Beyond clean…

dirty

It’s funny how different people can define a concept in so many unique ways.

Take the concept of clean, for example. As in “A clean room”.

To my teen, this is a very loose concept, a fluid term, can’t be pinned down to any rigid standard…. certainly not by any standards of mine that might include Windex or a vacuum cleaner.

No…

His clean is so unstructured, so free…. free of the materialistic burden of bedspreads and dirty socks, free of the narrow-minded idea that toothpaste on the sink could ever be “unclean”. Indeed, the toothpaste is clean. The sink is clean. Together, they can only be MORE clean.

He must be evolving, my small mind tries to understand.

dirty

I struggle with it.

I’m sure it’s my own fault. My faulty reasoning, that of an adult whose only remaining dream is to walk into his room without being disgusted.

I cracked today. Vacuumed up things that didn’t seem to belong on the floor by my antiquated reasoning. Toenails, fingernails, I don’t know what that other stuff is…..

Felt a small measure of peace, probably destroyed an ecosystem he was painstakingly trying to create.

Oh, I’m sure I will remain an embarrassment. Not enlightened enough to see beyond my superficial concept of clean. I hope he can forgive me one day, and learn to somehow live with my primitive addiction to Pine-sol and Clorox wipes.

….not so evolved……

 

 

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The joy of having a 13 year old

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Truly, an unparalleled experience.

This is the second time I’ve had a 13 year old. I have 2 more to go after this one.

There are just so many amazing and wonderful things that go along with this age. Some things I remember from my first child at that age, and some new things I am just learning. For instance…

There is a need to be right, and always have the last word. It’s not even a need to be right, who am I kidding. He’s right. that’s IT. I just NEED to accept it.

There is a potential argument for everything. Because he is always right. And by speaking to him, I might somehow be questioning his awesome rightness, so he must assert himself yet again.

the whole idea of good personal hygiene is still a bit hazy….the need to take a shower after football practice does not strike him as urgent, although the rest of us are gagging every time he comes close to us and begging him to clean himself.

Deodorant is still considered optional.

He will still take walks with me and the little kids to get ice cream, and even pull the wagon without embarrassment.

If he is required to make his bed and keep his room clean, I have no right to expect him to help vacuum the living room. because that is borderline abuse. And the start of a text argument.

He plays amazingly well with the 4 year old, then fights with the 4 year old, then gets mad at me because I expect one of them to be more mature than the other in these situations. Apparently the 4 year old should know better.

He still lets me kiss him goodnight, and tells me he loves me.

hairy legs and baby face. (him…not me)

All discussions (arguments) will end in me losing. Because no matter how wrong I believe he is….. he simply reminds me that  I am the one who chose to bring him into the world. And since he couldn’t have done anything bad if he didn’t exist…..that clearly makes everything my fault. (he’s a philosopher.)

He will be a man…tomorrow. But still clings to his childhood today, as do I. The day I can’t excite him with some fake tattoos or bubble tape will be a sad one indeed.

How to make your kids like each other???

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I got this text from my 17 year old yesterday.

Sooooo…. sometimes there is a bit of a, say, division, between the two age groups of children in the house.

We’ve got the teens on one side, and the toddler/preschooler on the other.

No one has to share a room with anyone, which has probably saved lives by this point.

But what do I do, as a mom of all these *ahem* angels…. to help foster relationships? Especially as the older ones seek more time away from home and family? Clearly, if the above text is any indication, there is room for improvement.

Well, the one thing I swore I would never do was FORCE the older ones to babysit the little ones. As in, no one is going to have to skip a practice or game, or have to cancel plans of their own to watch some children that they did not bring into this world. Children who are probably very grateful that they are not being forced into the care of a less than thrilled older sibling.

I know, because I was that older sibling who HATED babysitting for my mother. DESPISED the three demon children from hell that I seemed to get stuck with when she had to go to work and dad wasn’t home yet. I swore, with all the conviction a 15 year old can have, that I would NEVER be crazy enough to have something so horrible as a child of my own. Now, I wasn’t being forced to give up anything to babysit, I really had no life so I’m sure my parents didn’t see the problem. And there should NOT have been a problem, except I was a teenager so of course EVERYTHING was a problem.

