Adulting Is Kicking My Butt

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lego toy in clear glass container

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Normally, I’d say I do pretty well at “adulting.” Let’s be honest, I was probably more adult at twelve than some people are at twenty.

But adulting is really kicking my butt right now. Last week, midweek, I had a really black moment. My oldest was mad at me–mad in a way every parent is conditioned to expect in adolescence, but which I’d never experienced. I wasn’t sleeping for profound anxiety, some of it connected with said teen. I’m crazy worried about my kids’ mental health, and my own ability to be the rock.

The trouble with adulting is that you have be the adult when it makes you the Bad Guy. And in the coronavirus era, parents have a lot of bad guy rules to enforce.

In my house, there’s been a lot of “guys! We are stuck with each other for AT LEAST a month. This is our opportunity to learn to love each other better.”

(Reality check: so far that message doesn’t seem to be sinking in.)

Then there was one particular email. I won’t go into except to say that it hit on my most tender spot–my relationship with my children–and I discovered the bottom of my well.

The kids were downstairs screaming at each other about Xbox time, but I was up in my bedroom, crisscross applesauce, bent over my legs and thinking simultaneously: “I’m going to get this cry out of the way” and “I didn’t know my body still bent like this.”

But I only got about three tears out of my eyes.

When Kate Basi can’t cry, it’s got to be bad.

I felt absolutely…AWFUL. I don’t remember EVER feeling that hopeless.

I said a whole lot of prayers that consisted of nothing but “Holy Spirit… please… please… please…”

I think I dozed off, staring at this raw, empty hopelessness that seems to have no expiration date. And when the next diatribe from downstairs roused me, I thought, “I need to go down and be with them. O God, I can’t do it. I don’t have it in me. I’m going to make everything worse.”

And the response came back clear and impassive:

FOLD LAUNDRY.

I looked at the mountain of laundry piled in front of my bed. It had been put off four days already; it definitely needed to be done. Even so, I said, “You’re kidding, right? Do you hear those kids? I need to be downstairs being a mom.”

NO. FOLD LAUNDRY.

Now, I’ve made it my goal in life to pay attention when the Spirit speaks, and this was the clearest directive I’ve gotten in a long time.

So I sighed and threw up my hands and said, “Okay, your funeral.” And I turned on “In Want of a Wife,” a podcast on Pride & Prejudice, and folded laundry for forty minutes.

And then I went downstairs and out the door, because the Xbox wars had burned themselves out (you like my coronavirus reference? Yeah, me either) and the sun was out and it was warm outside. And there I dug up grass from around the willow tree, which needs more mulch and less grass, and transplanted plugs to other places in the yard that had no grass at all, only chickweed and henbit and crabgrass seeds salivating over the open space to wreak havoc.

And then I came in and made dinner, and I felt… better.

So what did I learn? Well, here’s what I did NOT learn. I did NOT learn how to make it less painful (on me!) to be the Bad Guy. I did NOT learn the magic words to make the child who resents the bleepety-bleep out of this whole situation to feel better and revert to his less-surly self. I did NOT learn how not to feel overwhelmed when contemplating the lack of expiration date for what we’re facing.

What I DID learn was that doing is next to godliness. And now that I know that, DOING is the focus of my next four weeks.

(Also: hiking. Whenever possible.)hike 1_opt

hike 2_opt

Family Business, Part 1

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Every so often, a girl’s just got to share the collected gems that don’t warrant a post all their own. So while Christian and I are off enjoying our weekend away, I’m going to take advantage of the down time. Today in the spotlight: Christian and Alex.

Christian

A couple of weeks ago we found this school paper in one of the boxes in the basement:

Christian 80 percent not necessary

“Child! 80% of this work was NOT necessary.”

We got a good laugh out of that teacher’s comment.

Possibly my favorite solo shot of Christian of all time.

Possibly my favorite solo shot of Christian of all time.

Christian came upstairs from finishing the basement cleanout project yesterday and said, “It’s funny, the personalities just don’t change. Look at this comment.” He showed me a teacher’s note on a project: NOT ACCEPTABLE. “I went, (gasp) What’s wrong with that?”

Neither one of us could figure out what was wrong with what he’d done, but Christian was just shaking his head because even as an adult, he reacted with gut-wrenching horror to seeing that comment on his work. “Some things just don’t change,” he said.

