Is it normal?

I imagined the way it would be in my mind. Thick heavy intricate snowflakes dropped with a plop on the cold empty ground. There were horses with jingling bells pulling a sleigh behind it. Hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane. It’s a picture of us trying to find that perfect tree. Even the boy with the face tattoo is there. He is the one taking the family picture of us finding that perfect tree. A ray of radiant light shines through the snow on the right one. We are all smiling and happy.

It wasn’t that way at all. It was raining and the kids had other plans. Paul ran out to the closest tree lot by himself and picked out the tree. But it was that way once. The problem is that I still expect it to be that way now. I spent some time that afternoon crying curled up in my bed playing lullabies that I once played for my babies. Is that normal?? I am off my rocker, literally and figuratively this time.

Is any of this normal?? Paul and I have been struggling lately with this very concept. This will be the last Christmas break that our whole family will be together. Angel is not planning on coming home after college this year. Alex will be graduating (hopefully) this spring and moving on. Arabella is still seriously interested in becoming a foreign exchange student.

I put a lot of time into this whole motherhood thing, and now my kids don’t need me anymore. Who am I now? I am excited to have time to myself to do the things I always wanted to do. But I never thought that the letting go process would be so painful.

Our son is really struggling right now. Although he is 18, we still have boundaries and rules because he is living in our house. We have been asking ourselves if his behavior is within the realm of normal. It was hard to let go of our firstborn, but she was heading off to college and we knew that she would be okay. We feel unsure about the future of our son.

There are really only two scenarios. Our son is completely normal. Then the problem is with us. We need to let him go even if he has to fall on his face a few times. He has to figure things out for himself. We need to let him go even if his future isn’t what we planned on it being.

The second scenario is a bit more troubling. What if he has mental health issues? Then I think it is our job as his parents to make sure that he gets the help he needs. But he is an adult. Is it our job to try to fix him?

Would you try to save someone from drowning if you knew that they knew how to swim??

I think that our son is normal. But what is normal? People have been asking us if he is depressed. I don’t think so. But I’m not sure. I want answers. I want to be guaranteed that he will be okay.

Letting go of a kid to go to college is normal. It is painful, but you are also happy that they somehow became fully functional adults with you as their parents.

But what happens if you think they are not ready yet?

This has been my struggle lately. I probably won’t get all the answers I’m searching for. Plus it doesn’t help that I have unrealistic expectations in my head of how I expect things to be…the way they once were, but no longer are.

Is any of this normal?

Learning (to let go) the hard way

I don’t know where to start. I don’t even know when it all started, the specific moment when things started falling apart. All I know is that now we are in crisis mode and I’m afraid that we can’t put it all back together in one piece.

Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t, but I took a week off of writing last week. It wasn’t intentional. The previous week my son brought home a paper to sign up for honors band several hours away out of state. I hastily made arrangements. I cancelled plans and found someone to work for me so I could take him. I thought that maybe this was all he needed to get back into wanting to go to college for music. But I was wrong.

You may remember back in September that we toured a college for music and then a week later Alex dropped out of band. After talking to the teacher, he decided not to drop out of band. Now he got kicked out of band, but I am getting ahead of myself in the story.

I thought this would be a good mother-son road trip, a time of bonding. Two days before leaving, Alex said he didn’t want to go because he would be missing a party a friend was hosting because a couple more friends turned 18. I was unsure whether or not we would actually go, but we went.

I dropped him off the next morning full of hope. I picked him up a couple of hours later full of dread. He didn’t like it so he just walked out. His teacher called me angry. I literally felt sick to my stomach because I was so stressed out. What was I going to do? I just wanted to go home. But Paul was so angry that he would’ve kicked Alex out. Plus I spent a lot of money to rent a cabin and it was a really long drive home.

Instead I decided to stay. I spent the weekend talking to Alex. He opened up to me and for awhile I felt like everything was going to be okay.

On Monday morning, I talked to Paul. I told him that we needed to have more fun and let go. Life is just not fun anymore. To be honest, I’ve been feeling so depressed that I didn’t want to do anything that helps me deal with my stress. I didn’t want to blog, I didn’t want to run. Putting one step in front of the other seemed like it would consume too much energy.

Later on Monday, we got a call from the school. Tuesday we met with the principal and dean of students. Alex is getting kicked out of band. He is also failing 2 other classes and may not graduate. He was suspended several days for being tardy, but at least he is still going to school.

