My life with a teen driver

I wonder if Arabella will ever get her license. She is 16 now, but I am hesitant to set up her driving test appointment because I don’t think she will pass.

My life is in danger. Just yesterday, she blew through a stop sign. She almost ran a red light. I had to yell at her to stop. Generally a relatively patient person, I screamed an obscenity as I watched my life pass before me as she changed lanes into another car’s path on a roundabout. The other driver pulled over as if my daughter was driving an emergency vehicle with sirens blaring. I simply screamed as I saw myself going towards the other driver as if in a nightmarish bumper car ride.

But that wasn’t all! Yesterday she cut off a driver on the highway almost causing an accident. The elderly man drove past her wagging his finger at her violently. He must’ve been a nice man. Most drivers lay down on the horn screaming what I can only imagine are obscenities while shaking their middle finger at her.

Maybe if she goes one week without someone flipping her off, then I will schedule her appointment. Even if she passes her test, I will worry about her driving. It doesn’t help that a close friend’s daughter died in a car accident last year when she was 16. Having a new driver is one of the most horrifying steps of independence for a parent.

To make matters worse, Arabella has zero sense of direction. I have to give her directions to places that she has been to a million times.

She also knows everything about driving and doesn’t want to listen to my 30 years of experience. Even though I never got any tickets or was ever in an accident. I didn’t even hit a deer which is unheard of around here. I did run into a septic tank cap up north a couple weeks back that I didn’t see which caused some front end damage to my car. But we won’t talk about that today.

I wish I could help Arabella be a better driver. It’s really no wonder I feel anxious. Maybe things will get better…

My son’s graduation

It happened on a rare perfect day in Wisconsin. The temperature 75 degrees with a light breeze under partly sunny skies. No rain, no muggy humidity.

I’m not sure why we felt so stressed out that morning as my husband and I snapped at each other. Maybe the perfect conditions was a sure sign to be cautious that something might go wrong.

Last minute Alex couldn’t find dress pants that fit and had to borrow a pair of Paul’s. I was worried that he would be late for school one last time.

We sat with family on the bleachers in the gym. I tried to keep an open mind, yet inwardly I judged.

Did the people in front of us manage to have some of the few empty seats because they purposely didn’t shower? I ended up sitting behind them because no one else could stand the smell.

Then there was the mother with the ripped jeans and crop top like she was attending her daughter’s graduation from pole dancing school. I was appalled. I am not big on fashion, but made sure to buy myself a new dress. There are some things that one must simply look respectable for.

There was the child that sat behind us with an incessant whine.

Well at least they were there showing their support which is more than my dad did. He decided not to attend.

I’m not going to lie to you. I was filled with anxiety.

I was worried all week that I would get that knock on my door with a certified letter stating that my son did not meet the requirements to graduate. I imagined myself full of shame as I explained why my son’s name wasn’t called at the graduation ceremony when people came bearing gifts at his graduation party. But I emptied that anxiety just to fill it with more.

I had irrational fear that my son would end up punching someone instead of shaking their hand as he received his diploma. I still thought that maybe he wouldn’t graduate as he received his diploma. There was a part of me that was very unsettled. I felt fear that there could be a school shooting during the graduation. Sadly, I no longer feel safe in large crowds of people.

I saw my son’s friends come in that attended another school. Included in the group was the boy we took into our home that stole from us. I felt uncomfortable.

My brother Luke asked my daughter’s boyfriend Dan if he was having flashbacks of his own graduation there. He said, “Yeah, more like PTSD”.

The graduation ceremony was boring. It was hard to see, the nearby projector didn’t work and the microphone kept cutting out if the speaker didn’t have their mouth right on the microphone.

The guest speaker was a doctor of neurophysics. She showed pictures of herself and spoke of all of her amazing accomplishments in a monotone voice. I thought to myself that I needed to get out of all graduation ceremonies I can in the future.

