Monday, June 6, 2016

Surviving the Shit Show

It's been awhile since I've written as I have been under the spell of PTSS: Parenting Teen Survival Shitshow. So instead of writing I've been eating, knitting, worrying, eating some more, watching lots of TV, freaking out, upping the daily wine intake, crying, buying too many cute tops, and spending a little too much quality time in the fetal position. To sum up, my soul hurts and I've gained four pounds.

Don't feel sorry for me, and don't secretly blame Teenagers 1 & 2. I've done enough of that for all of us. No, the cause of my PTSS rests entirely on my shoulders. It stems from two life long chinks in my armor
  1. Caring what other people think
  2. Wanting a Happily Ever After
1. It starts with sizing up each others strollers and birthday party favors, grows into how early our spawn could read chapter books and speak fluent Mandarin, evolves into SAT scores, college acceptances and class ranks and continues through gainful employment, marriages, who gets grandkids first and what kind of strollers we will buy them. Why the fuck would I base the success of my parenting on a comparison some other parent might make about the bounty of my kid's party goody bag that is ultimately destined to become a choking hazard for the dog. It's not because I'm as shallow as I sound, it is because every day of parenting is like waking up and not knowing the rules of the game, and the only way to learn the rules is to watch how others play. The trap is charting your success based on how well they are playing the game; when really, the best way to pass GO and collect $200 is to watch your own kid. Because they are their own hybrid Parker Brothers rendition of LIFE, Stratego, Trivial Pursuit, Yahtzee, and (in my house) Hungry Hungry Hippos.

2. Everything is not going to be ok...ever...after. It's just not. Sometimes it will be for a moment or a series of moments, or maybe even twenty-four hours of moments. But then the sink will get clogged the night before Thanksgiving, or your dog will get fleas or your child will fail a class or you'll get a cold sore the morning you are scheduled to get your driver's license picture taken. And there are so many more not okay moments that can engulf you in a stress eating, wine indulgent one too many cute tops haze of misery, which triggers flaw # 1 causing you to bitterly wonder why everyone else is so happy. And then you miss the small moments like teenager #1 saying "thank you for making me breakfast" or teenager # 2 feeding the dog without being reminded, or when you realize Abreva really is a fast acting cold sore remedy. Then within one of those moments you realize that "it's going to be okay" is not an empty hope, it is the baseline from which we all operate, stray and return to. Because "children will listen," (thank you Stephen Sondheim); they do get it, even if they don't get that they get it, and you realize Happily Ever After is not a destination it is an operating system, it is a foundation. Just don't be fooled by the word 'Happily;" it does not have to mean birds singing, champagne flowing, and kissing in the rain, it can simply mean that everything is ok for this moment.

Back to this current "ok" moment. It still exists in the eye of a shit storm, and an hour from now I will most likely be taking deep cleansing breaths as I await the exam returns to see if he really, will graduate (yes folks, it's that much of a nail biter). I started this post wanting to talk about the PTSD of parenting, but that felt self-indulgent and disrespectful to the actual sufferers of that difficult disorder. The reality is that parenting my teens has taken a toll. Not a novel eureka moment. Acknowledging this toll, however reminds me of the complexity of love. Love is a miraculous gift of pitfalls, vulnerability and breathtaking wows. It is a shit storm that tests, reveals and stretches your humanity. It is a faceted privilege that takes its toll; and by doing so it exposes and strengthens your core by tattooing your soul with the impact of another. And I am thankful to my flawed and fabulous teenagers for that.

I am also thankful for Zoloft.


  1. Spot on, Mary, as always. Fingers crossed for that exam!

  2. You got this, Mary! How did Economics go?