Follow by Email

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Our house, in the middle of our street

     I don't gripe about housework the way my mom used to. I've really developed my own style. I think she would be proud of me. All kidding aside, my house looks like a federal disaster area. I'm not going to MomShame and upload pictures because I don't want my kids to get teased at school. For a while I would try to clean up if I knew someone was coming over but I've since given up. People come over, my kids have play dates, they make comments about the chaos, whatever. I can't put everything on hold indefinitely.
    In reality, it looks like my kids have been home for two weeks and one of them had a baby in the middle of those two weeks. 'Cause that's what really happened. But if you dig a little deeper, (go ahead. Just be careful. I can't guarantee your safety at this time.) you'll see that it is the home of a somewhat overwhelmed person who's been trying to hold it together and be what other people need her to be. This hasn't been working out for me. I'm not really "present" for anyone and I'm about to do some re-evaluating and prioritizing. But more on that another day.
   My 15 year old daughter had a baby on the 22nd of December. It's been a rough 9 months. She's always dealt with anxiety and holds herself to very high standards. Teen pregnancy did little to improve upon either of those. Deciding to keep the baby was an angst ridden choice- for all of us. At one point she was hospitalized for almost 2 weeks due to the anxiety. She was already behind in school and after being out for 2 weeks, she just couldn't get caught up. So she dropped out the last quarter. She was now cut off from her friends at school as well as her roller derby team mates. Again, not helpful with the anxiety. Being the polite, perfectionistic kid she is, she would wait until I had wrangled her younger siblings into bed and to sleep before letting me know she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. So, I would stay up until 3 a.m. with her, talking, crying, watching Dr. Who (which I could never follow because she was so far into it, so don't ask me about it. I don't know). Then I would get up around 7 and try to get the younger two kids to school on time. We were usually late so I got "a bit" of flak from their teachers about tardiness, attendance, blah, blah. In all fairness, once they knew what was going on at home, they didn't say anything else.  If I didn't have a PTA function going on at the elementary school, I would go home and try to get some sleep. I knew I needed to do a lot around the house but I really felt like my family needed me to be rested and not grouchy.
     My two youngest kids have ADHD, heavy on the H. I know somone, somewhere is going to 1) suggest a therapy they read about or 2) try to tell me ADHD isn't real. Save it. I don't care. I know what I live. Every. Stinking. Day. My son was medicated but the meds were making him very whiny and emotional. My youngest daughter was not medicated because I couldn't find anyone to treat her until she was 7. She gets bored and antagonizes her brother until he blows up at her and then she tells on him. Both of them are champion mess makers. Neither one of them is good at getting rid of things or picking up after themselves. Trying to get them to pick up or help out is a struggle. I offer incentives. I impose consequences. I make checklists to help them remember to clean up after themselves and help around the house. I have helped them set up their bedrooms into "zones" to facilitate cleaning. I have made my son a very detailed Room Cleaning Checklist so he can clean his room without me. I still end up doing it myself because I catch myself losing it when they whine, argue, cry and generally spend more time trying to get out of work than the job would have taken in the first place. It's not always like this. In fact, lately they've become much better over all about helping. But not always.
     I can hear the advice. My thought is this- we only have so much breath allotted to us in our lifetimes. You can use that breath telling me I'm doing it wrong and this is how I SHOULD be doing it, or you can be telling your loved ones how much you love them. The choice is yours but, remember, my husband and I have big families. I've heard it for the last 15 years.
     Add to that the once weekly counseling appointments for my son and 15 year old daughter, her ob appointments, and later counseling for my 7 year old daughter, most of which I tried to schedule while my husband was at work so it wouldn't interrupt his days off. He's an ER nurse who works two to four 12 hour night shifts and alternating weekends. Somewhere in there, I managed to get elected Treasurer of the elementary school PTA. For some reason that I can't remember now, I accepted the nomination. Throw in phone calls at odd hours from my 20 year old daughter who's in the Navy and stationed on the east coast. The most notable phone call being the one in which she called to tell me she had locked her keys in the car.
    Then there's the stuff. Oh my freakin' dog, the stuff. I got rid of so much stuff when we moved and I vowed never to accumulate so much stuff again. But my smaller children will have nothing to do with this vow. I don't know how they manage to bring more stuff into my house because I always tell them "NO!" when they ask for stuff, but they do.  I'm currently deluding myself with an 8 Weeks to Declutter Your House plan a friend posted on Facebook. One room a week, they say. Thirty minutes to an hour, they say... And I don't want to just get rid of my kids stuff when they aren't looking, for various reasons. I'm afraid they'll become stay hoarders because they're afraid someone will throw away their stuff when they aren't looking. I also don't feel like they'll learn some decision making skills and take pride in their accomplishments if they aren't a part of the decluttering process.
    I know this sounds like a lot of whining. It is. I know a lot of people have a lot more going on and they handle it just fine. And I have days where nothing bothers me. And I could stay home and organize etc. but I go out to lunch with a friend because, if that friend died tomorrow, I know I'd be much more glad I had that memory with her than a nicely organized cupboard.
   I was writing a condensed version of this to a family member who will be arriving in 2 days to explain why my house didn't look ready for company and I realized that despite everything, I'd lived to tell about it. And that sometimes, things are out of your control and there is no "taking the bull by the horns" and mastering the situation. You just dig your heels in and hang on until it's over. You respond the best way you can. And that's good enough. And sometimes "good enough" is great.