After the ceremony was done, I felt very happy and giddy. I was ready to go out and pop champagne in the school parking lot. Would that be against the law? Never mind, I didn’t have any champagne. I hugged boy B’s mom. We did it! We convinced our boys that hated school to graduate. I can’t quite explain the feeling. I felt like I almost got hit by a bus, but at the last second got away. That feeling of just escaping disaster. My son was also the happiest I’ve seen him in a long time.

Afterwards, we had family over at our house. It was so nice that we were able to play games outside and sit on the patio with a fire.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. We are happy that our son graduated. I can’t tell you how relieved I am.

 

 

In bloom

Good news! My son is graduating this weekend!

I really wasn’t sure he was going to pull it off. Although my son has a brilliant mind, he has been an underachiever.

Paul and I attended the high school awards ceremony this past week. I noticed that 90% of the awards went to 15% of the students. My son received one award for an extracurricular music trip that he participated in.

It was easy to go to the award ceremony when Angel graduated from high school because she was an overachiever. It was different this time around. I noticed the parents that were there and more notably, the parents who did not attend.

Sometimes we just want life to be fair. We want ‘good’ parents to raise ‘good’ kids. For most things, our results are a response to the amount of effort put into something. There is no guarantee with parenting.

We may light the path we want our child to take, they may take a different trail.

I noticed a good example of that a couple months ago.

Parents A have a son that won a lot of awards at the ceremony. He is a star athlete getting letters in a dozen sports. He is good looking, a high honor student, popular, and very involved in his high school experience.

Parents B have a son that is an underachiever, not very athletic, not all that attractive, and is a smoker.

Boy A and boy B are cousins. Boy A ratted boy B out for smoking. Boy A’s parents told boy B that he was a loser and would never amount to anything. Then boy A’s parents confronted boy B’s parents and told them that they were horrible parents. Boy A’s parents told them that if they were good parents then they would have a bright shining star like boy A. Ouch!

Mom B cried as she told me this story. I was appalled and angry. The parents of boy B are great parents. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Is it wrong to want boy A’s parents to come crashing off of their high horse?

Should you ever confront parents if they are doing everything they can and their kid strays off the path?

It reminds me of how my mother was treated having a violent autistic child. People pointed fingers and blamed her for the way my brother was acting. What a refrigerator mom! It was painful to hear their comments. My mom needed support and help, not to be ostracized and condemned for something beyond her control.

It was great when my overachieving daughter received award after award. Guess what? It made me feel like I was a great parent. But it really was the fruition of her own efforts and good choices.

When do children stop being dependent and start making their own decisions? The line was so fine I didn’t even notice the transition.

I had dreams for my son too. He is a talented musician but earned no band awards because he is no longer in band. All of his previous work and past achievements were not applauded. He still was voted the best musician in the senior class by his classmates. In the fall, we even toured a college for music. He decided to go to tech school instead.

Sometimes our kids will date people we don’t like. They might choose a different career than what we chose for them. They may even decide not to follow our political or religious beliefs. But it is their choice.

Needless to say, boy A’s parents were happy parents at the award ceremony. Boy B received no awards. His parents were not in attendance.

I thought I had everything figured out with the whole parenting thing when my first two babies were happy and slept through the night right away. I was ready to write that parenting book. Well, not really, but you know what I mean. Then baby three came along and was colicky. She cried day and night and rarely slept through the night for over a year.

I realized then that I didn’t have all of the answers. There isn’t an instruction book. If there was I probably wouldn’t follow it anyway. Sometimes things just don’t go the way we want them to. It is heartbreaking as a parent.

Some kids bloom at different times. Honestly, I would hate my children to experience the best years of their lives in high school. There are so many better years beyond that to experience.

Boy B hasn’t bloomed yet. Sometimes he comes to my house along with a slew of other underachieving boys. Several of them are at my house right now. Some come from good homes, others I know are going to struggle. But they are great kids. They are respectful to me, funny, and kind. They just haven’t bloomed yet.

