Stress Busting Parenting Tips: Grand Central, Empty Fridge, Locked Door, More Coffee

Teens in. Teens out. Teens in. Teens out. Frazzled nerves, fridge empty, more driving, less sleeping. STOP! Now! Somebody get me out of here!

Parenting Tips for Stress Busting

Parenting tips? Sure. I’ve got a boatload. And thus far, without pharmaceuticals.

  • One petite padded room, with shelves for my designer footwear
  • One power strip for my laptop and heating pad
  • One Mr. Coffee One-Cup, oh go ahead – make it a 4-cup, for my glorious inches of Italian Roast
  • One sampler of Espresso, and Ethiopian Harrar
  • One book of poetry
  • One week to myself – no phones allowed!

Now really. Am I serious? Wouldn’t I have my always-at-the-ready guidebook filled with stress-busting parenting tips? My cheat sheet penned on my palm? Words of wisdom after all these years?

I could use any of the above after the past few days and nights. But I long ago tossed the prescribed shoulds and milestones in favor of intuition and taking cues from my kids. I go with the flow (within reason), and hang by the skin of my teeth most of the time. Or by my fingernails, off the precipice. (Both images are quite amusing when you actually picture them. And both neatly illustrate my daily life!)

Real World Parenting Chaos

Real world parenting?

That means juggling your own “stuff” (which covers a great deal) along with a houseful of kids (some of whom are yours). And for a single parent, you’d never survive if you didn’t live by the “Don’t sweat the small stuff” rule. Still, with the arrival of my firstborn from college Friday night, the chaos level has ratcheted up a notch, as expected. And it isn’t all him; my younger son is a social creature as well. It’s been Grand Central Home-Sweet-Home, complete with arguments over taking my car keys and going out until the wee hours, Latvian friends of Latvian guest, one kid on his Spring Break while the other is studying for midterms, and a confluence of conflicting commitments, schedules, and school work.

Repeat after me: Raw. Nerves. Abound.

It’s been wild, wearing, and only 48 hours since the increased onslaught. But the commotion (normally fine) has both drained and annoyed me – which says much about me these days, and not so much about the teen behavior. My sons and their cohorts are acting as they always do. What is different is me, my stress load already nearing the red zone.

And then there’s that fridge!

Little Kids, Little Worries (Coffee, Please)

When your children are little, your worries are new, plentiful, but generally around basics: health, safety, their sense of self, providing tools for learning. When another parent or educator makes a comment about your child’s development, you flip furiously through the parenting books, comparing his or her performance to age and gender appropriate guidelines. You furrow your brow, or you breathe a sigh of relief. Until the next reason to worry.

And those “little kid worries” are many indeed.

  • He’s 12 months old, but isn’t walking yet. (All the others in daycare are!)
  • Your sister’s son is potty trained at two; you’re still having issues at three.
  • Is she old enough to cross the street? (You practice for weeks.)
  • Why isn’t he tying his shoes yet? (All the other first-graders can.)

That list? I know. It doesn’t scratch the surface. But when you add a second child or a third (or more), you’ve fallen into the rhythm of a veteran – or delirium. You’re so tired that you take it all in stride, and realize the developmental timetable of every child is different. And as for worries? Suddenly the little ones really are little, and the basics return to a more manageable size.

My only real tips? Go with your gut, get as much sleep as you can when you can, and lock the door if you want some privacy.

(More on the privacy tip in a moment.)

Big Kids, Bigger Worries (Coffee, Please)

By the time you hit the “tween” and teen years, the worries are gargantuan in comparison to the days of toddlers and tantrums. Sex, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, peer pressure, hormones – they all raise the worry level considerably. Then there are those driving lessons – teaching your teens about highway safety, the no cell phone while driving rule, and anticipating “the other guy.”

That’s the one that is the hardest. Adolescents feel they are invincible and immortal. Remembering to drill into our kids’ heads that it isn’t about not trusting their skills or judgment, but it’s about the other guy who may be drinking while driving. Or on the cell phone and not paying attention.

Parenting Teens and Adult Children (Martini, Please)

I haven’t hit the “adult child returning home” stage yet. But does my college teen qualify?

He’s 18, very independent, and used to being on his own. He’s respectful as I request the details of his comings-and-goings (especially since he takes my car), but there have been a few scuffles in the past 48 hours, albeit mixed with humor and a sizable dose of patience on his part. Yes, I said on his part.

In the past two years I’ve told both of my sons: I recognize that you are maturing and more responsible, but please remember that I’m used to you being little kids, and needing to watch out for you. So be patient with me as I adjust to your maturing.

I’ve been fortunate with that exchange. While they roll their eyes in exasperation over seemingly simple reminders, they also exercise patience with my questions, respond appropriately, and things are more or less manageable. But manageable doesn’t mean without worry. And I admit – any time one, both, or an entire crew take the car at night, I’m worried and waiting until everyone is accounted for.

Empty Fridge Syndrome

This next week will be a doozie. The three teens, each with a different mission and a different schedule. A birthday to celebrate (no, not mine; I’m sticking at 42, thanks). More comings-and-goings, a party, midterms, job and project leads to follow up, even a few “guest posts” to finish. Sleep? I guess I’ll get some eventually. If this last worry doesn’t do me in: the dreaded Empty Fridge Syndrome.

Did I mention that this morning is the fifth time in ten days that I’ve strutted my stuff at a Kroger’s, Publix, Target, or Trader Joe’s for food? Have you experienced that irritating (and wallet whittling) habit that teenagers have of standing on two hollow legs attached to perpetually empty stomachs?

And yes, we’ve also availed ourselves of Domino’s Pizza (the non-Latvian combo), and take-out Chinese. Yet every time I turn around – the refrigerator is flapping its fatuous gums at me and whining that it needs to be filled up.

And did I mention they’re even drinking my Italian Roast, my Espresso Roast, my fresh-ground Ethiopian Harrar??

Parenting Tip for Any Age: Lock Your Door for Privacy

Privacy with a small house and round-the-clock teens? Say what??

I’m going to have to haul out my own advice on giant cue cards, and remind myself of fundamentals. Every adult needs a small amount of time for himself or herself. And sometimes, that means locking the door and hanging an “Off Duty” sign.

It may mean a soak in a tub (except I’m too tired to fill it), an hour with a book (too frazzled to concentrate), or lying quietly on the bed, breathing and imagining an exotic beach (I think I can manage that one).

Other than that? I’m open to suggestions. But don’t take too long. I can’t stay. I’ve got groceries in the car yet to unload. And I need to brew another pot of coffee.