Tag Archives: Momoir

A Momoir, Chapter 7: Hello, Happiness? Are you out there? Hello? Hello…?

happy

A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.

Despite being traced as far back as Jackie Kennedy, likely even earlier, I’d never heard this saying until my sister nonchalantly said it over Thanksgiving. My mind keeps coming back to it because it’s actually quite profound if you think about it. These days especially.

Why? Because as I’m finding out, a lot of kids really aren’t that happy. And if that saying holds any truth … good grief. There goes my dream of stress-free evenings of karaoke in my retirement village because there’s a fair chance I may be fretting forever.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately for good reason. With four kids in varying stages of young-adulthood there’s a smattering of unhappiness in my family on any given day. I can’t seem to keep up with it and most days I don’t know how to make it go away. As all moms know, the feeling of helplessness is the worst.

On the surface, my kids have lived fairly mundane, non-traumatic lives. Typical extraneous factors aside (not making a coveted team, middle school bullying, romantic heartbreak) they’ve all encountered life’s disappointments with little residual scarring. It might’ve helped that most of their setbacks were met with my steely shrugs. Hell, they were taught at an early age that toys from the dollar store would not last the car ride home: yes, you can have it but no crying when it breaks, k? Dry those eyes, get that chin up and move on. It’s not the end of the world. This too shall pass. Glass half full.

You get the picture.

But it seems my tough tactics notwithstanding, things got a little muddy in between SATs and graduation gowns. The Expectation vs. Reality of the real world is crippling our young adults and now I — and dozens of friends — are finding ourselves helping them navigate a reality they have been utterly unprepared for. I know plenty of kids (“kids” in their twenties) who are floundering, feeling unfulfilled, filing away their diplomas to work as bartenders and nannies and quitting six figure salary jobs because they’re just not happy. Um, what?

This confounds me for when I think back at my own young-adult journey it didn’t seem so … I don’t know, difficult. After turning my back on the circus that was high school (because hello, high school is a circus for every generation. Period.) I went off to college – where I stayed for four straight years: dropping classes, adding classes, switching majors, drinking too much, kissing wrong guys, coming home at Christmas because … everyone did. Three days after graduation I pounded the pavement with a neat stack of freshly typed resumes under my arm and took the first job offer that came. Thus began Chapter One of My So-Called Adult Life.

It was 1988 and we were all following the bread crumbs sprinkled by Gordon Gekko and Tess McGill (“….Leeeeeeeeeeet the river ruuuuuuuun!”) and when those first jobs sucked (at $14k a year most did), we typed up new resumes and got new ones. Chin up, move on.

We didn’t backpack through Europe. We didn’t take a gap year. We didn’t even come home from college until they closed the dorms on us. Today, if I had a dollar for every kid I know that went off to college and didn’t finish out the year (one of my own included) lord, I’d have some purdy nice things to unload on Ebay.

Sadly, our kids are setting out to find euphoric satisfaction in life and they’re becoming disillusioned to discover that is a most elusive achievement.

Recently I had a conversation with my daughter (23). I’ve written of her before because she is a brilliant being and a remarkable soul. She finished college in less than four years and is, ahem, no dummy. Currently she’s living across the country, experiencing the beauty of other regions, seeking her own life satisfaction and is – for the most part — happy. But she shared a thought with me that pointed out this dilemma rather succinctly. She said her generation has been groomed (thank you, Ted Talks and progressive professors) to be bold and follow their dreams. To engage in their passions. To focus on what makes them happy and just do it.

Yet what she and her friends are finding – all these years later – is that their passionate happy dreams … are not exactly paying their bills. Life, it turns out, is expensive. Some are becoming slowly cynical by this stark realization and finding themselves in a Now what? conundrum.

What’s so wrong with following your passion on the weekends? she mused.

I concurred and admitted that while I love to write, if I was forced to stare at my laptop and do it every single day I might begin to loathe it. Then I reminded her that most adults (cough, my age) don’t go skipping off to their jobs each morning singing songs and shitting confetti on their way but most would agree we’re happy nonetheless. Chin up, move on.

