With soon-to-be two daughters in college I should have seen this coming, shouldn’t I? All of my angst as a stay-at-home mom facing the future of an empty nest has come down to this one little truth: it costs money to send kids to college.
It’s not as if we haven’t been saving for this for years or that I had not known somewhere in the back of my mind that it would be a good idea to have two incomes for two tuitions; it’s just that I seemed to move from “someday” to already five weeks into a job in a quick hurry. I went from “I should start checking into what it would take to get on the substitute teaching call list so I can start subbing next fall” to starting to work in the local city clerk’s office two days after I casually mentioned to the Clerk that if they ever needed part-time help, they should call me.
I’m on both sides of the fence, really. I feel both lucky that I could find something so close and congenial to my schedule and gobsmacked that I now have a time card and a boss, without having a chance to mourn the loss of my formerly self-scheduled days. All of a sudden I had to scramble to find pants that weren’t jeans and fill out a W-4 form and there has been no chance to look back. Now I find my days melting one into the other and my appreciation of those that have been working all this time growing exponentially.
With so many out of work in this economy, I can’t complain about any of the small annoyances associated with having to wear less comfortable clothes or be in to work by a certain time. Instead, every time I feel myself starting to grouse about having to go to work, I remember how very, very lucky I was to be able to stay home with my kids for so long.
I left work for my children, and now I’ve gone back for the same reason. *whistles*
My oldest chick moved to the dorm without too much fanfare at the end of this summer. She’s doing well and seems to be integrating into campus life; she’s not a source of worry for me. Though I miss her, I feel okay with it all. Time will tell how each of us will react to being separated, but I am hopeful we’ll grow both closer and more independent of each other. That’s the way life is, and a pretty good definition of parenting success.
Since she now lives two hours away from us, visits are further apart, though not non-existent. I got the chance to drive up there by myself last month for a day of visiting, and she got to show me around and introduce me to her roommates and new habitat. We shopped and ate, and I hunkered down in a corner of the dorm lobby and read while she went to a class. It was good for both of us.
With the dust settling on that change, I am finding that having fewer people in the house means more time for me to spend with the two remaining chicks. The way school day mornings work out the younger two leave at different times, not even crossing paths most days. I get to spend breakfast time with the youngest, and then roust the next oldest in time to drive her to school. That provides at least a few minutes to chat and make sure all is well before her day crashes in, full force. Separate activities allow us to have separate time with both, and I’ve been making a more conscious effort to do things individually with each one.
I’m not the only one that is getting more one on one time with other family members. The two youngest girls seem to be enjoying each other more as well, and though we still have moments of friction, they may be realizing that they only have each other now. Their elder sister is missed, and so perhaps their bond is more appreciated. It’s nice to see them actually sharing and spending down time together. It wasn’t always like that.
When the five of us are back together to go up to the Inn for Thanksgiving it may feel a little strange, and I didn’t really anticipate that twist. Our current duet will become a trio again; I hope it remains harmonious.
The kitten we adopted in May had his requisite session under the knife two weeks ago, and though he certainly still acts like a baby, I can’t really continue to call him one. After our big cat died in January, I wasn’t sure how we would ever cope with having another animal to care for and watch over. After the rigmarole involved with deciding upon a kitten and making the house and family ready for his integration, I was still shaking my head. The fluffball came to live with us, staying on the back porch until we were sure he wouldn’t bring any dangerous diseases to our grown cats, and then, kaboom.
He’s taken over the house.
He has a definite swagger to his walk, though it’s a charming one. He has made pacts with both older cats, though they vary wildly from “I’ll attack you whenever I want; as long as you wrestle with me, we’ll get along just fine” to “I’ll bow and look down whenever we meet, though I’ll never give up trying to get a rise out of you”. Hear a big crash or a muffled thump? Better go look. Stepping out of any room with a formerly closed door? Better look down because more often than not, he’s stretched out at the sill, waiting for you. Arriving home after five hours (or even five minutes) away? He comes running with a growly meow and a purr strong enough to jumpstart your heart.
As long as we don’t feed him after midnight, we’ll be okay. Yes, his name is Gizmo. At least we named him after the friendly and cuddly Mogwai and not the destructive Gremlins – though there always seems to be a mysterious gleam in his eye that makes me think the gremlin part of him is not really that far away.
Well, this is awkward.
“What happened to your blog?”
“Why don’t you post anymore?”
I must admit that when I first created “One Bird At A Time” and made the decision to post every day I worried about running out of material to write about. Luckily, things just kept happening and I found plenty I wanted to turn over in my mind, making sense of as I filled the page. Things are still happening, perhaps even more than before, but the effort of examination may have become too much. Meeting my daily goal became a little obsessive, and I pre-planned posts for days I knew I’d be busy. Sometimes I wrote when I needed to be doing other things.
I also found that writing so publicly is a balancing act. I chose to write about things as they affected me, yet I tried to avoid bruising others. Walking on familial eggshells put a bit of a damper on some of the things I could write comfortably about. The kicker about trying to be so diplomatic was that the entries that helped me most were the ones that were somewhat controversial. It’s hard to both please yourself and not embarrass those around you when you enter the blogging world.
I liked seeing my thoughts blossom and finding out what life meant to me. I appreciated friends commenting and sharing insights, whether it was a hearty “Yes! That’s how I feel too!” or pointing out another side to my story. Re-reading old posts reinforced lessons learned so I wouldn’t repeat mistakes and let me look back and see exactly when I turned a particular corner.
