Hey, Mom.

This is a Really Real Parenting Post.

We have a totally different relationship now.

It’s 6am texts with “Hey, mom have you heard this song?” while he’s finishing his shift at work and I’m still sleeping.

It’s check in texts from both of us “How’s work going?” “How are you feeling today?”

It’s almost weekly phone calls and the occasional video chats where we catch up on how life is really treating us and discuss serious world topics that make my heart swell with pride when I realize how grown he really is.

It’s both of us talking about our relationships and how happy we are but also talking about problems and getting advice from a different perspective.

I still love those texts where he shares a song with me.  Music speaks to both of us in ways that a lot of people can’t fathom.  One of my favorite trips was shortly after Parker died, a road trip together, to NY, going back and forth sharing the songs that were getting us through the loss.  By the end we were singing each others songs and crying together.

This morning he sent me one of his current songs.  I did what I do and pulled up the video and the lyrics.

By the end of the first chorus I was crying.

That great big ugly cry that felt like it had been pent-up for years (but it hadn’t).

I knew why he sent it to me.

Not to make me cry, of course, but it spoke to me about his childhood, in a loose round about way, without being specific.  Of hard times he and I had, before he left, where we fought non-stop about everything and anything.  It spoke of a mother, me, who wasn’t well and a kid who finally understood that the mother was doing the best she could.

“And though you say the days are happy, why is the power off and I’m fucked up?”

And the thing is, we could both be reading totally different things into these songs. Sometimes we discuss them and realize we are.  I haven’t had a chance to really talk about this one with him.

I love that he trusts me enough to share this stuff with me.  I didn’t have a relationship with my parents where I could have discussed my music with them at his age, or really at any age.  They didn’t get it, and didn’t really want to.

My relationship with Kidlet is different now.

It’s 2,700 miles different.

It’s full-grown man different.

It’s still pretty damn amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

So long and thanks. . .

This is a Really Real Parenting Post.

The Kidlet is all grown up.

This was his first visit home after 11 months gone and it was such a different sort of way to spend a week under the same roof.

Such a different sort of way to relate to each other.

Such a different sort of way to talk with each other.

But while so much has changed, nothing has.

He walked in and opened the fridge, asked if there was anything he couldn’t have, then grabbed what he wanted.

He still climbed in bed beside me and cuddled and talked.

He still sat on the floor in front of me while I brushed his hair.

He still picked on me endlessly, this time ganging up on me with his girlfriend and Wonder Woman while I jokingly fought back against the onslaught.

I was so afraid, in the days leading up to this visit, that we’d spend the time fighting, like we did before he left.  So afraid that we’d fall back into the old dynamic.  That I wouldn’t know how to relate to my son as an adult that lives on his own and runs his own life.  How would I go about making the switch with him under this roof again.  Would we be right at each others throats in an instant.

And instead we’ve spent the time enjoying being with each other.

It’s a different sort of relationship.

I’m so proud of who he is and I can finally see, first hand, in person, how much the way I raised him shaped him into the man he’s become.  I can finally say I’m proud of the job I did.  Most people were completely against how I raised him, homeschooling when I could barely keep a roof over our heads, not following a curriculum, not punishing him, and just walking away from almost all of the traditional parenting methods.  But I now see that, for him, it was what worked.  He’s an amazing human and I’m proud of myself for doing what I knew was right.

I’m happy to see him, enjoying the time I’m spending with him, but tomorrow morning I don’t think it will be as hard as I thought it would be to watch him go.  He’s just a flight away, and while I’ll look forward to the next trip, in the meantime I’m looking forward to having my routine back, and he’s looking forward to his.

He’s done what we all hope our kids do.  He spread his wings.

And he’s doing better than any of his parent did.

I’m so fucking proud of my kid.

The Quiet Before the Storm

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I feel really good these last few days.

There’s some lingering depression where I can’t quite figure out what I want to get into and nothing seems interesting.

All of my pain issues are flaring and all of my everythings hurt.

But I’m handling both of those things well, because otherwise I’m stable right now.  I feel good.  My emotions are in a pretty upbeat place.

Yesterday I cleaned and cooked and made a rotisserie chicken for the first time (chicken bondage anyone?) and then made chicken stock from the carcass in preparation for chicken soup today.  I did school work and DBT work and just got a whole lot done.

And in between I mindlessly scrolled Facebook for way too much time because I honestly couldn’t figure out what to focus on, nothing could hold my interest.

The Kidlet will be here in less than a week and I’m super excited about that while also stressing about all of the things I stress about before someone comes to visit.

It’s very strange to stress about those things before my son gets here, but he no longer lives under this roof and this is no longer the house he left.  I’ve been looking around and seeing how much has changed now that it’s Wonder Woman and my space and while the address is still the same, he will be walking into an entirely different house.  Very little stayed the same.

