My husband just did his favorite thing – even more of his favorite because it involved my usual post vacation funk. And by funk, I mean, after months and months of planning vacations, I tend to come home and have a meltdown. I pretend I’m not going to. I try not to. I tell myself over and over ‘you’re just exhausted,’ ‘this is typical,’ ‘it’s like post-partum but for fake travel agents,’ ‘real life IS hard’ and so on. I’ve actually been on a great streak – going back probably a year. But Disney did me in. Leaving the happiest place on earth and landing in the Ville and real life and, oh, yeah, those teens still live with us, and hey, how about that Coronavirus? has just sent me spiraling. Right. Back to Rich’s favorite thing. Oftentimes when I am upset and/or angry, Rich likes to hint that there’s actually a problem behind the problem. And by hint, I mean he generally just says ‘okay, what’s the real issue, because I know you’re not going code red because you tried to squeeze the new mayonnaise without taking the safety seal off leaving you livid because nothing came out.’
Then we argue for one to seventy hours until the actual problem shoots itself out of hiding. 🙂
This year, as you know, has not been easy in the life with a high school senior category. Zoe is spreading her wings by blocking me, with those wings, from her life. We are not enjoying her senior year. I hear other parents talking about this win or that success – one milestone after another – and try to sidle away before they look at me to throw our achievements into the ring. We have been excluded and ignored. We have missed so many things. I actually just came from an amazing parents/seniors meeting that I enjoyed solo and that I learned about through another mother. Or the part where, with five months of school to go, we’ve only just accepted the fact, that no, we were never going to get to know any of Zoe’s friends (nor their parents). She has not had a friend to visit in four years. Odd? Uh, yeah. There’s also the question of whether she is actually planning on going to graduation (she is going, whether she’s planning to or not) – as she has yet to bring home any paperwork to order her cap & gown. Which one’s yours? Oh, the one in the dinosaur costume…we didn’t have the standard outfit…oh, there she goes across the stage! Look, she’s holding her diploma with tiny dinosaur arms!
Right, back to the underlying post-vacation meltdown reason.
I guess as a mom who constantly (and unsuccessfully) tries to convince myself to stop mom-ing, I may have put a little too much weight in some one-on-one time with Zoe whilst among Mickey & friends. Rich had mentioned many times during the planning phase that he wanted some alone time with each of the kids – which, by default, meant that I, too, would get some alone time with each of the kids. This is typical on vacations and a throwback to our ‘Kid Swap’ days – when every other Sunday, he would take one kid to dinner and I’d take the other – back when we were building our relationships as a new family. Life is too busy for a regular Kid Swap schedule anymore, but Rich always remembers to schedule them when he feels it’s needed. He’s much better at it than I – I am better at scheduling ‘let’s not talk to anyone for three hours’ time.
The targeted day was Thursday morning – Rich and Zack would head out at 9am (leaving Zoe with me) and then she and I would meet them somewhere at 11am to trade partners. It was going to be the first one-on-one time I’d had with Zoe in months (I really don’t know how long – but FOR SURE since the abuse allegations where thrown at me last year when I went on a ‘don’t be alone with her’ strike). I was nervous – didn’t want to push it – so really just casually mentioned a few times pre-Thursday that Zoe and I would come meet Rich and Zack after we’d had breakfast. Thursday came, Rich and Zack got up and left, I prepared to get up – I knew Zoe was up, per the family text string. And then before I could say ‘Siri, what’s the weather?’ I heard the door-next-door shut again. Surely, she didn’t just leave? Right? Without a ‘bye’ or a knock or a note or an ‘I just want to be alone?’ Shortly after, another text, from Zoe to Rich, saying she was eating and then heading over to meet them.
I have to say, I was a bit shocked. Really? I sent out a few feeler texts (type/backspace/type/send) and confirmed that she had actually, in fact, just left. Rich sensed the between the lines parts of my texts and sent a non-chat note saying that she probably just (well, there were a few options here) forgot, wanted to be alone, didn’t hear me say we were going to be together, etc.. I really was trying to buy into these theories – but it wasn’t happening. I mean, hi, her one and only response was that she presumed I’d made other plans (with the other people I was travelling with?!?!). Also, the second child later confirmed that, no, I wasn’t crazy…he, at the tender and very deaf age of 14, had heard me say at least once that I’d hang with Zoe…while she was standing there. Okay, gotcha.
Of course, this become a thorn in my post-vacation-exhaustion-paw. Rich was thrilled. The moment he loves most in his life is the exact moment he realizes a topic is going to be brought up over and over and over. And also over. I can tell when that exact moment occurs because he takes on a very Bart Simpson backing into the bushes look. Yes, I think…there is it…he knows what’s coming…he will begin to evaporate in in three-two-one….Well, he tried anyway. He’d apparently requested an apology from Zoe to me upon realizing my plans had gone sideways. It never came. Which told me everything I really needed to know. By this time, Saturday? Sunday? I was a bit spirally – exhaustion, post-trip-sadness, kid not apologizing, warning, warning. Meltdown Monday arrived in full force filled with a lot of anger and tears and OH! THERE IT IS…the real problem. It finally fell out of my mouth – I was mostly just really sad because I have spent seven years trying to get Zoe to want to spend time with me and this was yet another fail. Another reminder of her current status of being a 17 year old combined with my current status of being her sacrificial my-life-sucks lamb. Also, I was exhausted and maybe a little loopy.
Thankfully, I had a scheduled visit with my/our counselor on Tuesday. I’d asked Rich to rearrange his schedule a few times to attend – and then I realized I was only asking him to attend was so I could lay into him about how pissed I was about the events. Or event. Yes, the only ‘event’ we even had on our amazing trip. Or when I realized I was escalating, magnifying, blowing up…taking a hiccup and turning into Defcon Five. Or when I realized the real problem behind the problem. Which is when I realized I really did need a solo mental tune up.
You know what feels good? And I mean this – it is very releasing…responding to the “How are you?” question with a simple “I am not okay.” Yes, I could have spent ten minutes trip talking, but going straight to the point was very cathartic. Just, no, I was upset and I felt like I had a reason to be upset and for whatever reason, I couldn’t stop being upset. What I love most (not really) about my counselor is that she will tell me when I’m wrong – but she didn’t this time, instead she really understood why I was hurt and even pointed out that most people would have been hurt. And that is also very releasing – not only ‘man, that sounds like it sucked,’ but also ‘PS…you’ve had a totally normal reaction, combined with a lot of luggage in the emotional backseat.’ The three to five days of tears may have been a bit overboard, but the initial reaction, on point.
I do like to disguise my problems – I don’t know if that’s a woman thing or a me thing. I also like to breed them…if I’m annoyed at one thing (and nobody seems to care) I will line up another thing and another thing and another thing into the annoyance queue, while impatiently waiting for someone, anyone, to pull the pin. I’ve gotten a lot better at it though – once I learned the ‘problem behind the problem’ or ‘underlying issue’ phrases actually did apply to me. I’ve discovered that nine out of ten times, I’m just anxious. The tenth time, I’m usually sad about something that I don’t want to admit being sad about for fear of looking weak.
Anyway, 45 minutes later – I was closer to okay. Not totally okay – that took some more sleep catching-up-on and re-acclimation to regular life.
The one where there weren’t characters preparing my meals, buses or boats to drive me everywhere, zero calorie popcorn and Wookie hugs.