The struggle bus
I’m the driver, passenger and roadkill — all at the same time
In November, I wrote a chipper little column about my daughter’s messy bedroom and how I just ignore it, keep her door closed and hope she outgrows it.
Soon after joking about her sleeping with junk food wrappers in her bed and bureau drawers exploding open and spilling onto the floor, I begrudgingly went in there to get dishes so I could fill the dishwasher. Like a baseball bat in the stomach it hit me; not the mess, but what the mess represented. And it brought me to tears.
Standing in the middle of her room surrounded by it all, I felt an overwhelming sadness. It finally sunk through my thick skull because I personalized it. I considered how I feel when the rest of my house is messy — depressed, angry, overwhelmed.
I thought about my daughter sitting cross-legged on her bed, all her homework spread out around her, having those feelings. Teenagers have so many balls they are trying to keep in the air, and my kid is no exception — so much homework, a sports team that keeps her at school until 4:30 every day, two clubs that generate work. To sit in her filthy room where she’s unable to find anything cannot possibly alleviate her stress or enable her to be calm and organized.
Yes, I want her to be independent and responsible and to take care of herself. But maybe I am putting the onus of accomplishment of those things on her too soon. Despite her vehement desires to be perceived as older, she still needs my help, support and back up.
I don’t want her to struggle over trite things. I want her to feel supported, and know peripheral things around her busy life are being taken care of so she can focus on school.
So yeah, I will make her bed again, clean up the dishes, trash and laundry. The four hours she has from the end of sports until bedtime need to be a calm time for her to do homework and get ready for the next day — which will be just as stressful as this one.
I will drive her to school and (mostly) accept that she will be tense and stressed out on the ride, and I am just the bus driver who does not rate any morning pleasantries. I will accept the complaints that she can’t find the clothes I put away for her.
I will continue to hold her up, even as she angrily pushes my supporting hands away. Because if I can supply even an iota of stress relief to her now, I’m hopeful that someday it will pay off, and we can both get off the bus.
Kathleen Palmer is an award-winning editor and journalist, marketing/communications content writer and occasional comedic actress. Nothing makes her happier than making people laugh. She is a single mom to a teenager, so naturally she enjoys a glass of wine, or two.