Saturday, December 27, 2008

And so that was Christmas

It's such a cliche to say that Christmas can be a frought time, but it really can, can't it? Our Christmas has been relatively calm and enjoyable, but there has still been a lot of emotional intensity to deal with.

It was preceded by the decision to ask Greta Garbo to leave home. The situation has become untenable. I've committed the heinous sin of expecting her to pay board ($60 per week) whilst not granting much in the way of privileges along with that... other than her being able to come and go as she pleases, her doing pretty much zilch in the way of cooking or cleaning or otherwise contributing to the household or being in any way accountable. Yes, she doesn't have a proper bed, she sleeps on a mattress in her sister's room. We had planned on rearranging rooms and putting the loft bed up in there for her - but apparently that's not good enough. She was happy enough to live in a pigsty on a mattress for twice what we are asking beforehand.

It' s just not working, and not just because of her inability to stop berating us over this basic requirement of an adult living in this household. It's that while she is here, she simply can't learn the lessons she needs to. The place for her to fall is too soft. Whilst she complains about it all, she's happy enough to accept it, and not figure out that this is now her life, and it isn't up to us to solve her problems any more. Not only is it not our *problem*, it's not our place - it's actually not doing her any good, letting her stay here and continue in the position she's in. She needs to get out and confront life and learn the lessons it has to teach her, without holding her hand all the way.

It came to a head the other day when she brought the subject up again and then proceded to be ruder than anyone in this house has a right to be, shouting over the top of us, telling us to shut up, and generally being appalling. I gave her one warning that if she didn't stop, she'd be given a month's notice to quit. She didn't stop, so I gave her the news. It all happened quite quickly.

What surprised me was how difficult it wasn't. I feel few regrets other than that I wish I had been more consistent and much firmer over the past year while she transitioned from "high school student" to "independent adult". Where I must accept fault is in overcompensating for my fear of failure of being a Good Enough Mother. I've said, "I will not do this for you," and then I have gone and done it.

And in the meantime, this kiddult has left a pile of her dirty clothes in the laundry for nearly two weeks.

Christmas was a series of compromises, in many ways. While it was enjoyable to spend the last two days with the inlaws once Beloved had finished his church duties, it is always hard to leave behind the things that have always marked out Christmas as something special for me. Doing it in a different place, eating differently, doing things at different times, in different ways... it was hard. I decided to cope by looking at Christmas as a season that will continue for the next twelve days, and to celebrate the things that were missing through that time. Things like the food we didn't have - jaffa cakes and trifle and nuts, we can do that along the way. Looking at Christmas lights - well, they're still up! They're still pretty! I might even see if I can buy a turkey on special at the sales tomorrow, just so that I can have turkey leftovers for days.

Beloved has also messed me about a bit with our planned holidays - things that I thought were going to happen are now not going to happen. Things that I wasn't anticipating are happening - like extended stays of his family and mine - while I am on my brief and desperately needed holiday, so I've had to rearrange my mind. I've come to realise that I can adapt better than I used to be able to - I just have to find strategies to think about things differently. There are aspects of my character that are still very difficult to deal with, but last night proved a shining example of why they aren't all bad.

I couldn't sleep last night - the noise from the inlaws' neighbours was atrocious. As the night wore on, the volume just grew and grew. I went to bed early-ish and fell asleep reasonably quickly, despite it all, but awoke at 11.30pm to screaming coming from next door. The room was hot and sticky and I could literally feel my blood pressure rising as my pulse started whooshing in my ears. Frustrated and angry I poked Beloved and said, "Is anyone going to ask them to shut up?" "I don't know," grumbled Beloved, who, from the sound of his raucous snoring was not being particularly disturbed.

"I guess it's up to the pregnant woman to get up and do something about it, then," I snarled. I stomped out of the house and up their drive way. "Excuse me! Excuse me!" I shouted at them. I had to shout several times from only a few feet away before they could even hear me. "I have a house full of kids and a pregnant woman who can't sleep. Do you think you could shut up??!!!" The adult in the equation poked his head out and told them they'd better pipe down - they were squirting each other with a hose and screaming, whilst the stereo boomed out of the windows. At nearly midnight!

So my irritability is a bad thing... but if it weren't for my occasional bouts of high dudgeon, sometimes things just wouldn't get done. The kids think it is hysterically funny when I put on my scary lady face and get angry at people (who deserve it), but I sincerely believe that if you aren't prepared to do something about whatever is pissing you off, whether it's changing the way you think about it or doing something active about stopping the behaviour, then you lose your right to complain. There comes a point where lack of action signals self-abuse, and my sympathy begins to wane.

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