We have just been beside ourselves for the last week trying to cope. We are going to be meeting with the school counselor and even set up an appointment with a regular counselor to help our son. The good news is that our son is talking to both of us. Paul and I have been taking turns talking to him. For awhile we think he will be okay and then we are filled with anger and despair.

Alex now has a dream to go into business. We are trying to keep that dream alive to motivate him. But it has been hard. Paul’s blood pressure has been sky high. I’m afraid to stress him out any more than he already is. I have been having stomachaches. Plus I have been struggling with depression. All the things that help me cope healthily I want to push away.

I feel very anxious and panic when I hear the phone ring. I have become paranoid that something bad is going to happen to him. I am not at peace in my life right now. I think people view us as crappy parents. But we are trying everything in our power to help our son succeed. We are trusting that God has a plan for him.

I am trying to take care of myself so I can help him. He is 18. Isn’t my job over? Is this why letting go of children into adulthood is so hard? Why do I feel like I am sending a two year old out to play in traffic? Is any of this normal?? He wants to leave, but he is just not ready. It’s so hard to let go when the future is uncertain. I will be able to do that a little easier once he graduates, if he graduates. Right now I want to fix and control.

I have to learn to let go even if things don’t go the way I want them to.

 

When the music is over..

My son dropped out of band the week after we toured a college for music.

It reminded me of the time my son dropped out of wrestling. It wasn’t just because he was being bullied. The year before he quit, he got third place at regionals in a large bracket. There was an opening to go to state and they called my son to fill that position. All the way up to state, Alex practiced as hard as he could. He practiced so hard that after falling asleep on the long car ride to state, he woke up with a pinched nerve. He couldn’t hold his head upright. He was in a lot of pain and couldn’t wrestle.

Some people gave him crap saying that he was too afraid and that he was faking an injury so he wouldn’t have to wrestle the best in the state. He forfeited his matches while we sat there watching everyone else wrestle. That night at the hotel, his team and their coaches and parents celebrated while we sat in the hotel room devastated. He worked so hard. It wasn’t fair.

We talked with Alex and we decided that we would do everything to help him get to state the next year if he wanted to. We took him to summer camps and intensive preseason wrestling twice a week an hour away. He got to be really good. Who would’ve thought that this could shake up the middle school pecking order and snowball into bullying? But he pushed on. Then at the end of the season, he got the flu. He got weak. But he kept trying. Then right before regionals, he got hurt again. He decided he had enough. It was hard to let go of the 8 years we put into this sport. I felt sorrow. My husband asked if I was expecting him to make a career of it. What if he got hurt again, but worse??

But this is different. This is more personal. I thought that maybe he would pursue a career in music. I thought he would pursue his passion. He got awards at state. He has the talent. He said he wanted that.

Even if he didn’t succeed, I think he would regret not going for it.

We had a long talk with the music professor at the college. He spoke of auditions for scholarships. My son even talked to us about the song he might want to audition with. We decided to contact his piano teacher to continue lessons and contacted the local university for private lessons on his instrument. We have given him all of the tools for success, but he just doesn’t seem to want to pick them up.

This year a majority of the upperclassmen and all of Alex’s friends quit band before the school year started. Alex said he wanted to quit band too. He told me this as he was making beats on his computer and strumming a guitar. Hate music now, huh? I didn’t take it seriously.

He just quit band, a month into the school year. He said he is never playing his instrument again. He was also going to be a part of the pit band for the high school musical, but dropped everything. No music lessons. He said he doesn’t even want to go to college. He burned all of his bridges with a blaze so intense it makes my eyes water.

I felt so angry at first. Now I feel an unrelenting sorrow. My hopes and dreams for him have been totally crushed. He is so smart and talented. To see him have the ability and throw it all away is killing me. Maybe there is still tech school. Who knows? Maybe he won’t even graduate from high school. I could see him getting his PhD in music, but I can also see him living on the streets. The windows of opportunity are closing and it is very painful.

What if he takes the wrong fork in the road?

I think the hardest thing about having adult children is the utter lack of control. I fear that someone will hurt my children. But even more terrifying is watching your child destroy himself and not being able to do anything about it.

The wedding of my best friend’s son

img_1092

There is a time in your life when you get invited to a lot of weddings. For a long period of time, that time was over for me.

Last year the last of my friends turned 40. Last year the first of my friends started turning 50.