Her remarks made me believe that – despite the constant worry that comes with parenting a child from afar – the kid’s going to be alright. Luckily, she’s starting to get it (soooooo, talk to your bothers, will ya?).

Still, it got me thinking. Since all these grand ideas about happiness being force-fed into youthful minds are not turning out to be so grand after all, maybe there needs to be some menu changes on that advice buffet they’re chowing on.

For starters, we’re insisting that kids select college majors while they’re still in high school. That is absurd. The sheer amount of times my kids change their clothing or hair styles leaves me doubtful they’d ever stick with any decision that seemed like a good idea at 16 or 17.

We’re also jumping aboard a crazy train when it comes time for college applications. Here’s a thought: if a kid can barely get him/herself up and off to school – FOR FREE – what makes any parent think it’ll happen when they’re hundreds of miles away with thousands of dollars on the line and a gazillion other distractions?

Funny. We’re telling kids to go off and journey to find their life happiness when they’ve never used public transportation … or written out a check … or paid a bill … or even fully understand the words remit, interest, fee

I don’t know. Today is not the day I can solve this problem. It just seemed a helluva lot easier being content when we were blindly following the Brat Pack and dreaming about DeLoreans.

I keep my fingers crossed that my kids will come to learn that their road to happiness is winding and full of red lights …

… and that sometimes being stuck in a traffic jam allows a person some needed time to think about the direction s/he’s headed in …

… and that it’s always okay to change your course. Always.

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements. (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore). A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. And @Eyerollingmom on Instagram.

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

Chapter 1, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/07/29/a-collection-of-eyerolls-chapter-1-yes-billy-joel-we-will-all-go-down-together/

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

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Chapter 3: Sorry, We’re Tied: ALL Kids Are Filthy

chap 3

Kids are filthy.

From a sweet baby’s very first up-to-his-earlobes explosive poop to a darling daughter’s bloody bathroom waste basket to a teen son’s crunchy socks next to his bed (let’s do this together, shall we: ewwww), our kids are an abundance of nasty from the get-go.  The intensity of it simply grows as their size does.

Most parents usually evolve through these stages of mess and mayhem. I can’t speak for everyone but I know I am not alone in my transformation, having begun as the Organizer of Playsets After Bedtime (because, hello, Luke Skywalker, you do NOT belong with the Riddler) to where I am presently,  throwing up my hands in defeat and closing doors to the war zones I don’t want to see.

Oftentimes offspring go through transformations, too.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it happens but there’s an undetected moment in their lives when kids go from not bathing at all to taking forty minute showers. It may seem unexpected but at least for boys, it actually follows the natural progression of your hand lotion disappearing (again, in unison: ewwww).

I remember meeting someone for the first time and our cordial chatter revealed the ages of our children.  I think at the time my oldest might’ve been thirteen but his were a bit older.  At one point this dad rolled his eyes dramatically and quipped about paint peeling off the bathroom walls.  I smiled politely and moved on because I had no idea what he was he was talking about.  Before long, I did.

Ohhhh, the steam, now I get it ….  I’ve since had to repaint my bathroom.

I think we can all agree that every parent believes she has the world’s worst kid-and-hygiene story (“I’ll take Toenail Clippings in the Kitchen for $500, Alex”).  Arguably the most reviled aspect of parenting, yep, it’s a total bummer.  Every parent can relate to the appalling conditions of kids’ bathrooms because there’s really nothing like it.  For years I commuted using NYC subways and yes, those smelled better.  If I’m being honest the sheer concept of a kids bathroom is not something I was privy to until a few years ago.  I may be living like a filthy American these days (looking at you, separate potty room) but I actually grew up sharing a bathroom with four other people and raised my own family of six sharing one, too, for quite some time.  Personal sinks are sweet luxuries indeed — until it dawns on you you’re the only one cleaning them.  I may be fortunate enough now to have my own (ahem, master) bathroom but sadly it didn’t come with a moat — so keeping out the unwanted is an everyday struggle.  Now that I’ve seen how the other half lives, I don’t want to share.  I’ve never been a fan of the family bed and I am now less enamored of a family bathroom.  So yeah.  Get the fkkk out, spawn, and take your hash-marked boxer briefs and clumps of drain-clogging hair with you (and … while I’m at it … feel free to grab your dad on the way out).  There aren’t enough adjectives for gross.  At what age does a sanitary bathroom become important and why are there so many unanswered questions about it? How does toothpaste even get on mirrors?   If not on the mirror, why must it remain in a goop in the sink until it becomes cement? Are the fifteen empty shampoo bottle for a science project?  Do you really not see the pee hitting the floors/walls/heater ???   Gaack.