My son is graduating this weekend. I can’t wait to watch how his life unfolds as he starts to bloom, mature, and grow.

Pound away

My daughter wants to lose 100 lbs.

She blames me for her weight gain, and for part of it I blame myself. She was pretty settled into her life when everything changed. I told myself that she would be able to adapt since she is the one that likes change. Plus it was a positive change. Change for the better should be easier, right? To think I thought that the pets would have a harder time adjusting than the humans.

She always lived in the same small house up to that point. She went to the same school where she knew everyone since 4k. She had a group of friends that she fit in with. Plus we weren’t moving far away so she could still see them if she wanted to.

When we moved, everything changed. Arabella started her sophomore year at a new high school. I told myself that it is a nicer school and it is. Some of the kids from her old school decided to go to that school out of district. It’s a bigger, better, and richer school with more resources.

When I drop Arabella off at school, I would say that half of the cars in the student parking lot are nicer than mine. Of course, that probably doesn’t make it easier to fit in.

She doesn’t have as many friends as I hoped she would. She only had two friends over for an hour or two and only went to one friend’s house since school started. She hasn’t been invited to any sleepovers or birthday parties. Meanwhile, her old friends are having sleepovers that she wasn’t invited to.

Arabella eats when she is lonely and bored. She gained about 40 lbs since we moved less than a year ago.

She is right around my height and needs to lose 100 lbs to be right around my weight. I never knew what to do about it. I never had those kind of struggles. We don’t have a lot in common. Sometimes we don’t get along. It seems like we either get along great or don’t get along at all.

It’s really not fair, I have so much in common with my older two children. They never struggle with their weight. In fact, I think my oldest two children are too thin. I haven’t had to deal with this issue before.

It is frustrating because I just want to tell my daughter to stop binge eating junk food. But I know it won’t be that simple. It would be like her telling me not to worry when I am having a panic attack.

I just can’t relate. I’m the type that doesn’t eat much when stressed out. The last thing I want to do is give her a complex by saying the wrong thing. She is loved no matter what, I just want her to know that even if nothing changes.

Last night Arabella and I met with a coach for a weight loss program. What a racket that is! Since she is a minor, we have to get the doctor’s approval first. She wants to start with the most restrictive diet for her weight loss plan. It would involve cutting out dairy and fruits. I am all for it if she has the stamina for such a rigorous routine.

I really hope this works for her. But I think it will be a lifelong struggle. Right now she wants to go to school for culinary arts after high school. I just want her to be at a healthy weight. Right now she is not healthy. She is starting to have back pain. The heavier she gets, the harder it is for her to be active. As a runner and someone who places a high value on health, it is hard for me to watch her struggle.

I am happy that she has decided to take a step in the right direction and will do anything I can to help her achieve this goal. I have no doubt this is going to cost a lot. But it could cost even more not to do anything at this point.

 

 

On coming home

This morning my husband asked me what I wanted to do today. The first thought that came to mind was that I wanted to take the kids to the zoo. What a ridiculous thought. As if my kids were were little enough to laugh at the monkeys shenanigans or needed their hands held as they crossed the street. When did we last go to the zoo?

I can’t remember the last time we decorated Easter eggs. Maybe there is insulation from the pain of not knowing that you’re doing something for the last time. Remember the last book you ever read to them? Remember the last time you helped tie their shoe? Remember the last time they crawled before they walked? Remember the last time you had to reach up in the tall cupboard because they were too small? Now they are all taller than me.

I am now that annoying older parent that tells the young parents to enjoy it while it lasts as their kid is throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store.

My kids will not be here for Easter this year. Angel is sick with the flu and won’t be able to make the long drive home from college. Alex said he would join us for Easter service at our new church which he hasn’t attended yet. A few day ago, he asked if it was Easter this Sunday, then nonchalantly said he was scheduled to work. Arabella is scheduled to work on Easter too. My brothers won’t be making the trip back home either.

