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Pile of rocks laying on the ground under a sunny blue sky

Like Spreading Out an Enormous Pile of Rocks

By Mir Kamin

Graduation is fast approaching. I repeat: Houston, this is not a drill—graduation is almost here!

Remember the bathroom remodel my husband talked me into because doing it over Spring Break would get it done before relatives descended for graduation? The good news is that the bathroom is functional, at least (finally), and it looks mostly okay. The bad news is that it took forever and there are a few issues yet to be resolved (why yes, we did start this process months ago), but hey, that’s what happens when you deal with contractors.

Every month I flip the page on our giant paper calendar in the kitchen and fill out whatever appointments and events the family has for the month. This past weekend, I made sure to decorate Graduation Day on the grid in the appropriate school colors, sure, but I also filled in the rest and realized there was nary an empty square for the entire month. There’s exams, school events and celebrations, relatives visiting, deadlines both for my oldest’s college prep and my youngest’s dual enrollment paperwork, the end of school, the start of pre-band camp, summer jobs, and the appointments, dear lord, the appointments. Getting a teenager without medical issues ready to leave town is not an insignificant process, I’m guessing, and throw some chronic conditions into the mix and you could spend a solid month visiting specialists, stocking up on prescriptions, etc. Plus my son mentioned that he’s having some trouble seeing, should we maybe get his glasses checked…? How long has it been since he last saw the eye doctor, anyway? Oh. Right. For the next month (really the next few months), if you’re not at school, at an exam, or at work, kid, you’re probably at a doctor’s appointment. (Let’s not discuss how, at 18, my child certainly could take care of these things on her own, without me. I’m annoying and useless, sure, but could I just maybe take her to her appointment, anyway…?)

As for the nearly-graduate, well, she’s doing great, if you judge by her life outside of our house. Teachers gush to me about how far she’s come and how wonderful she is. She’s about to graduate with high honors, having finished her strongest academic year to date. She’s excited about college. Her health and her mood are, for the most part, good. I feel like it’s folly to want anything more.

But… if you judge by what’s happening inside our home, well, let’s just say it’s clear that some anxiety is starting to bubble to the surface. As her “soft place to land,” my husband and I—and to a lesser extent, little brother—are bearing the brunt of a scary transition. Graduating is great and college is exciting, but change is hard and the unknown is frightening. After a blissful stretch of peaceful family harmony, tempers are flaring ’round here. Seemingly overnight, I have become the dumbest and most unreasonable person to dare to walk the earth. I am so stupid and horrible, the only possible option when speaking to me most of the time is to sneer, roll eyes, and treat me like garbage. As for my husband, he’s so awful he’s mostly not even worth the contempt I enjoy—she tends to ignore him altogether. Rules are being scoffed at and broken and boundaries are for chumps, man, because we’re not the boss of her and she’s an adult now and just let her figure it out.

The husband and I have distinctly different coping mechanisms during these trying times. I am bogged down in the past more than I care to admit, and while the technical term is PTSD, sure, I prefer to just shrug and admit that I cry a lot. There’s no sugar-coating it: I struggle both with fear for her future and with my own demons, most of which are only too happy to spring into action anytime someone I love mistreats me. So I continue pushing back as much as I can and as calmly as I can (fair disclosure: often not calm at all) until the times when I need to just step away, and I spend a lot of time doing nothing (or crying) and trying to gear up to go back in and deal with whatever comes next. My darling husband, on the other hand, is a Fixer. It would be wrong to say he doesn’t feel, of course, but he’s never been one to wallow. His solution is to do. And while there’s not a lot of fixing available when it comes to Young Adult Life Transition Meltdown Theater, that doesn’t stop him, because he has The List.

It started with the bathroom remodel. But The List is long and as he completes some items, he adds more. The front flower beds have been weeded and replanted and mulched. The trees are trimmed. The deck and fence have been washed and sealed and all of the porch furniture has been scrubbed and reassembled. The lawn has been reseeded and fertilized. He’s brought the big ladder inside and hung a new clock at the tippy-top of the family room wall and busied himself every weekend with cleaning and touch-up paint and a dozen little projects. In the time it took me to just get my vegetables planted for this year, he’d crossed a dozen items of his Spring Cleaning list. I set smaller goals: for a solid week, I’ll cook something from the freezer every night.

In other words: We may be insufferable, but at least we’re staying busy, eating well, and our house looks pretty good.

Yesterday I was informed that five tons of river rocks will be dumped in our driveway tomorrow morning. We first put down “landscaping rocks” (what makes them landscaping is that… we’re putting them down out back instead of landscaping) four years ago, and I have a vague memory of not being able to lift my arms for a week or so after that, but rocks were on The List and part of me feels like endless physical labor might be just the thing we need, right now. So: rocks. Coming tomorrow. We will get them spread around and then cross that off The List.

Yesterday my daughter was working on a project in the kitchen—materials exploded out from the kitchen table all the way to the stove—and it was not going as planned. Her frustration got the better of her and I tried to be patient and helpful, even as I braced for her to lash out at me because… that’s usually how it goes. To my surprise, she got up and walked over to where I was standing, and without a word, put her head on my shoulder and pulled me into a hug. I wrapped my arms around her and blinked back tears. I patted her back. I told her not to worry—she’d figure it out. By this morning I was persona non grata, again, but that’s okay. I’ve got some stuff to get done today and tomorrow I’m going to move a bunch of rocks. I’ll be pretty sore, after, but hard work makes the final accomplishment sweeter, right?

Graduation is one week from Saturday.

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About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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