It’s not often I upset my oldest daughter in a superior fashion, but I did it not long ago.
The catalyst for the anger really isn’t important . . . and it’s personal so I’m not going to go into major details of what happened.
But it upset her, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since the first weeks after losing my wife, her mother. That, in turn, upset me. It’s not that her crying or anger or upset behavior was what did it. What made me feel the worst was the fact that I had been selfish and ignored any kinds of signs that built up to this display of emotion. That was silly of me since I’d been keenly aware of her brother, who had not dealt, completely, with his mother’s passing, either.
But in talking with therapists, colleagues, relatives, friends, hell I talked with all but the plumber who lives down the street . . . it’s abundantly clear that my actions alone didn’t cause what was the teenage equivalent of steam blowing out of her ears.
This is a year . . . for that matter, it’s a season . . . full of change for her. What she didn’t realize is that it’s a major time filled with change for all of us. In the middle of the chaos of her emotions, still swimming – even if she wouldn’t admit it – from hormones and grief, she is facing a massive change in her life.
This wouldn’t even be the biggest issue. Every kid – hell every family, and make no mistake, we’re all having to face these changes – goes through the stress and uncertainty of choosing and eventually moving to a college. This signals a change in your life because your daily life is now under your control and yours alone, for the most part. Sure, just like me, when she needs help, she’ll call her Dad and I’ll do whatever I can whenever I can. She’s chosen a school on the left side of the country so she’s not so far away I can’t help.
But this breakdown came in the middle of wondering if she’d actually be able to choose or get into one of the colleges she wanted. Her dream school was NYU, but beyond the fact that there is a major amount of work and craziness to get into their drama department, she also realized that their tuition – with no financial aid given at all – was equivalent to 2/3 my salary a year. Not something you should take in school loans for an industry she’ll likely make little or nothing at in the first few years.
But add to that the fact that this change comes after two years of horrific, major changes for her. She lost her mother. Her father changed jobs (out of necessity). We lost our home. Then . . . for the same reason she couldn’t go to NYU . . . I had to move her out of the private school she was attending due to the fact I just couldn’t afford it. We went from a dual-income family to a sole provider in a week’s time.
Moving schools scarred her. It really did. She lost a lot of daily friendship . . . daily friendship that just reminded her, day after day, after day, that she wasn’t there by sending her emails, Facebook posts, Tweets, and whatever other social media reminders of “miss you!” and “wish you were here!” and “why did you have to go?!” That wore on her. Then trying to make friends at a school where everyone by junior year had found their social circles . . . even worse. Add to that the stress of boys asking cute underclass girls to prom and homecoming and you’re a senior with no date . . . for the same above reasons . . . and her life was crazy.
Then I came along with one little selfish event . . . and it wasn’t even the final straw, it was the half a broken piece of hay that flitted onto the final straw on the camel’s back and we watched the humps slam together and jiggle in their collapse as the camel himself broke in twain.
She’s doing so much better now, but the distance . . . the tiniest distance . . . it’s still there. The tight-knit, insane closeness we always had isn’t quite as tight.
Part of it is my fault. Part isn’t. But one thing I realized, and now she has too, is that everybody ought to make a change. Sometimes for the best…others because it’s just part of life. None of us wanted the crazy two years we’ve had, but then it came like a storm through the streets of our lives. We nailed down everything we could, but sometimes . . . things just float away. That’s what happened with us.
But with a college chosen, school nearing its end, the new life, without people asking about what happened to her Mom, or how much work she has to do, or her father’s personal life or how he cares for 4 kids alone . . . that all goes away.
It was a good thing that for once, she sees this, finally, as a change for the better.