As My Teens Get Older and I Lose Control, I Want to Clean

I want to clean. And I never want to clean. And yes, the summer is waning, and the school year is fast approaching, but this year, I do not feel in control of things more than any other year. So I can do laundry. And clean the tub. And maybe I’ll find the broom. I will need Clorox wipes. A lot of Clorox wipes.

Even as I sit here writing, as my dog keeps vigil to ensure we are safe from menacing squirrels and those incessantly mocking chipmunks, I feel my brain pushing forward to the moment I will look at my glistening kitchen floor and feel relief. I will hopefully feel like I have done something and accomplished a task because I am tightly wound, barely holding it in panic mode. 

I can’t control their world anymore, so I clean. (Photo Credit: Emily Genser)

I can’t do as much to help my kids anymore

You see, I woke my kids up at 7 a.m. this morning. I forced my husband out of bed. I walked the dog and came back to wake everyone up again. Josh has 6th-grade orientation at the middle school across town. Abby has soccer tryouts for her freshman year at the high school down the street, and for both of them, this is new in a terrifying way. There is little I can do to help them, and for me, that is new in a way that is not okay.  So maybe I should start cleaning now. Where is my dustpan?

Josh has been held preciously until this moment by a supportive elementary school. His principal has watched and cheered as he has evolved from an unmedicated, undiagnosed, motor-driven, always moving, talking talking talking, kindergartner who could not get out of his way or sit on the appropriate dot on the rug without kicking his legs over his head and invariably hitting the perfectly poised little girl sitting criss-cross applesauce, to a fifth grader who swallows his ADHD and anxiety meds daily, who is taking constant steps toward independence, and who is now able to showcase his brilliance at school, and most importantly ask for the help he needs when his world spirals.

My son’s elementary school has nurtured him

His elementary school has allowed him to grow and to be his quirky self. And now, he has to let it go. I have to let it go. I need more sponges, preferably an SOS pad. This morning was a drop-off! We were told to drop him off and let him find the eighth grader with a sign that matched his last name and then just…leave.  

I sat on the edge of the bed and told the small child cocooned in his bedsheets that these were our directions. He curled more tightly into his covers for a moment and emerged. Okay. No meltdown. A deep breath in and another okay, and he was getting up and dressed. And somehow, I had to make my legs move as well. I had to pretend that I was okay with this. Perhaps I will clean under his bed. I moved on to my daughter’s room, where things were not progressing.

I can’t. You can. Come on. Let’s do it. I’ll get your soccer stuff together. I’m NOT wearing that shirt. Then get up. Choose for yourself. Come on. Ugh. Abby has never had to compete. She has never wanted anything badly enough to work for it. But she wants soccer. She seems to have decided that she needs soccer. But this is a tryout, and there are 40 girls, and they can only take 30.

My daughter is trying out for her high school soccer team, it’s scary

This is scary. Perhaps I can Febreeze her room while she’s gone? I watch her steel herself this morning. I watch her laughing eyes go stoic. Her back goes straight. She is readying herself for battle. And I can’t help her. So I grab a pile of laundry. 

I can cheer her on from her bedside. I can get her gear ready. I can make sure she has Gatorade and that she eats breakfast. But after that, I must drop her off and hope. I must come home and keep busy. I must wait. 

I am not a patient person. I have now looked at the clock every minute for the last five. The first leg of tryouts is over at 10:00, and it is 9:47. The school is 2 minutes away, and I should not (I have been told) be the first person there for pick up.

So I will wait. And I will clean. This desk is awfully dusty. 

I am proud of my kids. So proud I could burst with it. But with each transition, I lose a bit of myself. So today, I’ll find a place for all of this mom emotion (mom-motion? that seems accurate) as I put my muscles and brain to work in the airing out of my house and the begrudging welcome of a new season in our lives.

More Great Reading:

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About Emily Genser

Emily Genser is a veteran high school teacher in West Hartford, CT and a mother of two. She spends her days with teens helping them navigate their lives while holding on to their laughter and hearts. She is exhausted, but smiling through the chaos.

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