It’s strange, I’m starting to get invited to weddings again. This time for my friend’s children. Ted turned 50 this last week and ended the week with his 25 year old son getting married.

Ted and Cindy are very excited that their son choose a wonderful partner to marry. I suppose as parents you couldn’t ask for more.

The wedding itself was held outdoors in a garden. It was a little stressful because it was supposed to rain. We could hear thunder in the distance all morning. I worried that perhaps I missed the call that the wedding would be moved elsewhere. We were in the boonies with limited cell phone reception. We brought umbrellas, but didn’t end up needing them.

Despite the forecast, the wedding went without a hitch unless you count the bride and groom. The ceremony itself was short and sweet. The longest part of the wedding was the procession with somewhere around 10 couples that stood up. The pastor was a newly ordained friend of the groom. There wasn’t a sermon. We didn’t sit long enough to shift around on the hay bales.

That evening at the reception hall, I felt a little old. I was tired. I felt rather mopey. Cindy was having a great time and dragged me out on the dance floor. I made a conscious effort to get out there and have fun. We were at a wedding, a grand celebration of love. I am a marathon runner for crying out loud. I can’t be sitting around watching the young folks dance.

I knew their son since he was little.

I really wasn’t expecting to feel nostalgic. I wasn’t expecting that I would need to hold back tears as the bride walked down the aisle with her dad. I wasn’t expecting to have watery eyes thinking about kids growing up and leaving. I wasn’t expecting to feel pensive and sad on a very happy day. Emotions can be funny that way…

I’m not ready for this.

This was the first wedding of a close friend’s child. I didn’t expect that it would be so emotional.

I love weddings…

 

perspective

This morning I paced the floor. I felt anxious and stressed. Only 8 1/2 months to go. But who’s counting?

He overslept. Things were going so well the whole two days since school started, until today that is. He left at the time he should’ve been at school which is problematic since we moved further away. He had over a half an hour drive before picking up two friends on the way.

My son will be the death of me. If I disappear from the bloggosphere someday, you’ll know why.

Being late stresses me out. But since I am not one to be late, I am stressed out vicariously through my kids.

It put me in a really negative and anxious mood. I know I shouldn’t let my kid’s tardiness affect my day. But it is hard to just let it go sometimes.

Then I opened up Facebook this morning and saw a memory from a race I ran several years back with Lisa and her teen daughter that recently passed away in a car accident. We all placed in the small town race and were showing off our medals. Lisa’s daughter won’t be going to school today. She won’t be graduating, going to college, having a family…any of that. Maybe if she overslept she would still be alive, instead of falling asleep behind the wheel.

It really puts things into perspective.

Will my son’s tardiness be something that I will think about next year? It is incredibly frustrating today. Sometimes I need the little reminders to be thankful for the days we have together. I only have a few months left with him under my roof.

I’m trying to let go and not let his mistakes ruin my day.

 

Luke’s visit, part 2

I suppose since you have a big house now that you will be hosting Christmas this year.

It wasn’t the first time I heard this comment…

I told Luke that I didn’t really like an aunt and uncle of ours.

Why?

Because of the time that they came over for supper when we were kids.

What about it?

They had the house with the piano. They wanted us to come live with them if mom and dad left us forever. That evening while we were eating, Matt hurt our aunt. It wasn’t unusual for Matt to hurt someone.  It was our aunt who was acting strange. She locked herself in the car crying hysterically. She could not be comforted. I’ve never seen her so upset before or since.

Suppose that our aunt was attacked and Matt triggered her memory of it.

Aunt left and didn’t come back. They said that they didn’t want us to come live with them in their house with the piano anymore.

Who told you that?

Mom. She cried and said that no one cared. She said things would be different if her mom was still living.

How old were you?

I don’t know, maybe 8 or 9.

You were too young, why would she tell you that you were unwanted?

Something strange happened in the course of our conversation. For the first time I was able to see the event through adult eyes.

I was able to let go of the rejection of 30+ years. My aunt has always been kind to me, but I didn’t trust her since that night. Other family members cared. They were busy living their own lives. Some were only a few years older than me. They saw what was happening but didn’t know what to do about it. Some lived far away. The ones that were near did help.

My mom just needed more help than anyone could reasonably provide.

So I became the helper. I became the adult.

I have forgiven my family.

Someday I will forgive my mother too for my lost childhood and for giving me this heavy weight to carry. I think it is time to start unpacking my baggage.

