest

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One of the biggest challenges ever, for me, besides being completely inept when it comes to choosing marriage partners, is the act of parenting. Getting pregnant and being pregnant and even delivering the babies was the easy part, but parenting especially through divorce, financial hardship and the rest of life, has not been the easiest thing I’ve ever attempted.

For starters, I am not one of those nurturing people. A kid falls down and skins their knee slightly and I’m likely to brush the incident off with a brief, “Get up, dust yourself off, you’ll be okay.” I am also not the hover mother or helicopter mom. It isn’t that I’m not involved with my kids, but I do believe that one should never do for a child what the child can do for him or herself. This, I find, annoys children to no end.

I remember my mother telling me when my children were young, that things got better as the children got older. I remember, when my kids were toddlers, hoping that was true. I remember being so exhausted all.the.time. And, for the most part, when the kids became potty trained and could dress themselves and headed off to school, it was.

Then they kept growing up. Then they reached middle school and high school. Those are the years where their social lives explode and they aren’t yet old enough to drive. This was something I was unprepared for. It was like the busy-ness and energy drain of the toddler years on steroids and then doubled since, at any given time, I had at least two and often three or four kids’ schedules to juggle. On two occasions, I was so exhausted and stressed that I ended up in minor fender benders, not from intoxication, but from fatigue.

That wasn’t that long ago. These days, I have a 21-year-old that is away at college and won’t be home for summer. I have an 18-year-old that just got her permit. She is working on learning to drive now. By summer, she should be more independent. I have an almost-17-year-old son who doesn’t have his permit. If insurance rates for him are what I think they are going to be, it might be quite a bit longer before he’s driving. He does have a bike and he can get around to pretty much anywhere that way.

But my kids, as grown up as they are, as independent as they are becoming, still have not learned to pick up after themselves or to help out (without being told) around the house. This, combined with the constant schedule disruptions and taxi service I must provide daily, is wearing me out. This last week, with everyone home for Spring Break, leaving their stuff about and having to be told twenty times to do a basic task like empty the trash or unload the dishwasher or pick your clothes up off the floor, I lost it. The final straw was when I told my son he forgot to rinse out his bowl and put it in the dishwasher and he responded with, “You didn’t tell me I needed to do that.” No, I didn’t. I do tell him to do this a thousand times a day and the one time I don’t? Yes, it induced a fit of craziness in me. It’s at this point, that all rationality leaves me and I end up in a catatonic stupor or I end up banging my head against the nearest wall.

Tonight, this same young man, at 9:45 pm, after the day is pretty much over…a day which included a trip to the grocery store…texted me the following:

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I’m actually fairly impressed with myself that I texted him that response instead of switching into Shrieking Mom mode. Fortunately, I had an extra toothbrush on hand. Obviously, this has happened before. The craziest part of all is that he has his own drawer in the bathroom he shares with his sisters. How hard can it be to get a toothbrush back into the drawer, or underwear into the laundry basket which is a mere eight inches away or trash into a trash can as opposed to decorating the bedroom carpet with it?

Yes, tonight I’ve picked on one child, but I have four and they are all equally as talented as their brother. These talents weren’t ones I encouraged. I expect children,at minimum, to pick up after themselves and I’ve diligently worked to establish and teach routines, procedures, and to implement systems that are efficient and help keep our home clean with a minimum of effort. In spite of the fact that I do have a career outside the home which is, at times, very demanding and draining, I’m not one of those overwhelmed moms whose homes you go to where stuff is scattered everywhere, dishes are piled high in the sink, and clothing or dirty dishes cover every remaining surface. In spite of my best efforts to get my kids to communicate in advance what their schedule is, to organize themselves, and to pick up after themselves, the kids aren’t getting it. I have, apparently, completely failed in my parental obligations on this front.

Weeks like this kind of have me looking forward to that stage of life called the empty nest. Sadly, I have an entire decade left before that happens. Just as the youngest one launches, the oldest will return home unemployed with graduate degree in hand (at least that’s what everyone tells me is going to happen). With any luck, I’ll be able to enjoy a few empty nest years before I am relegated to the assisted living facility. I can only hope.

Stress

3:27 a.m.  Wide awake, even after taking a vicoden that was prescribed for me a while back when I had pneumonia and a kidney infection.

Stress is not a good way to endure a day.  It isn’t a good way to end a day.  And my entire day was stress-filled.

Actually, my entire month has been stressful.

