A few months ago, a good friend of mine asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I was thrilled. Then talk of the Bachelorette Party started. A trip to Vegas. I am not a big gambler, and I don’t frequent strip clubs. I have an aversion to crowds and bright lights. I also hate spending money. And leaving my house unless absolutely necessary. And I like sleep. In my own bed. Vegas is not my place. My friend knows this, and she gave me an out. She told me she knows money is tight and I have my kids so if I don’t want to go, no hard feelings. I do hate Vegas. But I hate being left out even more. And I love my friend.
So I went. On the road trip. With 13 people (combined bachelor/bachelorette party), most of whom I knew casually, or not at all. My first trip sans kids in about three years. It was a blast. Yes the lights were a lot. And the late nights. And the very very long drive. But I made great connections and I don’t regret a second of it. I saw Paula Abdul!
Rachel and Lilly stayed at my house alone while I was gone. They took care of the garden and the animals. Their dad was unsure. He was worried they would have parties and boys and all the things you see in teen movies from the 90’s. I wasn’t worried about any of that. My girls are responsible, reliable.
Emmy decided to stay home from school the day after I got back. And as I had taken the day off from work to recover, I did not object. I planned on getting the house in order, and then spending the day on the yard.
My plans were thwarted by a bird. When I went to water the backyard, I found a dead dove in the grass. I learned a lot about myself from the events that transpired after that. I view myself as a strong, independent woman. But the idea of touching, much less disposing of a dead bird made me squeamish. I also view myself as straightforward and honest. However, I had every intention of manipulating my 14-year-old son into taking care of the dead bird when he got home from school. I figured I would play the sad sappy woman who needed the man of the house to take care of a problem card. Crisis averted… Then the dead bird started to flap its wings.
I love all living things. Like most people, I hate to see anything or anyone suffer. But I had every intention of letting Penny outside to take care of the dove problem. Had Emmy not been there, I may have done just that. She insisted we rescue it. I have gone through this before with Lilly, so I knew the only bird sanctuary was miles and miles away. And a trip to the bird sanctuary did not fit into my post-vacation plans. But even if I am not the good person I thought I was, I love Emmy desperately. Rescuing the bird was important to her. We found a shoe box. She researched what birds eat and lined the box with slices of apple and a rolly-polly she found outside. Along with an old hand towel I was ok parting with. After some hesitation, I put my big girl panties on and picked up the damaged bird with gloved hands and put it in the shoe box. And we drove it to the sanctuary. Across town. In five o’clock traffic. On the way she named the bird. Sam, as we did not know the gender. She also gave it a birthday. May 24th if anyone is interested.
Rachel looked rough when I got back from my trip. She is 17. And she suffers from anxiety and depression. I took one look at her the night I got home and I knew she was not alright. She looked dark and burdened. She said she was fine. But also said “sometimes I wonder what the point is.” These are not the words you want to hear your child say. I was gutted. Outside of the bird incident, I spent Monday on the phone with her doctor and her nurse and her counselor, and anyone else who would listen. She is fine now. She says I overreacted. Maybe. I told her I will overreact every single time. I just cannot lose her.
In theory, Rachel and Lilly took care of everything while I was gone. But it was mostly Lilly. My precious, sweet, open, mature beyond her years Lilly. When I got home, we chatted for a bit, then I told her I needed to go outside to check the yard. I invited her to come along and she said “Oh good! I thought you didn’t want to talk to me anymore.” Never never ever do I not want to talk to this child. But she is a child. I forget that sometimes. She takes so much responsibility on, and with such a good attitude, that I forget sometimes that she is just a kid. And without going into detail, she is dealing with her own heavy problems.
Carson. Carson Carson Carson. I try really hard not to share anything on these posts that my kids would not want me to. So let me just say that Carson was the straw that broke the camel’s back this week. He has been phenomenally sweet and kind and helpful these past few months. His grades are up. His teachers love him. He found a great group of friends. Fourteen has been his year! He has been an absolute joy to be with. I knew in my soul that there were things going on with him that I would not like. And I got confirmation of that. In the middle of Emmy’s end of school music concert. I cried. I sobbed. Not because it was any great surprise. Or even anything very terrible. It was just one thing too many.
Often, I will run into friends or acquaintances who will ask me how my kids are doing. My answer is always the same. “They are great”. It is a genuine answer, and I beam when I give it. They are great. They are fun and interesting, and flawed. And they love me and love to be with me. They are making relatively good choices. No drugs, no sex. They tell me everything. Even when I wish they wouldn’t. In spite of this, I have always carried some worry that this will not always be the case. But it has been a subjective worry. This week, for the first time in their teenage existence, I have worried that they might not be ok. And that I may have messed the parenting thing up. I am not perfect, and I have never thought I was. My kids will have plenty to tell their therapist when they grow up. I always figured that the fierceness with which I love them will make up for any mistakes I make. But this week has been the first week I truly have doubted that theory. About all of them. Except Emmy, but only because she is so young. I will take all the doves to all the bird sanctuaries if it means I can avoid the tragedy that is the teenage years.
This past week has been my kid week. Every single one of them has stayed close to home. They have been borderline needy. They went to their dad’s this evening. Part of me was relieved. Part of me needs the space for a second. But a bigger part of me wants them home. I want to watch the jumprope routines, and to play HORSE, and to chit chat. And rewatch all the Star Wars movies just because Carson wants to. If they are with me, maybe they will be ok.
My parents just left for Scotland for a couple of weeks, and I hate it. My safety net is gone when they are not home. I am over 40 years old. Independent and self-assured. But sometimes I just need my mom. I am unsettled when she isn’t close by.
I took my mom to lunch in the midst of my bad week. I asked her if she had the space to listen to me for a minute. I wanted to unload, without dialogue. I vomited everything I was feeling. My worries about my kids, all the ways I am sure I am failing. She listened. She cried with me. She offered no advice. But she did say a couple of important things. First, that you never stop worrying about your kids. And second, that although parenting is hard, it is also a privilege to be with these kids when they are going through all the pain being a person brings (I am super paraphrasing). She also told me I am doing a great job. I don’t know if I believe her, but boy am I trying. And boy did it help, having my mommy there when I needed her.
My girls did not party while I was gone. They had no boys over. They were responsible and pretty great. Carson and Emmy were with their dad. They are used to it. They love him. He takes care of all their needs and wants. But what I learned from being gone for the four days in Vegas is this. My kids need me. When I am not here, life is unsettled.
Vegas was fun. But it is my last trip without my kids for a while. This is where I need to be. It is where I want to be.