We love the stuffing outta them but our kids are disgusting.

Curdled baby vomit on our clothes (and no, the smell never comes out)

Poop, poop and more poop (and, in the case of boys, continuing FOREVER).

Bloodied knees, broken bones, cracked teeth.

September backpacks containing June lunches.

Service for six place settings under beds.

Yogurt spoons under couch cushions.

Insert your favorite find here:  _______________________________________________

I’ve no doubt a friend could top you.

Childhood is dirty and grimy but we all signed up for that.  Thanks to What to Expect When You’re Expecting (how in the world did our mothers ever do without it?)  we all knew what we were getting into.  What we didn’t see coming (because we expertly drowned out our own mothers) was the speed and monotony in which filth flies at us beyond diaper duty.

The good news is, there’s relief if you want it.  You just have to want it bad enough and change your behavior – not theirs.   We have to essentially, well, give up.  Raise that white flag and sing that annoying song from Frozen.  When I finally realized Barbies and Bratz were living harmoniously despite which bin I strategically placed them in each evening, I gave that up.  When I saw that every other ‘tween on the planet was wearing a similar stained hoodie at the bus stop every day in lieu of a winter coat, I gave that up, too.  Eventually I also stopped stripping beds and taught my kids how to change their own linens.  My kids spend ridiculous amounts of time cleaning their bodies – only to put on dirty clothes and sleep in smelly sheets and I am the only one bothered by this?   Really.  Who’s the crazy one here?

I totally get why it’s a struggle for some moms to give up.  The older our babies get, the less they need us.  Throw in a cell phone and kids can communicate within 160 characters and go a few days at a time without a complete sentence grunted in our direction.   Letting go of the actions that keep us maternally connected is extremely hard.  It’s in our DNA:  we need to be needed and it’s sad to watch that slip away.  What we don’t need is the constant thanklessness that comes with say, doing laundry:  When that epiphany hits it’s like a Costco-sized tub of Tide falling on your foot.  Good grief, how many times was I going to throw half a basket of clothes into a washing machine before realizing they were still neatly folded from the last time I’d cleaned them?  Cue the veins bulging.  Think about it: doing daily laundry for four able-bodied beings capable of keeping my grocery tab at triple digits each week.  I began to realize I was perpetually irritable most of the time. I’m not sure what it took to hammer that last nail into my Whirlpool coffin but one day I just stopped.  I was younger than junior high when I’d started doing my own laundry (you were, too) and here I was enabling my adolescents far beyond that.  I was suddenly embarrassed by it.  So I walked away from doing their laundry with nary a threat or a door slam and never looked back.  What’s that sound, you ask?  Freedom bells ringing.

That was definitely one of my Great Mom Moments to date but I haven’t reached Grand Master Level just yet.  To be clear, there’s still a tsunami of mess in my home at any given time if I don’t keep up with the nagging but I’ve grown wiser as well as weary.  I now dangle car keys until rooms are picked up and I’ve been known to make bacon and refuse to slide it over until trash cans are brought in, dogs are walked and the mystery smell is unearthed in the mudroom.  When things are gettin’ done I guess the strategy doesn’t matter.

And their bathroom?  Please.  I still rarely go in there.  Some days I just can’t do it.  But they’re learning:  now I won’t let their boy/girlfriends come over until they clean it.   Ahhh, the enchanting effect of the adolescent significant other.  I do believe I’ve come up with another chapter.  Stay tuned!

 

*   *   *   *

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

Chapter 1, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/07/29/a-collection-of-eyerolls-chapter-1-yes-billy-joel-we-will-all-go-down-together/

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6:  Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook and @Eyerollingmom on Instagram.