I wonder how much he changed.  I wonder how much he will think I did.

I worry about the dynamic we had when he left and how hard it will be to avoid that dynamic now that he’s visiting and staying here for a week.  In theory it should be easy, he’s an adult.  A man living on his own with his own agenda and his own rules.  But old habits . . .

I would hate to see us fight on his first visit back home when we’ve mostly avoided it the entire time he’s been gone.

But overall, this has been a really good few days.  I’m able to keep my anxiety at bay, taking it as it comes and not ruminating over it for too long.  All I can do is my best while he’s here and worrying about it now won’t do a whole lot of good.

Same with worrying about my next crash.  It’s sort of inevitable that I will have one, probably sooner rather than later, possibly within the next few weeks if history is any indicator.  But worrying about it won’t stop it, and will only take today’s good mood away.  It feels good to be able to sit the anxiety down for a bit.  To recognize that it’s there, feel the feels but not let it overwhelm me, and then put it away.

This may be the calm before the storm but I’m focusing on the calm, instead of waiting for the storm.  I can deal with the storm when it gets here.

All Grown Up

This is a Really Real Parenting Post.

This is my first Christmas since Kidlet moved across the country to start his own life as an adult.

He started walking on his first Christmas, at 9 months old, not even walking, but running across the living room at my mothers house, where we lived, to get to his presents.

And now he’s been across the country for 9 months.

A year later, I remember staying up half the night putting together a giant play kitchen for him, something he was probably too young for, but I had the money and it was something I knew would last him.  He got a tool bench that year too, and a talking doll, and so many other gifts because the money was there and I was so used to being broke.

There was the Christmas that we were so broke I handmade every one of his presents, and he received his favorite one, I think, to date.  A set of 3/4 inch pvc pipes cut to different lengths, along with connectors.  They became swords and guns and goals and places to hook blankets for forts.  We added to the set over the years and he played with them until he was much much older.

There were the Toys for Tots years, and the hand me down years, and the years that my family and friends made Santa happen.  There were years that I figured it out too, and made Christmas happen on my own, and damn, they felt good.

The year he learned that Santa was in all of us, the spirit of giving and helping and paying it forward to another family when you can.

I have memories of Christmases where we started different traditions.

My grandmothers ceramic tree in his room with small gifts wrapped underneath it, for him to open alone in his room, to let us sleep in, of course.

The years I’d let him open gifts from family members a few days early, spreading them out day by day, because I couldn’t wait to see the joy on his face.  I just couldn’t wait.

We’re used to being apart on holidays, he would spend months at a time at his father’s, states away, and I know this isn’t my first Christmas without him, but this one is so much different.  This one is the first of many with him living on his own, starting his own traditions with his own family.

I’m so proud of who he is and all he is capable of.  I’m so proud of him for spreading his wings and flying.

But I remember when he started walking that first Christmas, and tonight, I miss him.

Thankful

Really Real Thanksgiving Post

I had a hard time figuring out how to write this one, even though I knew what I wanted to say.

Thanksgiving is really hard for me.  It’s one of my favorite, but also least favorite holidays of the year.  It holds the best memories, but also the some of the hardest.

I mean, it’s a holiday and that’s kind of what happens around holidays, we link a lot of memories to these “special days” and it makes sense that some of them aren’t going to be great.  Maybe a lot of them.  But hopefully we have some good ones.

I remember the first holiday meal that I offered to host was a Thanksgiving, probably 14 years ago.  I didn’t own any sort of mixer except for one of those hand crank mixers and I made mashed potatoes from scratch using one of those.  I got one hell of an arm work out.

My older sister bought me my stand mixer for Christmas that year and it was the start of us bonding online, over a love of cooking.  I still have that Kitchen Aid.  It’s one of the things I carried through countless moves and stored through homelessness and carried across state lines.  It means the world to me because of the bond it represents between my sister and I.  (This is another one of those things she may have no clue about, Hi Sis!)

It also reminds me of that first Thanksgiving that I hosted.   That first Thanksgiving is also where I found the recipe for my turkey.

I’m so thankful every year I get to make the turkey.

Everyone loves my turkey.

But some years I didn’t get to make the turkey.

One year we were too broke to buy dinner so we went to a soup kitchen instead.

One year we were in a hotel provided by the Red Cross, eating dinner out of Styrofoam containers sent over by a church, because we’d had a house fire 2 days before.

And holidays are still hard.  Thanksgiving was the first major holiday without Parker.  It hit me today that this is the 3rd one without her and that just seems impossible that it’s been that long.

This year it’s the first major holiday with Kidlet all grown up and moved out.