Remembering how MEAN I was, or at least how mean I felt, is the biggest reason I haven’t ever pushed the envelope and insisted the older ones take a bigger role in helping with the little ones. I really, really don’t want them to be mean. I want them to love each other, not feel forced to spend time together.

And they do help me a lot by doing things with the younger ones when we are all home together. Just playing with them for 30 minutes while I am making dinner, or cleaning up is a HUGE help. And I have had them babysit for a quick run to the store. Oh, and my oldest actually watched the kids for me last week when my husband and I went out of a real date, the first alone together in probably a year…. but I cleared it with her in advance and made sure she had no plans, and was ok with it. This is my way of trying to ensure they like each other and don’t resent the younger ones at all.

But the age difference means that the little ones sometimes become annoying when they are in “play” mode, and the older kids are NOT. Sometimes they don’t want a little kid barging into their room, screaming and throwing stuffed animals at them. Sometimes they get sick of the repetitive games that toddlers seem to crave. Sometimes they want the little chatterbox next to them to just…..stop chattering.

And then my oldest comes to me, as she has several times lately, and asks if the baby is even going to remember her once she goes to college. “Is she even going to know who I am?”. I then remind her that college is not in outer space, and she will still be coming home for holidays, vacations, summer…. and we will be face timing like no tomorrow. I like that she is worried about this. I want them to be close, but I also know it will probably take a lot of years before they start to have things in common, and a desire to be friends and not just sisters.

We deal with issues still, like when the 13 year old feels slighted, and believes that I must love the younger ones more than him because of the time I spend with them. He of course doesn’t remember being their age and getting ALL my attention because there wasn’t an older brother around complaining about it. I try to explain that he should not be jealous of the time I spend wiping butts, giving baths, dressing, and feeding the kids….. because I really don’t think he’d still want me doing those things for him. I mean, hey, if that’s what I need to do to PROVE my love….but I just don’t think it would look very good…..

At the end of the day, I have hope. Because the daughters enjoy each others company now, and every day is another day of bonding and memory making. They painted toe nails together today. The two boys have a secret handshake/hug they do every night, and end it with one of them saying “Best Friends….” and the other finishes “….Forever.”

And because I catch them having moments like this all the time, proof that they love each other, even if they don’t always LIKE each other.

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My girls, at the beginning and the end.

Today, my first baby turned 17.

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This is when she was just a couple months old…if that.

meandray 5-2014

And this is us today…. she is bigger than me now!

I have one year left at home with this one, before she heads off to college. I know I won’t be close to having an empty nest yet….but she will be sorely missed as a daily presence in my life. She has magically grown into this….person….who I have come to depend on in so many other ways than simply as a child, the first of four.

she is coming to the end of childhood, of her teenage years, and the start of adulthood. REAL adulthood. And all the joys and horrors that come with it.

I am happy for her, terrified for her, but mostly really, really excited for her.

I sat with her at a college visit last week, almost crying as I pictured her maturing and changing into a bona fide grown up during those years away at school. All the opportunities open to her, I can’t wait to see where life takes her, and I can’t BELIEVE we are at this point already…… I just had her. I can relive that day, I still see that purple baby they put on my stomach, me rubbing her foot, not really knowing what else to do, not able to register yet that my life had just changed in an immeasurable way. A wonderful way.

And then I look over here…..

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And see my 17-month old taking her first half-naked selfie…with MY phone!

And I wonder…… am I strong enough to go through this again?

Of course, raising a daughter is difficult. Is it possible for me do as well with this one? And whose to say I had anything to do with the first one turning out so well? (so far!)

I can look back on the times my oldest has hated me, the times I’ve truly disliked her. The lies I’ve caught her in, the “discussions” about why certain things are NOT ok for her to do. The worries, the heartbreaks, and the accomplishments along the way.

