Last Sunday I picked Lily up from a camp friend’s house 20 minutes away. The night before, I drove her to a different friend an hour away. After I dropped her off at home, I went to Shop Rite, which took me over an hour. Shop Rite by me on a Sunday is a little like an insane asylum. Every time I make it through, I feel as if I’ve been through a war. I came home, put away the packages, and walked the dog. All of this took up more than half of my day.
Two things happened after that.
First, Amanda had made herself pasta while I was gone. Now I believe she may have thought that she cleaned up. But Amanda’s version of cleaning up is putting her dirty bowl (with food in it) and the strainer in the sink. Not the dishwasher, the sink. There was a dirty pot and an empty box of pasta on the counter, and she would never think to wipe down anything.
Right after I saw this, Lily asked me if I had bought the ingredients to make her the potato latkes I promised her over Hanukkah a month earlier but never made. Mind you, it’s not as if the poor deprived child did not have any potato latkes over Hanukkah. My mother in law made us delicious ones on the first night. But she wanted me to make them. When I told her that I had forgotten about them and I was exhausted from running around all day, she got very upset with me.
I thought about all of this for a few minutes.
Right after Howie died, I made a promise to myself. I swore that I was going to do everything in my power to make sure my girls did not always feel like they only had one parent. I would drive them around as much as possible when they needed me to. I would make dinners – I did not want to be the mom that made frozen pizzas and ate over the sink every night. I would be as involved in their lives as much as they would allow me to be. I would do whatever I could for them.
I have tried very hard to keep this promise. But I am realizing now that this promise has turned into me doing everything, and this may not always be such a good thing.
My girls are great daughters, and I know that is hard to say about teenage girls. I think I have an amazing relationship with each of them, and they have a pretty good relationship with each other – as far as sisters go. They are nice and respectful to me, and for the most part do not give me a hard time. I am very thankful for them.
BUT I think I have turned them into the two laziest girls on the face of the planet. I do everything for them – laundry, dinners, dishes, cleaning up. taking care of the dog (and they wonder why he loves me best). Plus the fact that they are the two messiest girls in the world, so cleaning up after them is no easy task.
I thought about the fact that when I made this promise to myself, the girls were 10 and 12 years old and grieving the loss of their father. They are now just about 16 and 18. I think it might be time to make a change.
I sat them both down and told them how I felt. Their reaction could not have been better. They apologized to me and said they would try to help out more. My fear is that these were just words – it is five days later and you should see what their rooms looks like.
Now we will see if they actually do make the effort. Old habits are hard to break. This may be harder for me than it is for them. I know that I need to stop doing everything for them. They need to not only do more for themselves, but also help me out a little. It is time. I am hoping we can all make a positive change.
There is something I think about often. It is the same thing I didn’t like to think about before Howie died. Thankfully Howie not only thought about it, but did something about it.
That something is life insurance.Who wants to think about that? Who would think that they may really need it one day? I certainly didn’t.
I vaguely remember Howie telling me that he was getting life insurance. I think my eyes glazed over while he was talking. I was probably watching “The Bachelor” or something like that when he was speaking, which seemed much more important at the time, so I didn’t pay attention. I do remember telling him that I didn’t want to think about anything like that, and nothing was going to happen to him anyway.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. A few years later Howie passed away, and because his death was so sudden, there was no time to talk about things like that. While I did remember having that quick conversation about life insurance years earlier, I didn’t know anything about it. What company was it with? Where was the policy? How much was it for? I was clueless.
Luckily, Howie had told other people about the policy. Since they weren’t watching reality TV while he explained it, they were able to help point me in the right direction to file my claim.
I was very lucky. If Howie had thought like I did, that “nothing is going to happen”, I would be in a very unfortunate situation today.
Things do happen. I know this better than anyone. It completely sucks, but they do. I always thought it happened to other people. You know – a college friend’s cousin’s uncle, a neighbor of your brother’s in-laws, someone in your town that you met once at a party. I never would have thought it could happen to us.
Chances are, something like that will not happen to most families. It really is pretty rare. But now I know that it is really important to be prepared, just in case.
I can say a lot of things about Howie. He was far from perfect – he left his dirty clothes ALL over the house, he was not the least bit handy, he was always late – I could go on :). But he thankfully did good on something terribly important, which I will always be grateful for.
Just something to think about.
I remember in the first few weeks after Howie died, a close friend said to me “I don’t know how you are doing it. I don’t think I could get out of bed if I was in your place.”
I also remember my response being “Yes you would. You are no different than I am. You are a mother and we do what we have to do for our kids.”
I meant it then and I still mean it now. For most of the women that I know. We do what we have to do.
So in those first few weeks, I wanted to stay in bed under the covers and not get up all day. Who wouldn’t? But if I did that, how would my kids get up? How would they go to school? How would they know that we had to move forward, even if we didn’t want to? So I got up, got them up, and made them go to school. And I either went to work or did whatever needed to get done that day.
Believe me, this was no easy task. For myself, as well as for them. Once I would get them to school. I worried all day. And on about half of those days, I would get a call from the middle school saying that Amanda wanted to come home. Some days I was able to talk her into staying. But on the others, I would go pick her up because she just couldn’t be there.
Now, I myself look back on that time and don’t understand how I did it either. But the truth is, I was almost robotic. I got up and did whatever I had to do on any given day because I didn’t have a choice. We needed to live so that’s what we did. But living and being alive are two different things. Everything I did was because I had to, not because I wanted to.
Weeks turned to months, and months to years. Of course time makes things better. There were plenty of happy moments in that time. But I was not this pillar of strength that I tried to pretend to be. The smile on my face was sometimes so fake that it hurt. I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it and believe me, I made some very big mistakes.
Now I can truly say that I feel strong. I have become my own person in the past year and I love that. It didn’t happen overnight. It was gradual. My life is far from perfect – I still have plenty of bad moments, but they are much fewer and more far between.
In the past couple of weeks I ran into two different women that I know. One is just starting to go through a divorce and one is very recently divorced. I also had a conversation with a widow that I am friendly with. All three of these women are going through a difficult time at the moment, each for different reasons. I could see myself in all of them. I was where they all are for a very long time, probably too long.
I wish that none of us had to go through that pain. But as much as I was faking that strength for so long, it must have been in me somewhere because it eventually came out. I know it will come out for each of them also. Sometimes it appears when you least expect it.
I am so very proud to say that everything I have been through has brought me to my writing and now being published. Check out my articles