Lately I've been repeating a quote to my older daughter so many times it has become a mantra of sorts: "When you're going through hell, keep going." Little did I realize that the mantra may have been as much for me as it was for her. I'm not sure it's helping either one of us, truthfully. But on the other hand, what other choice does one have, really, other than to just keep going on, one foot in front of the other,getting through each day.
I guess the problem is two-fold - part of it is when expectations come up against reality, and the two don't match. The other part is that I guess I never really expected such a large part of my stress at this point in my life to still come from my children, who are now all nearer to adulthood themselves than childhood still. Sure, when they were 1,3,5 and 7, there was lots of stress. And even when they were 11, 13, 15 and 17, they were the requisite handful that one would expect out of raising 4 children that close in age. I expected that, and was not disappointed in the least! :)
But I guess, as they began to get old enough to head off to college in the past few years, and did do just that, fairly easily enough, it seemed, I began to prepare myself for a year with just my last one left at home. We've talked about it a lot in the past few years, what it would be like when it was just her left. And as the activity level around my house has decreased greatly, (along with the food bills, the piles of laundry, the mess and noise in general), I began to look forward a bit to that "empty nest" syndrome. I loved it when my house was full of noise and kids for all those years, and it has taken me a very long adjustment time every time one of them has left. But eventually, I DID adjust, and kind of got used to it. And it is sometimes nice to just MISS your kids instead of having to deal with the constant bickering between them, and such.
So as the third one went off to college this fall, my eldest, who graduated in May, ended up coming home, due to lack of a solid career or further education plan on his part. I won't bother going into the details, but suffice it to say, though I love him to death, I am NOT happy to have him home again under these circumstances. He has a degree, he SHOULD have planned better, should have studied harder, SHOULD have done a lot of things he didn't, and because he didn't, he is now living back at home, working 30 hours a week at a minimum wage job, trying to figure out the next course of action for his life. OK, so the job market sucks for everyone these days. I get that. And it makes it a LITTLE easier not to be completely pissed at him, and to be fair, he does try to do a little more around here now than he did when he was growing up. But, it's not what I expected. At his age, I had graduated, had my first real job with my first real income, was living on my own, bought my first car and had a car payment, bills, and was in grad school. I am worried mostly that he will STILL be living here, STILL not gainfully employed at 30. That worries me.
And the girl, now in her third year at college, a college that becomes more and more difficult to pay for in this economy, (no little part of my insomnia many nights) the girl who has had the same room-mate for both of her first two years, best friends and "roomies for lyfe" as they always put it, now that they have moved into a triple, instead of the double they shared, is the one who is "going through hell." Suddenly, out of nowhere, not only is she not getting along with her roommate, but her roommate has teamed up with the other girl in the triple, AND the three in the room next to them, to pretty much launch an all-out attack on my daughter's personality. It's hard to feel good about yourself when there are 5 people confronting you about how much they suddenly hate you, and everything about you. It's been absolutely miserable. And, in the end, today, my daughter is moving across campus into a new room with a complete stranger. It sucks. The whole thing sucks. And although I know her personality has its quirks and I know she can be annoying as hell at times, she also has a heart as big as all outdoors, and does NOT deserve this. I just want her to get settled in, and for her life to settle back down. Unfortunately, it's a small campus, and I don't know that moving is going to make life all good again. So, although it's her drama, it has taken a huge toll on me, worrying about her, listening to the crap her room-mates have been putting her through the past couple of weeks, and really not being able to do anything at all for her, except listen to her cry over the phone, 300 miles away. It sucks.
Meanwhile, the boy in Ohio, 7 hours away, has decided that there is simply no way he can live 7 hours away from home. He has burned through all his money that was supposed to last him for at least an entire semester by coming home nearly every weekend, because he can't stand to be out there, that far away from his life here he loved, with nothing to do. He doesn't like the school, doesn't like being away, doesn't want a job out there because he just wants to be home. So, while dealing with the issues of the older two kids, there has also been this, ongoing with him. It came to a head this weekend, while I was away at an EMS conference. I was on the receiving end of dozens of texts and phonecalls this weekend, begging me to let him come home. On his own, he applied to a tech school near here last week, to transfer to in January, closed out his bank account today, withdrew from college out there, packed up his entire apartment full of stuff, and is currently on his way home.
And then there is child number four, my senior in high school. The one who was looking forward to being the only one at home for a year, who now has to share that time with both her brothers. She has been looking for a college to apply to for next year, and although we visited one in Asheville, NC this summer that seemed like it was going to be "the" college for her, it was not. So last weekend we took a 12+hour trip to Maine and Massachusetts to look at two more "perfect" places. Now, she "doesn't know." Seems like that should be HER worry, HER concern, but again, as a parent, her worries and concerns ARE mine. Not only that, but since she has doubled up her last two years of high school and bundled her junior and senior years into one, and is actually graduating a year early, will, in fact, be 16 when she enters college. That is a HUGE concern to me regarding her choice of a college. I can't seem to divorce myself from worrying about any and all of my kids and their issues. I know, that's normal, and I would be worried about my ability to be a good parent if I WEREN"T concerned about them. But lately, it just seems like every single one of them has such BIG issues, and all four of them together, that I feel like if I don't keep moving, don't keep "going," though this current little hell, if I stop to think about any one of them too long, I'll drown. But I'm getting tired of constantly swimming alone against this current, too.
And it's not like I'm without my own every day issues with work, finances, and life in general. I think I could manage to deal with those better if I didn't just feel so overwhelmed by so much else, by all my kids' problems. I think about taking some time out, taking a weekend off, and do, in fact, have a quiet cabin weekend coming up in two weeks, but instead of looking forward to it, hoping it will help me to step back and breathe again, I know it will only be full of trying to get caught up on the school stress of not having papers corrected and lesson plans done, while at the same time worrying about THREE of my kids being at home together with no adult supervision to keep them on task and not bickering and fighting with each other all weekend. They are nearly adults, so I shouldn't HAVE to worry about that. But they are NOT adults yet, just bigger, taller, heavier versions of themselves at younger ages. And as I struggle to find my place again in this unexpected, unplanned, world of THREE of my kids living at home again when I had only planned for there to be 1 left at this point, I know they, too, are struggling with the changes they hadn't counted on, either.
Thankfully, I guess I should be glad that home is still their sanctuary, still a place they WANT to be, still the place that is their respite from stress... but I pray they are not all still here when I retire in 6 more years, or there will be hell to pay then. And I will NOT keep going - I will stop and demand that they GET OUT. No, not really. But lordy, I do hope things start taking on a brighter hue, a better tone, soon. I don't swim well to begin with, in fact, don't even like to be wet. And right now, I'm barely keeping my head above the puddle.