The maternal RAGE when my child has been hurt, teased, bullied. Because sadly, it seems to happen to everyone at some point.

Oh, it’s not easy for girls to grow up.

I can say from my own experience, and the collective experience of so many girls and women I know….. the teen years pretty much suck. High school is generally something we would prefer not to go back to. Ever. For so many reasons, much of it due to the fact that it is PAINFUL to be a teen. Transitioning between childhood and adulthood, it is not a great place to be in many ways. We take our uncertainty out on our peers, on ourselves, and of course, on our hapless parents. There is a reason it’s call teen angst.

Talking to my oldest today about how much different life is after the high school drama is over….and looking at my 17 month old, who has no clue what it means to feel unsure of yourself, or worried about what your peers think of you….who could care less if the other tots like her new sundress or not.

I’ve got one daughter at the end of her childhood, and one just beginning. I hope I can be whatever each of them needs, whenever they need it. I hope my oldest will be there to help  guide the youngest, providing sisterly advice that will probably trump my motherly advice.

I hope, I hope, I hope.

And I hope, in the end, that I haven’t screwed up too badly. That my girls remain as close to me as we are now, even closer. I hope they live happily and love deeply….. and grow to be strong, independent women.

And of course, if they are ever blessed with daughters…… I will wish for them the same thing my mom, and millions of moms have wished for their own daughters……

“I hope you have a daughter JUST LIKE YOU!!!”….

 

 

I’m not proud of myself….

I’m Not Proud of Myself

Dealing with my Teenage Daughter after Divorce

My teen :(

My teen 😦

I posted a picture of my teenager. I love her, she’s quite lovely and nice most of the time. She’s really good at saying what I want to hear and making me feel like I’ve done such an awesome job raising her. Her father and I are divorced, and she’s been spending most of her time at my house, which I enjoy. I didn’t realize how territorial I was about her until he moved closer to us, and suddenly she wants to spend more time over there!! Now, I realize waaaaaaaayy back in the rational part of my brain that this is a good thing, and a fair thing…. but the crazy part of me, which I seem to be more in touch with has been having a hard time with it. First it was just staying there on his weekends. Ok. I can deal with that, it is after all HIS weekend, right? Then, she realizes this gives her the freedom to have sleepovers with other teen girls at his house, allowing them to be up all night, and as loud as they want as well. We’ve got little ones over here, so usually a sleepover means holing up in her bedroom and being quiet on penalty of death if she dare wake up a young’un. This amazing freedom she’s found over her dads house means now, she wants to spend ALL her weekends over there. Uh-Oh. I feel the loss, although I understand her feelings, I feel like I just got dumped. So of course, I freak out. I had a week where I literally had to stop talking to her because every time I tried, I would find myself sounding JUST like a pathetic Ex, whining about how she’s just used me all these years and she jumps ship as soon as she sees greener grass somewhere else. I was a mess. We’d hang up. I would feel horrible and apologize via text, and then try to be the good and supportive mom, until we spoke again. I KNEW I was wrong the whole time, but also felt horrible that I could not provide the environment she wanted to enjoy with her friends. It took me back to when I was her age, and I had three young siblings that meant no sleepovers EVER. I should be happy she can, right?? Well, in a perfect world. But in my world, I just wanted her dad to get sick of it all and stop having all these sleepovers so I could have my daughter back. Oh my god, what if she hasn’t even loved me this whole time, but she just didn’t have anything better to do? I know, I was pathetic. Somehow, I found the way to explain to her the feelings behind my crazy actions. I love her. I want to spend time with her. Being divorced from her dad doesn’t mean I divorced her, and to me it’s natural to see your kids every day. So we are working on this…. I still pout sometimes, I’m not going to lie. I don’t think she needs to spend ALL weekends over there, and I want to know her friends too, I think that’s important. I’m so lucky to have her, I realize (sometimes) that acting crazy is just going to drive her away. Gotta keep the crazy tucked away…. she’s growing up, and I want her to WANT to come see me even after she never has to do it again. Either that, or I need to find a good way of making her think she needs me forever….