It hurts. I feel so down about it. It’s hard because I was excited by the expectation that they would all be home for the holiday. Paul suggested that I have more lights on in the house to make me feel better. In his mind, darkness causes dark moods and he wants to fix that in me. But it only causes me to feel annoyed with him.

I told him that maybe I would feel better if the kids were going to be around for Easter. Maybe I would feel better if they still needed me. Maybe I would be happy if they wanted to spent time with me if they didn’t need something, like money or new shoes. I remember when I meant the world to them.

I feel bad, but I am enjoying spending my time doing the things I want to do like running or writing my book. Maybe someday the kids will all be home again.

Another weekend, another party!

Another weekend, another party!

I wonder why my son always hangs out with his friends?

Friday night, game night. Shuffling the cards we have been dealt.

Saturday, a murder mystery party. Strangers in even stranger clothes.

Will the weekend adventures never end?

My son came home late last night. Who is in the house tonight? Strangers that he’s never met. Dressed up in some garish garb. Food prepared, glasses clink. Questioning who the killer is.

We talk and laugh the night away. I wonder if he thinks it’s strange?

Then an unusual thought occurred to me. I had more friends over this weekend than my parents did my whole childhood. Maybe that is what he would find strange. He doesn’t know the me from back then. The person I spent half my life being is just another stranger.

I wonder why my son always hangs out with his friends?

Another weekend, another party!

Until next weekend…

Some April Fool’s Day joke

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Yes, it’s snowing again! I told my husband this morning that it was supposed to snow today. He said nice try, I do realize it is April Fool’s Day. But I wasn’t joking.

I decided not to play any pranks this year. Maybe I am getting old. I was just not feeling it. Plus I couldn’t think of anything great that I didn’t already previously do.

Sometimes life can be a big enough joke and today was one of those days.

In February, I had a meeting scheduled with the dean of students to talk about Alex’s graduation. I was feeling very positive after the meeting although I was feeling very negative going into it. We came up with a plan that involved a lot of choices on Alex’s part. I thought it was a great plan and I was feeling more positive than I was in a very long time.

Alex applied at the local tech college for this fall. He got a job working in retail. Some days he has to be at work on the weekends at the crack of dawn or work late on a Saturday night. Things have been going great. I’ve even noticed a greater effort on his part to get up earlier and be to school on time. Until this morning, that is.

I was worried that I would be getting a call from the school and I did. But it wasn’t the type of call I was expecting. I received a call from the school saying Alex didn’t even show up today. I was really confused since things seemed to have turned around so wonderfully. I even asked the secretary if it was some kind of April Fool’s Day joke. I also received an email from the school counselor saying that my son would also be dropped from a class if his absence was unexcused.

I was stressing. Now I am not so sure my son will be graduating next month.

I tried to get a hold of my son to no avail. I was feeling very worried and upset. I told my husband what was going on and he could tell from my expression that it wasn’t a joke. We blamed each other, argued a bit, and then came up with a fairly solid game plan.

My son texted me back a while later. He was in a dead zone when I called. He said that he got an excuse from a teacher to work on a group project. He would straighten everything out with the school later. Why didn’t he just tell us that ahead of time??

The April Fool’s Day joke was on me. The strange thing is that nobody really was playing the joke.

Lost, but found

A miracle happened today.

The year of 2018 was probably the biggest year of change in my life. I’m going to spend the next couple of days talking about change, future goals, what have you with the introduction of the new year.

But as of today, a miracle happened.

One change that happened in 2018 was that my son’s best friend, the boy with the face tattoo, got kicked out of his house. In June we bought a bigger house and pretty much right after that, the boy moved in. We talked about having him live here full-time as a foster child. Paul and I were talking with him about getting his face tattoo removed, helping him finish high school and get a job, and working with him on getting his license. We were making him meals and doing his laundry.

