As I noted in the last post, I came home from my December trip to a lot of changes. My basement is now full of the hastily packed contents of Evan's and Sara's former rooms. I haven't had time to sort and make sense of that, and everything feels crowded and off. I had to very suddenly adjust to watching the kids while my friend worked while also trying to support and guide her, and live the life into which I'm embedded. It has been challenging in all the ways: Mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.
On this day, right now, I feel like a live-in nanny. When the mom is at work, the boys and I are free to play and get into a routine and we have a great time. My house feels like my house. Normal mommy stuff--keeping them occupied without resorting to the tv all the time, making sure they drink water and eat food, changing diapers, play dough, legos, naps, teaching, discipline, quiet time.
All of those are in my skillset.
When she gets home, things are harder, because...
A. I'm trying to prepare her for independent living, which means I need to let her be with her kids and not help too much. It feels strange not to help someone when they could use a hand.
B. She parents differently than me, which is fine, but it's happening in my house and is often in direct opposition to the things that I've got working well with them while she's gone. She's young. I'm old. They're HER KIDS. I get that with my entire brain, really. She's a good momma and tries hard most of the time. All of this is logical and expected, but man alive, the best word I can come up with to describe how I'm doing when people ask is "coping." And maybe this reveals me as fundamentally selfish, or controlling, but in spite of the fact that for the most part, she does fine at caring for them; relinquishing my motherly instincts to let her do her thing, even when I see her do things that I actually think are unhealthy, has been strange, and lonely, and, well, hard. At least as hard as reading that sentence, so now you have some idea.
Here's what I've been able to figure out as I've tried to work out why I'm struggling so much right now: The boundaries and underpinnings of my life have moved around and I haven't found my own place, nor the positions of landmarks in this new world.
But I am coping. I do what I have to. I accepted this challenge. I chose it. But when one makes a choice like this, one can't see the future, or know at that moment what all the challenges will be. So one has to be willing to persevere in spite of the road being rough. If I need to, I have the option of stopping this trajectory and telling her it's time to go. At this point I have no desire to do so. I want her to be successful. Her life is legitimately harder than mine. None of my help has magically fixed anything. She has a safe place to live, but the chaos all around her remains. She has to fix that. That part is hard, too. I wish I did have a magic wand.
It so happens that I'm leaving again in 8 days. For 6 weeks. I have two knitting shows bookended onto a month in Arizona to help my mom (about whom I am feeling an equally intense and wholly different kind of stress). I think the timing is good, actually. I will miss Eric a lot, but we will talk every day. I will actually miss my friend and the boys as well, because my heart lets people in automatically, so there's no question that I love them.
I won't miss the uncertainty of my days and the constant debate in my head about how best to help. I won't miss the moments of tension when something happens that I'm really uncomfortable with but I know it's not the time to bring it up, so I leave the situation so I won't barge in and make things worse. I won't miss feeling displaced and not in charge of anything.
I know this is hard mostly because of the transition. I can get through it. As usual, I use too many words to describe something fairly simple, but my reactions and feelings don't feel simple.
Here's a moment of beauty in the midst of this. I'll keep looking for these. Click the picture for a video and a smile.