PENS (Premature Empty Nest Syndrome)

6 12 2015

empty nest

My kids are upstairs in the spare room working on their homework. I just went up to check on them because it is eerily quiet from the usual complaining, procrastinating, laughing and debating that typically accompanies doing homework within 10 feet of each other.

My parents were visiting this weekend and my mother told me that she and my dad were remarking how they can always tell when my kids are home with me or not by the tone of my voice. I thought it may have to do with the multitude of noises in the background but apparently they were able to do a multivariate analysis, isolate the variable of “tone of my voice” and statistically demonstrate that in fact, I sound a lot more depressed when they are not around.

I will leave it to the final peer review committee at the New England Journal of Medicine to decide if it actually stands up to their study standards but aside from that, they are right. It has been hard not seeing them everyday as of late. It is a somewhat recent phenomena as their sports and extracurricular activity schedule affords me opportunities to connect with them at games and such even if their custodial day is not with me. Unfortunately, my soon-to-be-ex remains inflexible anything schedule-related even though we are less than 2 miles apart – not a criticism, just a fact for purposes of this blog, and therefore these extracurricular activities are the only opportunities I have to physically connect with them on a day that they are not with me legally.

Due to holidays etc., these days have not been as plenty (though, luckily, due to basketball and a new play, this is starting to change again.) My struggle has been with how to connect outside of 10 minute FaceTime chats or at least deal with those days that are more difficult. I know that rather than treating the symptom (feeling low), I have to get to the route cause and that is where the challenge has been.

I looked up “empty nest” syndrome to see if, maybe, outside of the traditional leaving for college, there is an overall syndrome that is exclusive of what caused it – in other words, is this syndrome really more about the state of the person on the receiving end (the parent) and less about the stage of life of the person causing it (the child)? And the overwhelming answer, of course, was “duh – yeah!”

See, besides simply missing my kids being in the house, even if we are not necessarily interacting at that very moment, there is the idea of how we are as a unit and that is a big part of how I define myself – as their dad. I like that part of me, regardless of whether there are some days when I think I probably need to be put on administrative leave for a while. 

When it is just me, alone, I feel a little lost, as if I am not really sure who I am or what I am supposed to do. Is this because I need the distraction? Is it because I don’t feel I have a purpose otherwise? Is it because I no longer have an excuse to watch bad television? I don’t know! Maybe it is to some degree. All I know is that it feels like hell.

I always imagined that when the kids went off to college or whatever direction their path may take them after high school, that, of course, there would be a natural longing for daily contact. I just wasn’t prepared for that at ages 14 and 12. Truth is, that they are evolving into active, involved adolescents with their own lives and my main goal is to guide them and then let them go. I am a part of their lives regardless of whether we have dinner together every night or not. It is their journey and I am here to help them navigate. Now, I need to take the same approach for myself.

Until next time,

Marc





Support Vs. Tolerance

27 10 2015
This is a ribbon, not support.

This is a just a ribbon.

This is not going to be a “feel good” blog but I hope it at least provokes some thought.

I was in a bad mood today. I don’t know why. I’m in a bad mood now, too.

I’m trying to calm my nerves with a glass of wine, which probably isn’t helping.

I was ok until my son came home from school and needed his laptop for homework which was at his mother’s house, all of 2 miles away. I was working and she refused to drop it off. This is another “standing my ground” thing of hers lately and while I have tried to let this stuff pass, it got to me today. Maybe it was my cold. Maybe it was my thinking about job loss. Whatever it was, it got to me badly.

We both work from home some days during the week and we both live close to each other. It is impossible to not put the kids in the middle when these types of things happen, regardless of how hard either of us might work at it. Or at least that’s the case for me. I have tried to not make this my kids’ issue because it is not their fault at all that they even have to think of crap like this – navigating hauling their stuff between places depending on where they are staying. This is not the time to teach responsibility to a kid and if we have to haul them and their stuff back and forth, then, at least in my opinion, we have to grow up, be adults and do it for them. They never asked for this. It was hard for me to hold my frustration about this in, too, and that certainly didn’t help matters with my kids.

Truth be told, the amount of time I spent stewing over whether or not to get in the car with my son and make the 5 minute trek for him to get his stuff, was far beyond the actual time it took to just get it over with. There is no co-parenting with my ex other than her managerial disposition toward me as “permitted” through email. This is not co-parenting and where this is a lack of co-parenting or co-anything, there is a lack of support, in this case – for my kids. (And the frustration grows.)

Several times I have tried to explain, directly or indirectly, that we both have to compromise and make decisions, many of which are uncomfortable, for the sake of the kids. We have to be their main support system, or should be, anyway. I realized today, in my maddening state of frustration, that some people are simply not capable of playing a supportive role. My ex never was. She was always tolerating things. To be honest, I think it was the best she could do. We all have deficits of some sort coming into relationships, some greater than others. Hers was coming from a family that was not supportive of each other. Mine was coming from a family that were not amongst the greatest of communicators. It’s not a blame thing. It’s just the way it is.

Today really stuck with me and before I knew it, I made this about me – hard to admit, but it’s the truth. I grieved for the fact that I never had a partner who really supported me. To support someone is to show true love. I know as a parent that I support things that my kids want to do because I love them and respect them. I want them to do the best they can in what they are passionate about.

I have had a good run so far but if I am going to be totally honest, I never had anyone really close to me that asked me “Marc, what do you want out of life?” I think they already knew that the answer was not in their comfort zone and was too scary for them to consider. I have met so many people who took risks and forged their own path early on and I lived in a well of fear so deep, listening to others rather than myself. I never learned to support myself rather than looking for someone to support me.

This was evident in my childhood, my formative years and I carried it into my marriage, also. Some say that comedy led to my divorce. I think it saved me. It was perhaps my first real step to supporting myself.

When I did so, though, I was naive. I thought my wife would be proud of a husband that was trying something new. I never compromised my role as husband or father. But there was no support, only tolerance. I remember, in an argument, her claiming that she supported my comedy by “letting” me do it, (go to a show, etc). If you “let” someone do something, you are tolerating them. If you help them get there (physically, morally or otherwise), you are supporting them.

This is something that I am trying to get better at myself, with my kids, with other people and more importantly, myself.

If you really support the troops, it’s more than a yellow, magnetic ribbon on your trunk. If you really support something, it’s got to be more than words or a symbolic token of your support. Are you really being supportive of those you love, including yourself? Or, maybe, are you just being tolerant.

Until next time,

Marc

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