There were signs that were unsettling, but we ignored them. After my ruby ring was stolen, we were convinced it wasn’t him. I bought a lock box for my valuables and within a week the boy was living with us again. We told Alex we trusted the boy. Alex’s relief over this was visible. He was Alex’s best friend since the early grade school years. We just didn’t believe he would steal from us since we have been doing everything we can to help him through a hard time.

This morning I found my lost ruby ring. It was a miracle since I never expected to see it again! But I found it in the pants pocket of the boy with the face tattoo when I was doing his laundry. I felt a great elation and sadness. My ring has been returned to me, but my son’s best friend stole the ring. He will never be allowed in our house again. I haven’t told my son yet and this is really going to be hard on him.

Why did we ignore the early warning signs?

This past year we also left our church which we have been members of for 10 years. There were signs over the last several months that it was no longer the right place for us. It took something big to finally get us to leave. Now we found a new church that is a better fit for us.

I think that most people know when something is over. I think we knew, but we didn’t do anything. We tolerated instead of taking action. Why does it take something big to move us from something we know?

For me personally, there has been so much change in the last year that I have been trying to avoid change. I have been clinging to everything that I have known and watching as it slips away. But sometimes change is for the better. I have to trust that God has a better plan for my life. I have to learn how to let go. I need to know when it is time to let go (before something valuable is stolen). There is also a price for not accepting change. I didn’t really realize that until now.

To be honest, I feel a tremendous amount of relief. I have the tendency to be overly responsible and want to fix things. Having the boy here was a big burden for me. I wanted to save him. I wanted to take the bird with the broken wing into my nest. I wanted to do something even his own mother was unwilling to do. Now it is over.

I got my ring back and that truly is a miracle!

 

 

Season’s greetings from your favorite demon slayer

Wow, Christmas is less than a week away already!

Tomorrow I am hosting a Christmas party at my house for the entire family…while I am working out of the house…and cooking a meal for over a dozen people…Nothing says overachiever (or insanity) better than that.

I really didn’t want to have a Christmas party on a day we had to work and the kids have school. I wanted to have the party on Sunday, the day after the extended family Christmas party. But my sister-in-law Carla couldn’t miss the kids Christmas program at her church. I guess that wouldn’t be such a big deal to me if she actually had kids. But I can’t complain too much, she is the only person that was ever able to get my brother Mark to go to church. So Friday it is.

Carla wanted to have the party in January. After we scheduled the party for Friday, Carla wanted to switch it again. I finally told her to let me know if she would be unable to make it which is a polite way to say that I am NOT going to change the date again unless it is back to Sunday.

My brother Luke and his family will be staying over for the weekend. Luke didn’t want to make the far drive out a couple weekends in a row, so we ended up scheduling the Christmas party for Friday night before the extended family party on Saturday…after I am done working…instead of Sunday (which I preferred) because of Carla’s schedule.

Talking about work, I only have 4 days left until I am unemployed. I was angry and despairing about it at first, but now I think I should throw myself a big party on the last day and get on with my life. Maybe I’ll have a bonfire and burn all my work clothes!

Angel is home from college. Soon all of the kids will be done with school for Christmas break.

We bought Alex a boxing club membership for Christmas. He has been bugging me about joining for over a year. Boxing seems kind of dangerous, doesn’t it moms?? I was the kind of mom that had to close my eyes at middle school football games. I enjoyed watching Alex wrestle, but there were a few times…Somewhere in my mind he is 8, not 18. I still feel the need to protect and mother hen him. Although I know he would end up protecting me if push came to shove.

Alex says that boxing helps him express his anger in a healthy way. Maybe I need to start boxing since anger is no stranger to me. Can you imagine me showing up at the boxing gym? Oh my gosh! He has been working out every night. He is like me, all or nothing. The hard part is to convince him to give it his all when he wants to do nothing. He is a stubborn one, also like me. But he is doing better! He just might be ready to move on with his life come spring.

I just want everyone to know how thankful I am that you put up with me! Consider this my Christmas card…I haven’t actually sent one out in years. Lucky you! I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. And if anything exciting happens, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!

 

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?