Which made me view my struggles with one particular child with an internal whimper.

Anyway.

Christian went to the eye doctor today and was handed an ultimatum: Bifocals. They gave him a year to get used to the idea.

This is so weird. We still have people rolling their eyes because we’re so “young,” and yet the signs of age are ever-present. I always thought the twenties were weird because you were grown up but no one treated you that way…but I think the forties are weirder, when you’re clearly middle-aged and you get mocked for trying to admit it.

Alex:

Pitcher

Who knew? My kid’s been a fair pitcher this year.

Alex is getting ready to move to the basement. He’s painted his own chest of drawers as LEGO blocks. It’s not a professional paint job by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s his and he owns it. It’s taken him a long time to get comfortable with the idea of being on a different floor than the rest of the family at night, but the level of bickering between Child #1 and Child #3 has gotten to the point where I think even he is looking forward to a separation. (He is sitting next to me as I write, beside the pool, and saying, “Yes, I am!” He also took great exception to the comment about the paint job.)

He has spent this summer trying to rise to his grandpa’s challenge to use every LEGO block in his big tub. Grandpa intended him to make one humongous creation, but instead he’s making a fleet of ships. He doesn’t talk much about it, but from the way he goes downstairs and starts to work, it’s clear to me that there’s some overarching plan. It’s purposeful, the way he sets to work.

That’s a wrap for today. I’ll share other stories on Monday.

Unencumbered. Sort of.

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I stopped carrying a purse when I was a freshman in college. I had a backpack and my flute case, and whatever I needed would fit within them.

I stopped wearing a watch shortly after I started having hand problems my sophomore year of college. I realized that my stress level was much, much higher when I obsessed about time, and I really only needed a timepiece to get me up in the morning and make sure I didn’t miss class while I was holed up in practice rooms. Every classroom had a clock, and there was Memorial Union’s clock and the clock on the alumni center. There were clocks on the phones at work and a clock hanging on the wall at Target. And in the end, I developed a very, very good time sense.

I still don’t carry a purse. And most of the time, I still don’t wear a watch. Ordinarily, I carry a wristlet-wallet thingy that helps compact the necessities. But not while we were at Disney.

See, Disney has this little doohickey called a Magic Band now:

Magic Band

It came as part of the package we bought, so I don’t know how much they cost to buy alone. Probably a lot. Underneath the Mickey symbol is a waterproof radio transmitter that is encoded with, well, everything. It’s your hotel room key, your park admission, your meal reservation, and your fast passes. You can use it to charge things to your room account, so you don’t even need to carry a credit card if you don’t want to (although we were pretty darned careful about that feature). And any time a photographer took pictures of us at one of the parks, they would scan our Magic Band and all those pictures ended up on the web where we could look at them later.

The Magic Bands updated pretty much instantaneously whenever Christian added or deleted a FastPass from his smart phone app. The last day, Alex and I were doing a switch pass for Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom, and the worker called him by name. It was not until that moment that I realized it probably also had our contact information programmed into it, so that if a child got lost, they could find us quickly.

The reason I’m going through all this is that the Magic Bands allowed me an experience I pretty much never have anymore. We had plenty of stuff to carry for the kids: blankets, jackets, hats, etc. (We took the stroller with us to carry most of it.) But as for me, with my Magic Band on my wrist and my phone in my pocket, I had everything I needed. I didn’t even have to keep track of a wallet.

It was really weird. In a good way. I felt so unencumbered. Much like I felt when I visited Disneyland like this:

LHL Jr Carousel 46  073

Most of the time, I have to do a mental checklist any time I’m going anywhere to make sure I don’t forget something. iPad? Portable DVD player? Wallet? Keys? Sunglasses? Paperwork for whatever child I’m at an appointment for? Books? Backpacks? For one week, I got to feel at least an approximation of the freedom from logistical worries that I left behind when I became a responsible adult. It was really, really nice. It’s not sustainable in the long-term—I couldn’t work this way, take kids to practices and doctor appointments this way—but it was a really lovely break from reality.

A break that seems even more attractive today, when the post-vacation-and-short-week-with-sick-kids-and-lots-of-family-in-town craze gives way to the usual logistics that define my everyday.

Speaking of which…time to get the day underway.