Tag Archives: madness

The Mess and the Madness

My demolition team – the madness in my method.

Most nights are stressful, sure.  I mean, you can’t raise kids – any number, not just the kids I’m raising – and not have your days being just a little befuddled by the actions of your children.  I had no idea, though, just how crazy my evening was to become, simply from the actions of four small people.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I was already a lot tired and more than a bit confounded on my way home.  I’d physically had an exhausting day.  I also had an announcement of my news manager leaving that threw me for a bit of a loop.

I should have seen it coming.  I was at the State Capitol today doing an interview on a story I hope to run tomorrow and my personal cell phone rang . . . while I was on the work cell for my story.  My oldest daughter is on the other line, panicking a bit and out of breath.
“Dad, the blinds are falling down!”
“What do you mean they’re falling down?!”
“There’s these clips that hold up the blinds over the sliding glass door.  They’re really heavy, we’re trying to hold them up, and my arms are almost asleep.”

She wasn’t crying or anything, sounded more frustrated and upset than sad and freaked out.
“How many are still attached,” was my question.
“One.”
“Well, see if you can get it down without breaking it.  Those are expensive and it’s NOT our house!”
They got it off and I told them I’d look at it when I got home.

Getting home, though, the house looked like a police action had been fought in the main rooms of our house.  The front room was filled with old school projects – ones that weren’t out and hadn’t been removed from their backpacks on Friday – the last day of school.  You might think they were packing for Thursday’s trip to Nebraska but you’d be wrong.  No real reason, just paper and crap strewn across the floor unceremoniously.  I moved into the kitchen where the table was moved about 5 feet toward the front room and the chairs upturned and moved around.  The 8-foot-tall vertical  blinds were now horizontal and in front of the sliding glass door.  The pans from last night Hannah swore on penalty of death she’d clean when she woke up had somehow bred and multiplied like a family of rabbits.  In the living room there were more school papers, Legos and video games.  The blinds in that room were now sideways and askew, like a painting whose wire slipped off its hook and now sat at a 45 degree angle.

“What the hell happened in there?!”
“Well, we were trying to watch John Carter on  DVD and Hannah yanked on the cord for the blinds and this fell out.”
Abbi handed me a spring that apparently is the one key mechanism to the entire mechanism.  One small, flat, piece of metal that somehow balances heavy, vinyl blinds that I don’t even own.  I saw dollar signs floating out of the windows.

Bear in mind I still have about 5 loads of laundry and suitcases to pack and have yet to get the checks from the IRS for our tax return I filed three months ago so paying for parking and luggage will be fun at the airport Thursday.

I had planned on making pizza for dinner – something I make homemade so that we at least feel like we had some semblance of homemade dinner for the night.  But I couldn’t even get to the stove to fry hamburger or the countertop to spread out dough.  It was mess squared.  This after my exhausting day of walking around the capitol all day and chasing interviews that didn’t want to talk with us . . . not necessarily.

I immediately barked at Hannah – “you know, I let you go to bed last night because you said “is it OK if I wash these when I get up Dad?”  What . . . did you wake up 15 minutes ago?  It’s 7:30 in the evening, Hannah!”
“Oh.”
“Yeah, ‘OH,’ what the hell happened in here?!”

I sat on the couch and surveyed the carnage that was strewn around me.  I got a myriad of apologies.  Abbi said “it’s no one’s fault, really” and I wanted to punch her.

You see, in a moment of absolute stupidity only a teenager and her siblings could have mustered they decided it was too hard to see the TV, watching a DVD, and decided it’d be a great idea to put blankets over the windows.  Now, I get that.  It’s bright.  Maybe the afternoon sun was reflecting on the TV because my middle child in a moment of iron man strength broke the shades so they couldn’t shut.  But if you put blankets on said shades, would you, with them hung over the edge and all but attached then yank on them from the bottom pulling with all your might?  My children did.

So now I get to walk through the house and pick up my dead and healing those I can.  I spent half an hour trying to figure out what they did to the kitchen blinds.  I managed, while Hannah cleaned the dishes, to make dinner.  I threw out what I could and the boys informed me “at least we cleaned up the recycling and took it out, Dad!”
My response?  “Where’d you put it?  The garbage cans are still out on the curb!”
“Oh.”

I now hate the letter “O”

After they all went to bed I sat on the couch in the midst of the battlefield and just stared around.  I watched a movie with my daughter, staring at the room at the end and she headed to bed.  I tried to fix the blinds in the living room too, but stared there at them wondering what to do next.  The horizontal blinds were now semi-vertical.  Vertical blinds horizontal.  My head, back and legs hurt.

God help me, though, I’ll miss this.  Well, not the destruction and damage.  THAT, my friends, is never fun.  But even the balance I need to strike and the push to keep the kids in line and shape their day.  In three days I’m without them for the entire summer.  Not something I’m actually looking forward to.  It’s not that I have a choice, particularly now.  When new management comes in, contract or no, you need to put on a good showing so that you look good.

So I start to clear the battlefield when I decide to just leave it, for tonight anyway.  The morning will feel particularly worse with all this damage surrounding us, but I can let the kids forage for space themselves this morning.

They drive me to madness, they really do, but without the madness, you don’t really know if you’re sane, do you?

The Madman Across the…er River

Alright, it’s a stretch when trying to pry a title to fit a song, but hey.  I’m musical and more often than not the titles and lyrics give inspiration to what I am writing.  I say “madman” because I think sometimes my children see me that way, not as some crazed character out of a Jethro Tull record but as the guy who cannot control his flustered disarray when his kids come to him with more than a little insanity.