 

Moral dilemma 1

My daughter Angel has a new love interest who I am going to call Dan. Now Dan is also a friend of my son Alex. Alex and Dan ride motorcycles together. Maybe you can see where this one is going…

Angel thought that it would be fun to ride on the back of Dan’s motorcycle for her first motorcycle ride..

Here comes the dilemma…Alex, Dan, and Angel wanted to go for a ride but only had 2 helmets. So my son decided to sacrifice his helmet for his sister. Sacrifice is probably pushing it quite a bit since I think he wanted to have a good reason for us not to be angry that he was riding without a helmet.

I don’t think the ride went all that well. It rained a bit. Alex bought a piece of junk motorcycle with his tax return money from working all last summer. While they were riding, a piece of Alex’s motorcycle flew off and hit Dan in the leg. Dan has a huge welt on his leg but kept control of the bike. But Angel loved it and has been riding ever since.

Alex and Angel have been exchanging the helmet and apparently now the current status of the helmet is lost. Wonderful! Now what should I do?

And I thought worrying about one kid on a motorcycle was bad!

 

On emptying the nest

My son didn’t come home last night.

It’s not that I was angry. I felt worried. He was planning on going to a late night movie with a friend, but he arrived too late as is customary of him. So he ended up spending the night at his friend’s house after the whole movie idea didn’t work out.

I had no problem with his plans…except the part where he didn’t tell me which wasn’t like him.

I told him that I was going to bed when he left last night. But I woke up several times during the night and started to text and call when he wasn’t home by 1:45 AM. When are you coming home? Are you okay?

He didn’t answer my calls or texts. I fell asleep on the couch near the front door with my cat. At 4:30 AM I awoke to the wheezy sound of my cat starting to puke with the projected target being the back of my head. I woke in a flash hurtling my cat away from my head and towards a carpet free patch of flooring. At 4:35 AM, I was stumbling around cleaning up cat puke in the dark. My son still wasn’t home.

I hardly got any sleep at all. As the operations manager, I had a lunch meeting scheduled along with our sales guy with one of our biggest clients who is expanding to several new offices. This would be my first time meeting this client in person and I would have to make sure I was on my feet the whole time after a sleepless night.

I went to work, still no son. I texted his girlfriend for clues. Finally after 10 AM, I heard from my son. PTL, he was alive! He said that since he got to the movie too late that he just decided to sleep over at his friend’s house instead. He didn’t want to bother me because I said I was going to bed when he left. He didn’t want to wake me up. Ha! He didn’t receive all of my calls and texts because he was already asleep.

Someday maybe he will learn that a parent can never fully sleep while waiting for a child to come home.

Soon he will be a child no more. Three more days until he is an adult.

My friend asked me if I had the talk with him yet…the talk about him being an adult with an underage girlfriend. I had a dream the other night, a dream that his girlfriend was pregnant. I awoke from the nightmare at 6:16, the date of his birth 6/16.

Ah, if only I could be so lucky to have one worry at a time!

 

Why God? Why??

I didn’t recognize her at first. I think that was one of the hardest parts. I just saw her a couple of weeks ago.

She talked about how busy she was then…with a son graduating from college and moving back home. Her other son was finishing his first year of college and moving back home. She needed to get a storage shed. But we should really get together for lunch sometime.

She left a message asking for a call back.

I forgot my phone at home that day, which never happens. I got home with enough time to grab my phone and leave for the band concert. My car was left running in the driveway when I got her message. Never mind calling her back, she was probably on her way to the concert as well.

Her voice sounded strange. I asked my daughter if something was wrong. Jen’s daughter and mine have been good friends since they were babies. Is there something you aren’t telling me? Is there something I should know? 

Jen has been my daughter’s coach for the last 5 years. It was hardest for me to tell her that I was moving, leaving. I was sad that my daughter wouldn’t be on her team next year. But I didn’t know then that things would never be the same for other reasons…

After the concert, an elderly woman approached me. Perhaps she was confused. She acted like she knew me. I didn’t know her. When she opened her mouth, she whispered…I’ve been sick.. I recognized that voice. Jen? I have cancer…incurable…inoperable.. What??

At one time, I considered Jen to be my best friend. Our daughters were best friends. Jen is truly a good person. She is a better person than me. She is a good wife and mother. She would give you the shirt off her back if she needed it herself.

When the kids were little, she volunteered a lot at the school. She was a board member for the parent teacher association. She chaired several book fairs, I co-chaired. She helped me start a babysitting co-op. She was always an active church member. She did more than her part to try to make this world a better place.