When I broke my daily streak at the same time that my life got busier with end of school year activities and plans, I did what was easiest. I quit writing. No one to worry or offend or embarrass, and writing takes time that I couldn’t find, at least the way I do it. I like to let it stew on the page for a while, eventually stirring the the ideas I start with into just the right dish with just the right flavor.
Will I get back to regularly posting? I hope so, with a little more kindness and understanding toward myself. It’s less effort to let life flow past, largely untasted, unexamined. After all, that’s what I seem to have been doing most of my adult life. Lately, however, I find phrases and ideas popping into my head as I try to fall asleep; posts writing themselves in my subconscious. I miss writing.
I took the path of least resistance, and that has made all the difference.
This is it. My eldest daughter’s last day of public school. How could that be? I remember so well her first day of kindergarten, and if I was organized enough I would be able to find one of the many pictures I took that morning.
I couldn’t understand the mothers who went to Tea and Tissues with the principal after teary goodbyes, reluctantly allowing their children to finally enter the classroom, some of the kids crying too. This was a milestone! School was what we had been preparing for and working toward for the past five years, ever since the little bundle met us. She attended preschool for a couple of years, to gradually get her ready. We happily helped her learn her letters and colors, so she wouldn’t go in at a disadvantage. She was a social child, so no worries there. The day arrived and she went to her new classroom with curiosity and a smile and I pushed her sister’s stroller home, a bounce in my step.
There have been a few rough patches between that day and this. I have been disappointed in grades at times, but never in my child. Teachers have been great and not so great. Friendships have come and gone, hearts have been hurt, more lessons have been learned than were in the school curriculum. Triumphs and tragedies; all were so important in the moment and forgotten in the blur now.
Today was a little different in tone than that day so long ago. Instead of picking out her outfit and helping her dress, brushing her hair and assisting her as she loaded her new backpack, I stood in a quiet kitchen making the last school lunch that I ever would for her. She breezed down the stairs and packed it up and was out the door and driving away before I could snap one picture.
Maybe my Tea and Tissues day was just delayed thirteen years.
Four days should be long enough to name a little kitten, shouldn’t it? After waiting patiently for the girls to shift toward a decision, I set an arbitrary deadline of nine o’clock last night, just to try to move the process along. The time limit came and went, through heated discussions, hurt feelings, and a few shortlisted white-bread names that nobody was really ecstatic about. Even threatening to name him “Spitvalve” if they couldn’t settle on anything before then didn’t seem to light a fire under anybody.
I don’t know why, but it seems that it’s important to pick the right name for the little ball of fluff. Something that shows some creativity, some character, something the kitten can grow into a cat with and still be dignified. My daughters spent a little while discussing how a name is something that molds the animal. If it’s a good name, it will be a good pet. Personally, I think the name ends up fitting as they get older not because they grow into it or live up to it, but rather because we spend all this time picking something that will fit the personality or looks that we can perceive already. The name doesn’t make the cat: the cat makes the name. This pet belongs to them, though, not me. Therefore it is their job to successfully name it, by whatever means necessary.
Everyone submitted some names for the list, then we all got to initial three of them. Any names without initials beside got tossed on the first round. On the second round, we only got two votes. On the third, we each got one. Of course, by this time only the ordinary names had survived. Anything with any character or personality had been vetoed by one or the other of them. Compromise only gets so far before it becomes either defeat or victory for someone. As long as only two of the three girls agree on any given name, there are winners and losers.
After waiting all evening for the white smoke to come up the Vatican chimney, I conceded defeat and sent the youngest to bed without a clear consensus. We may have to start with fresh suggestions and see where we are tonight after another day of wrangling.
I’m getting tired of referring to him as “kitty” – Spitvalve is starting to sound quite good.
Words parents are loath to hear: “Mom! The neighbors found a litter of kittens under their back porch… Can we have one?”
For years I have had to be the bad guy. When we pass cute puppies and kittens at the pet store, I don’t have the luxury of oohing and ahhing over the little rascals. Any softening of my demeanor would indicate weakness and the entreaties would start. I appreciate baby animals as much, if not more, than the next guy, but my role is that of The Denyer.
“We already have three cats. There isn’t room for any more pets at our house,” has been my standard reply. It was an easy one. The reasoning couldn’t be disputed, and they came to expect it. That argument was lost in January when our sweet cat died and three quietly became two. His loss took more out of me than I really wanted to admit, and I was hoping they wouldn’t notice the hole in my logic for a while longer. It’s a parent’s job to take the long view, to see past tiny paws and adorable whiskers. When the little kitten that they want reaches the other end of its life my three chicks will be long out of the nest and it will be me left sitting beside the cat as it purrs its last.
When the litter was discovered I knew, deep down, that I was sunk. All of the other cats we have rescued since my daughters were born have been ‘teenagers’; lanky and small, but not a ball of fluff with ears. We have never had a tiny kitten to raise, and the girls began to remind me of that. They chipped away at the chink in my defense and widened it, reminding me that it was now or never for my eldest daughter. Soon she would be heading to college and getting a kitten in the Fall wouldn’t really be fair to her, in spite of the fact that we had joked that we would get one after she moved out and give it her name and room to live in. They wheedled for days and I shut down the topic for as long as possible, but my hold on my objections began to loosen. The girls knew I had relented even before I did and were at the car by the time I said “let’s just go and take a look”.
The inevitable stared me in the eye, and it purred.