It was going so well, too.

But then, the creditors are calling…this will end soon.

And the mortgage companies are trying to call.

And the mortgage people are driving by and sending representatives to the door.

And the boyfriend lied to the guy and told him I was not living here (The truth?  I looked like sh** and was still in my pajamas. There’s no way I was going to answer the door.  What part of “Tell him I’m not available right now” did he miss?)

And…while I know all this will end…the question is when and how long?

I know I’ll have to move…the question is when…and how long…and will I be able to rent anywhere…because I sure as heck am not buying.  I won’t have the credit to do that again for a while.  That’s okay. I haven’t needed my FICO score at all for the last 4 years.  Everything I do these days is on a cash only basis.  I’m stressing about the where to move, the when to move and the “will I even be accepted” parts of that picture.

A few months ago, I made the decision to radically change my life.  Well, it is radical for me.  I have a great job, but I’m taking yet another pay cut.  I have great insurance, but soon, I’m going to be paying more out-of-pocket for that insurance.  I’m already kind of getting overwhelmed with the existing out-of-pocket expenses created from the insurance changes last year, and now this year is going to add more to that part of my adult plate.  When the real estate market collapsed, my house, which I purchased on my own (read not with the aid of a spouse’s income), decreased in value just like nearly everyone else’s.  Problem is, I could work for the next three lifetimes and never earn back what I owe on it.  Result:  I can never sell the thing in this lifetime for what I owe on it.

It’s a no-brainer, right?

But the financial transitions are not the stressful part.  Okay, they are part of the stressful part.

The boyfriend telling the mortgage company that I no longer live here was kind of stressful.

The ex serving me papers ordering me back to court so he can have more parenting time with our child (not a good thing, in this case, and I’m usually an advocate of dad’s rights) was VERY stressful, because this means, I’ll have to cough up another $3K-$10K to deal with that issue.  Wonderful timing.

Impending responsibility changes at work are stressful because I just don’t know how or if I will be successful or if I will be provided adequate support in order to even attempt success…or is this a carefully designed “set up to fail” plot?

And then, there’s all the stuff on the home front.

Moving, even if it is in the foreseeable-but-not-certain-when future, is a great time to ditch crap that has accumulated.  I’m still digging out from the crap accumulated by my last ex.  He seriously could have been the star of that TV show “Hoarders”.  The junk he left behind has taken me four years, countless numbers of trailer loads to the landfill, thousands of overflowing garbage canisters, and endless trips to Goodwill to dispose of it all. I’m still digging out from under it.  Mostly, though, I’m down to the place where I’m getting rid of the excess, the broken stuff, the no-longer-used stuff.

Anyone want to buy a juicer?  How about a table saw or a lawn mower?

But try to get my kids to go through their cluttered rooms and actually part with anything? That’s got stress stamped all over it.

First, it’s the fight and the whining about having to do something even remotely akin to “work” when it is “their” summer vacation.

When did my kids become so resistant to cooperating?

Then it’s the mere organization of the task.  Get a garbage bag and put all the trash and broken stuff in the bag.  Get a box and put all the stuff you no longer use or want in there.  The whole process required that I stand guard over them all day.  The minute I went to try to work on anything else, they were suddenly done with the job.  Wait, just a minute.  It took them almost 8 years to create that mess and they are done sorting through it in ten minutes?  No.  I don’t think so.

Arguing with my children, especially my son, who is having the most difficult time with the impending transitions lately, is the worst.

Then one daughter, while at work, sprains her ankle, ends up on crutches and I happen to be the world’s least nurturing parent for things like that.  Add negative image of self as parent to the whole stress pile.

Then the boyfriend begins criticizing my kids again (his are perfect, you know, since they only ever have to be told once and they don’t make messes).  So, then, I begin thinking…that along with all the other stress that we are having to manage with no definite end in sight…that this critical demeanor…can’t go on much longer either.  In fact, it needs to stop really, really soon.

Of course, not sleeping at night is not healthy nor is it good for my weight loss program…so, of course, I worry about that now since I’m up and thinking about it anyway.

And when is that Vicoden going to kick in?  I took it three hours ago.  With my luck…it will kick in at about 3:00 tomorrow afternoon (I guess it is today now)…when I have to take the youngest to her dentist appointment. Great.  I’ll be falling asleep in the waiting room.  Like that’s not going to screw things up at all.

Stress.  Not a great way to endure a day.  An even worse way to spend the night.

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