We didn’t see each other as much once the children got older. We weren’t needed as much anymore at school. She got a job. I also worked. Her mother got cancer and she was needed there. It seemed like we saw each other less and less with each passing year. But every once in awhile we met up for lunch or went out.

It took everything I had to not break down in front of all of those people. I cried all the way home. I didn’t sleep well last night.

It hurt to see her husband have to help her out of her chair. She seemed so feeble and weak. I don’t understand. She didn’t smoke. She rarely drank. She exercised, made a point to make her family healthy meals, wasn’t overweight, and in general lived a healthy lifestyle. How could this happen?? It’s not fair!

She quit her job. She was too sick to go to her son’s college graduation. Nothing would’ve stopped her from going to that.

Why God?? Why? She is in her 40’s. She still has a child at home. She was fine a couple weeks ago. Now she looks like she is in her 80’s. The color in her face is wrong. I’ve seen this before. She looks like my mother-in-law did right at the end of her struggle with cancer. Skeletal, feeble, and old. I didn’t even recognize her! The last time I saw her a couple weeks back she was vibrant and full of life! How could this happen in such a short period of time?? How could God let this happen??

I remembered all of the good times together…the play dates with the kids, trips to the zoo, camp fires, days spent at the beach, boating, visiting their cabin, winter days spent searching records together for our genealogy hobby…Now all of this is gone. Her future gone. The dreams she had for retirement gone. The rest of her life with the love of her life…gone! Being a grandma some day…gone. Poof, just like that. Healthy one day, dying the next.. I can’t believe it!

I don’t think she has much time left. I can’t believe this is happening. There is nothing I can do. I am in complete and total shock right now.

Last week I talked about feeling old…needing reading glasses, friends children graduating from college and getting married. But nothing prepared me for the reality of losing a close friend…Death.

 

 

In the cold dark light of the full moon

img_0040

It only takes a little light to reflect the cold barren emptiness of a winter tree on the snow.

It has been cold in Wisconsin. The wind chills haven’t been above zero since who knows when..probably a couple of weeks. We haven’t noticed that much. We have been busy with the holidays.

We know the drill. It happens every year. It doesn’t snow when it is bitterly cold. The cars make strange noises when attempting to start. You don’t want to get a car wash or your car doors will freeze shut. Everything creaks, crackles, and moans under the heavy weight of the bitter cold. People die.

People die! I knew it would happen on New Year’s Eve especially. The reports of the deaths. I live in the drunkest state next to one of the drunkest cities in the United States. I predicted that if the Packers were having a better year, the death toll would be higher. The bitter cold usually starts this time of year, but this year it hit us a little early. It started over Christmas…the home Packer game…Christmas weekend and New Year’s Eve…the drunkest time of the year near the drunkest city in the drunkest state. The roads are hazardous not just for the cold, ice, and snow ya know.

Drinking is our culture. It just is. I am a big proponent of designated drivers, but sometimes you can’t trust that will even work. People get carried away. Blame it on the cold harsh climate.

I worried the weekend of New Year’s Eve. My daughter Angel drove to Madison to go to a party with friends. My son was who knows where. Every day I would be in touch asking where he was and what he was doing. Every day my son stopped home and my heart rejoiced that he was alive. It’s not always them I worry about…it is the others on the road. How do I keep them safe? It is surprising that I am letting go at all.

I worry about the drunks on the road. I worry about car trouble in the bitter cold remote areas with no cell reception. Or what if I am sleeping and don’t hear the phone? I worry about car accidents on slippery heavily wooded winding roads.

My deepest fear is that my children will die if I am not in control. If I don’t pay attention, they will be gone. If I don’t notice a problem, they will slip through my fingers forever. It is really rather horrifying since I am not in control. I never was in control even when they were babies. I couldn’t control if they got sick. I couldn’t even control if they decided to sleep through the night. As they got older, the feeling of being out of control grew and festered in my soul.

I try to let go and let God, but then grab the reigns back again chaffing my hands not able to get a grip. This worry, this anxiety, has been a constant thorn in my side. I feel if I let go of my little iota of control, then my children will die and I am responsible. It is completely illogical and irrational as most fears are.

Do all mothers of teenagers feel this way? Or do I just take it to the extreme since I am anxious to begin with? Or maybe having 3 teenagers is enough to set the sanest person over the edge?