Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lessons learned and silver linings

Summer's in, school's out and Earbaby is officially a Rising Senior.

Wow, where did junior year go?

I know time has moved the same rate as always, but it really seems that this, EB's penultimate high school year, just flew by. Maybe it was because I was able to be somewhat more present for it since I took the buyout from my job in October. Or because we only had a couple of big snows this winter after the hellish storms of early 2015. When I could be truly grateful I didn't have to venture out into the raging snowstorms, it didn't happen. But I was still grateful I could stay in those few cold nights I would have had to worry about scraping ice off my windshield and trying to charge up a partially shoveled driveway in the middle of the night.

I never could have predicted how the last four months of the school season would go. Having another teenager in the house changed so many dynamics. Sadly, it didn't end well. But thankfully, it did end.

And that's where a few of our best lessons were learned.

I'm hoping that the trials and tribulations of living with Maria won't sour EB on having a big and generous heart. She invited her friend into our home because EB is a child who has never known want. But when you pair someone who has only had stability with someone who hasn't had much at all, the results can be disastrous. Maria was a sweet girl. But she lacked the ability to grasp basic hygiene, both personal and in her surroundings. When one can come into a house and turn a small living space into your most disgusting episode of Hoarders, all the talking and understanding in the world isn't going to help. An agreement, a very small effort toward appeasement, and a day or so later, it was back to intervention time. It got exhausting, exasperating, disgusting, and eventually simply unworkable. When EB finally blew up, the tension in the house could be cut with a knife. Maria and EB had drama from a multitude of things, but even though Maria sincerely tried to repair the damage of that fallout, EB couldn't get past her disgust with the living situation.

Maria had only planned to stay until the end of the school year, so that at least worked out. Still her propensity for lashing out, her terrible judgment, irresponsibility, and poor impulse control showed us all what her true colors are. EB was just too angry to try to work things out with her. They will never be friends again.

By the time Maria came late at night to get her things, EB wouldn't even look at her or say goodbye. The room had to be thoroughly cleaned and she left many of her things to be thrown out. It was a sad sight as she and a friend struggled with two backpacks and a dufflebag to get up the street to catch a bus to a sibling's house. But she didn't want any more help from us. I had been angry too, but I'm a mom first. So when I hugged her goodbye, I whispered that if she ever really needed me, I would be there for her. No one, not even messed-up, emotionally immature teenagers who bite the hands that feed them, should go through life without at least one lifeboat.

I hope that EB doesn't learn the cynical lesson that no good deed goes unpunished. I don't want this episode to sour her on reaching out to people in need. And the silver lining is that when she does go to college in a little more than a year from now, she will be more familiar with the art of conflict resolution, instead of waiting until she just can't stand it anymore. By then I hope her own emotional maturity (and ability for forgiveness) will be better developed.

And I got a silver lining lesson also. One can try really hard, but there's only so much you can do when someone isn't ready, willing or able to receive your help. We were very clear about the rules about cleaning up after yourself and keeping her room clean. But I learned there are some people who truly lack the capacity to either understand what that means or have no self-awareness of how to live with other people. Would I do it again? My heart says yes, my head (and my daughter) say no.

We're also learning lessons about EB's growing independence. She and her incredibly cute boyfriend are still an item, but she still manages to spend time with other friends. With Maria in the house, EB spent as much time as she could outside of it. It bothered me tremendously that she didn't feel comfortable bringing him around because of Maria. With her gone, let's see if that changes things much. There will be separations soon, we'll be going on a vacation and he will be going away to college in the fall. I worry a little about hearts broken, but that will be a lesson learned too. If they can remain friends, or at least friendly after a fashion, this will be a good experience for her.

Then there's the lesson of driving. EB is determined to get her license in the coming months. That would be a boon for all of us, especially when (and if) I find another job. I'm not ready to retire, but while I look for the next opportunity, it will be nice not to have to factor in all her comings and goings and how I have to be responsible for that.

The warm weather beckons. The summer promises dance lessons, driving lessons, trips and college tours. No matter what the future holds, as a family, we're all good.

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