But I’m always happier when I get to make the turkey, and it’s kind of funny when we are going to someones house and I offer to bring a turkey, but they are normally kind of thankful, I think.

And I make a really damn good turkey (as the anxiety hits that I’m going to fuck it up this year, but that’s a pretty typical anxiety for me).

But I’m thankful that I’m spending the day with friends and with the woman I love.

I’m thankful that I get to make the turkey.

Get Out

Really Real Mental Health Post

My neighbors had a really loud fight early this morning.

It was loud enough to wake me up with the shrill screams of “Get out! Get out! Get out!”   More screaming, doors slamming and car doors and later knocking on doors and my dog growling and barking.

I don’t know what happened down there, but this happens sometimes between them.  Mostly we just stay out of each others business even though we are friendly with each other.

The whole time I felt some combination of fear, shame, and guilt.  I wanted to curl into Wonder Woman or curl into a ball or just disappear and it was some combination of feeling like a little kid and hearing my dad yell, and feeling like a little kid and hearing the whole world yell, and feeling like a little kid and hearing myself yell.

How did I spend so many years yelling when I was that angry.

I feel so guilty for it.

Feel so guilty for letting my Kidlet hear me like that when he was little.

Downstairs there’s a little girl that lives in the apartment and I know she hears these fights and I can’t even think about her when it’s happening because I feel so guilty for the years that my own kid had to live through that.  He heard those same fights between his father and I, except no one was smart enough to finally leave for the night and I’d keep it going until I went to bed exhausted with no voice.

How did I ever let myself do that.

In hindsight it wasn’t fair to him, but at the time I couldn’t see the little kid who was scared, just like I was at his age.

It sucks that I’m just now figuring so much of this out, now that he’s out of the house as a full grown adult and Parker’s dead.  Both of them spent so many years getting the brunt of a very hurt person who turned that hurt into anger against those around her.

It wasn’t fair to them, and it wasn’t fair to me.

And the whole idea of “life’s not fair” just doesn’t work here.

I’ve apologized to my son.  I can’t go back and apologize to Parker.  I can’t take back the yelling and screaming.

Now it’s a matter of finding the boundaries.  My neighbor screaming isn’t me.  That isn’t my guilt, my shame, it doesn’t need to keep me awake for hours, but it does.  I don’t need to feel it to my core.  I don’t need to internalize it.  I don’t need to pay penance for their fight, or for fights I’ve had in the past, by staying awake at 3 or 4 or 5 am.

But yet, here I am.

 

 

Conflicting

Really Real Mental Health Post

Or at least, it sort of falls under mental health but I sort of think everyone does it.

I have this really bad habit of trying to wait till the perfect time to bring a difficult discussion up.

Like I’ve said before, conflict is really difficult for me.  It goes back to my childhood when conflict didn’t happen without some form of emotional explosion.  I see things in super bright colors so even minor yelling seemed like fireworks and arms waving seemed like pots and pans flying.  I can’t tell you how bad it actually got because in my head it was all horrible.  And I don’t know how much of that horrible was different from what other children experienced.  I don’t know how much of it was just me being “too sensitive” and how much of it was a really toxic environment.

And as an adult I became the yeller and I dated and later married people who were really good at keeping up with the yelling and the arm waving and we made our own fireworks.

And now, I’m so afraid of those fireworks that when something bothers me I hold back.  And I know I’ve written about some of this before, but processing isn’t a once and done, so here we go again.

I hold back because the person has something difficult going on in their life, so I won’t talk about the thing bothering me, because it might be too much on them, and therefore make it more likely to explode, so I’ll wait.  And then I wait because there’s another stressful thing, or because I’m not in the right mood and I’m more likely to become upset.

It’s a really hard lesson for me to learn that hard conversations don’t have to mean fights.

I think, It’s an even harder lesson for me to learn that I’m allowed to be upset about things.  To me, being angry or upset means I’m going to yell and scream because that’s what anger looks like.

To be frustrated and stay calm means some sort of passive aggressiveness or plotting or silent treatment.  It can’t mean I’m angry and I understand, I’m frustrated and I’m okay with that.  Except now, that’s exactly what is does mean for me.

Even separating those feelings, anger, frustration, upset. . . . and the underlying anxiety that I feel because of them,  they all have little nuances that I was never able to figure out because I was too busy reacting instead of reflecting.

But knowing this stuff also means that I’m even more likely to hold back because I work through the emotions and decide that it’s not worth acting on or even talking about.

Finding the balance, working through these emotions while still verbalizing what’s bothering me without waiting for the perfect time, is really really hard.

It creates its own type of conflict, an internal one.

I’m relearning a lifetime of unhealthy skills and it won’t happen overnight.

But it’s happening.