It doesnt’ help that in avoiding the crush of others’ grief around Andrea’s passing I took the kids out of town just two weeks before their Spring Break.  Now I have to find ways to get them watched as their school is a week off from everyone else’s.  On top of that, the school decides to spring half-days and inservice and “monthly minimum day” on me and I’m bouncing around spending more time looking for ways to get them picked up and cared for than actually making dinner or doing laundry.  Then there’s the insanity of home on top of it all.

The start of the latest bout of madness started when we got back.  I have already chronicled the need for others to reflect their grief onto me and the kids.  I won’t bore you with that again, if you want go back a couple days and you can read about it.  But this is the normal minutia of life that needles me and crawls under my skin like a splinter.  Hannah, my middle child, who I have a good relationship with, confounds me at times.  I am a middle child.  I know the trials and tribulations.  I try very hard not to favor one child over another.  It appears at times I give Abbi a wider berth, but it’s not true.  I just have to rely on her age and driver’s license more than the others.  If Hannah was 16 my life would be inordinately easier, but she’s also a different kid and a lot different personality.

Let me explain: Abbi has much of her mother’s personality.  That’s good on many fronts.  That’s bad on others.  Abbi, my oldest, is insanely responsible.  She likes the responsibility and has always been close to me.  She sits next to me on the couch, hugs me when she’s feeling bad and chastises me when I’m sick and refusing to go to the doctor.  But that same reliance breeds a bit of over-confidence.  Telling her sister to avoid some homework that is likely not getting turned in on time or saying she’ll watch the kids but leaving them to their own devices and going into her room to video chat or play “words with friends”.  The consequences lead to other things, like Hannah coming to my car in the middle of her homeroom in tears.

“I don’t have my math homework!  Abbi said not to bring it!”
“Didn’t you finish it?”
“Well, most of it.”
“What did I tell you to do?!”
“Finish my homework.”
“And what did you do?”
“What Abbi said.”
“So…who is your father in this house?  Who’s the parent.”
“You are.”
“And . . . who was right?”
“You, Dad.”

I had watched her do most of her homework, and she had a deal with me.  One more missed assignment and she’s not getting to go to a concert with her sister and I.  It’s the deal she made.  The one before: no basketball, soccer, nothing because she was failing classes due to the fact she wasn’t turning in homework.  Now, some of it she just didn’t do.  Others?  She’d done the work and wouldn’t turn it in!  I was flabbergasted.  How could you do the homework and not turn it in for the points?  I mean . . . sure, you may get some wrong, but some points are better than no points right?! 

Add Noah and Sam into the mix, having to see a “grief counselor” when they didn’t want or need one and I was starting to pull out my hair  (Which, with the short haircut I have is no small feat, let me tell you!)  Then there’s Abbi . . . my amazing oldest child still has issues that stem from the pieces of her mother that reside in her.  The need for perfection burns inside her to her detriment.  If she gets less than an “A” she’s upset.  Yet, the desire to procrastinate often overwhelms the desire to get that grade.  So when it all comes to a head and she cannot get it done she comes to me in a panic.  The thing is, I am doing the best I can, really I am, but I’m a guy.  I’m not a girl.  There’s not much estrogen pulsing around in my veins, at least I don’t think there is.   (OK, I have some pounds to lose, but I don’t think I’ve gained enough I have man boobs or anything, so let’s leave the mental imagery there, OK?)  So the balance I have to strike between the need to just listen and be comforting – what a girl her age needs quite often in her hormonal and confused state – is often fighting with my male tendency to want to fix things.  I want to pick her up, tell her what she needs to do and show her where the fault in her system lies.

Some days, though, I get that wrong.  It drives me . . . well . . . MAD!  I will tell her what I think her options are and she gets mad and frustrated.  She starts – much like her mother – to push my buttons in a way only Andrea could, yelling at me and saying the things that she knows full well make my blood boil.  The difference here, and the advantage I have, I suppose, is I’m not her equal.  I’m her Dad, and I can force my experience on her when it’s for her own good.  I often mistakenly tell her “If you’d taken the last two days to do this work you wouldn’t be in this predicament, would you?!”  That’s the absolute wrong thing to say when she’s hysterical and needing to calm down.

It’s the 2×4 method.  That’s what I call it: “tell me when you want ideas to help you” is what I tell her and her sister.  “If you don’t I’ll just assume you need me to be there and I will be.  Always.”

It works.  Last time she was in a panic.  I forced her, under duress (Oh, lots of duress) to go to sleep.  “You’re exhausted and you won’t do anything right.  You’ll read or write the same line over and over and over again and not understand what you’re doing.  Take a breath, sleep right now for 4 or 5 hours and then get up really early, drink some coffee, and finish.”

While she disagreed with the method, when I got up not long after her to cook breakfast she’d finished all the work.  it wasn’t perfect, and that’s what was bugging her.  That’s her mother in her. 

But sometimes you cannot be perfect, the message that all four of them are getting from me.  Sometimes you’re not even close to the border of sanity.  Sometimes you’re the madman across the water, but that’s OK.  Because perfection is overrated.  It’s the mistakes, the little things, the sharp and flat notes in the song that give it emotion and humanity.  If all your life you know perfection you never know reality.  And sometimes, there’s a method in the madness.