Thursday, January 10, 2013

Creatures of Habit

Happy New Year!
We are well into the New Year and slowly, I am getting my s#!+ together again.  For the holidays, our nest filled up and as of today, one kid has departed, one remains and my daughter’s new boyfriend has roosted here for a while before they make the trek back to Baltimore for her final semester at college…yippee!
But, since December 16th, my life has been such a whirlwind; I just don’t feel quite right.  I must admit with great guilt and anticipation…I want my empty nest back…just so I can get back to my routines.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been late for stuff…or worse completely blanked about an appointment or two…because my routines have been rerouted for other people’s priorities, schedules and needs.
Someone once told me it takes 10 days to break a habit and 21 days to form a new one.  So knowing this, perhaps you can understand my personal crazy at having my kids at home for the extended holiday vacation.  Between holiday traditions, winter cravings and individual dietary desires, my diet has been assaulted but despite the barrage of processed foods, I have been pretty faithful to my healthy eating habits…as much as the holiday calendar has allowed, I have stuck to my workouts…but all other routines, habits and strategies seemed to have been usurped by ghosts of Christmas past. 
Once a momma, always a momma…something happens to our (adult) children when they return to the nest…they yearn to be cared for and as Momma Bird, initially it is a great pleasure to comply…but after a few days and several mounds of stinky laundry parked before the dryer…something creeps in…For months out of the year, my children can feed and clothe themselves.  They do laundry, wash dishes, make beds and put stuff away…but coming home to the place they have known for 13 years and parents they’ve known a lifetime…somehow they forget all this stuff.  One child reverts to 12 years old and clamors for every family tradition to be crammed into every available moment she is here…hence her desire to have Mommy do it.  The other strives for quality time with everyone…she’ll do any chore you ask…as long as she has company doing it… and of course  you have to ask her to do something…Heck!  I had children so I wouldn’t have to do chores!
I am a bit exhausted with all this juggling of needs, desires and probably the most difficult, expectations.  Somewhere, somehow, my family has created the “Hallmark” expectation…every moment together filled with joy and happiness…birds chirping, cookies baking…and most times, we miss the mark…I am just happy we are together, healthy and comfortable in our own skin…but this artifice of home, sweet,  perfect  home, is very stressful.  There have been days when, because my routines are interrupted or something else, like a hot flash or I am human…I get a wee bit grouchy…due to holiday scheduling, I missed a number of workouts and paid more than one price for having done so…I am back to three times a week …thank goodness….oops, digressed with too many phrases! Ok… But there were some moments when I thought my eyes would get stuck in the back of my head from rolling them so much…it is a defense mechanism so I won’t overreact to the dumbest things…be honest, you know what I mean.  How many times can one go to the cupboard for a coffee cup to find it empty, turn around and see every mug, tea cup, travel mug and yes even lidded paper cups perched precariously in and around the sink…awaiting Mommy to deal with them?  Let me tell you…three!  After that, I started hiding clean mugs and let the rest of them contemplate just how much they wanted hot beverages!  The one situation that really piqued my ire was, once the family realized that I stopped maid service when I turned 50, they pitched in to “clean” the kitchen but, they would  leave serving spoons, baking dishes and various other sundries of common culinary usage on the kitchen table…because they didn’t know where that stuff belonged… as a mature, reasonable woman, I dealt with this the best way I knew how… I opened the bar cabinet, poured myself a little vodka and politely turned to them asking if they considered opening any one of the doors, drawers or containers about the kitchen and see what was contained therein…um, hello…those serving spoons we have been using for nearly 30 years and I have always kept in the silver ware drawer…yup, those…can go back there…the baking dish, which is a part of a “nesting” set…yup…it goes in the same drawer as the rest of them…the coffee mugs…go in the  gall-dern cabinet over the coffee maker at the coffee bar…you know the one I custom designed 8 years ago when we redid the kitchen…and from whence you took that cup!!  Grrrr…I am ok.
In the midst of the homecoming and holidays, we did hit a bit of a turning point.   I was putting the finishing touches on a little book I have been working on for a while now.  And there were times when I would ask for help or attempt to squirrel away time to attend to it and you’d think I’d run away…I did stake my claim to this as it is important to me…more important than watching NCIS re-runs….and once the family noted its importance to me, and the invitation to be a part of the process…we had some fun with final taste testing, photo shoots and the communal clapping when Mom sent off the draft to the printers.
It became clearer to me that sometimes, routines are situational…my adult children function quite capably in their adult lives…so much so that my husband and I beam with pride when they share their exploits and successes and buck up their confidence up when they hit an occasional snag…but coming “home”…it is all about returning to that routine which gives you comfort, strength and that “aaah” feeling. 
So as January 2013 progresses and the nest becomes emptier, for a time…I will get back into my swing of things.  Exercising regularly…dedicating time each day to writing and recipe development… know, the little “me” things.  And I will tackle my projects and those pesky chores…but down-sized chores….I can get back to laundry DAY as opposed to days…stuff like that…and I will lapse into my waiting routine…waiting for the kids to come visit again… however, after this nearly month long invasion, I will remind my girls of our favorite Ben Franklin quote…”Guests, like fish, start to stink after three days.”  I had this understanding with my dad and never wore out a welcome by always prefacing my visit request by quoting old Ben… this lowered expectations and often left us wanting more…never wishing we had left sooner!
Please don’t get me wrong…I love my daughters fiercely…and am so blessed to have them in our lives…it is just time for us to enjoy new phases in our lives…making new routines which can be challenging for us all but despite the challenges, are necessary. Rest assured the one constant is our love…this will never change.
Thanks for reading…feel free to share your routines and empty nest stories…I’d love to know I am not alone in this crazy phase!!