The House Is On Fire!

It seems my last post struck a cord with more that a few of you! Many of you have commented, emailed, or told me in person that you CAN relate to what I’m going through and I am not alone! So many of you have commiserated with me, in fact, that I’m beginning to think that these parents with kids who have it all together, might just be hiding the truth out of shame or perhaps they just need to believe that everything is going to be alright. I get that!

Fact is, I have a name for this thing we are all experiencing: “Stinky Feet Syndrome”, a condition that usually hits somewhere in your student’s Junior year of high school. Symptoms include, extreme eye rolling, heavy sighing, grumbling, stomping, growling, huffing, screaming, door slamming…just to name a few. Of course these symptoms only manifest themselves at home; the rest of the world sees your charming, darling, brilliant child. For this I suppose we should be grateful, but when I’m sharing my woes with my fellow mother’s and they give me that “Come on now. Your sweet child?” look, I just want to scream!

For years I’ve told weepy-eyed parents of high school freshmen, who sob over their babies entering high school, who lament over the years gone by, and wonder what are they going to do without them, about a syndrome SFS. Of course these parents never believe me. Oh no! Not their child! Never! Fast forward two years and they come back, down trodden with bulging veins in the middle of their foreheads, admitting that I was right. I didn’t want to be right, but experience has told me that this syndrome is real. It is also necessary. You see, it is a mechanism for letting go, for both the parent and the child. Their “feet” get to stinking so badly that you are more than willing to push them out of the nest!

Fear is the driving force behind stinky feet syndrome, and it’s nothing new on this earth, or any other planet I imagine. I remember when I was a Sr. in High School, having a recurring dream about my house being on fire and all of my family were in the windows screaming for help but there were flames everywhere and I could not get into the house to save them. I would wake up soaked in sweat and screaming that silent scream of a body paralyzed by fear.

I shared this dream in my American Lit class one day (we were talking about dreams and interpretation, tea leaf reading, etc. in relation The Crucible and witchcraft). Anyway, I shared my dream with the class and then we talked about what my dream might mean. It was my my teacher who nailed it: I was afraid of what was coming next and being separated from my family. I was afraid to leave home. I was setting foot on a dark path with no knowledge of what was to come, or what would happen to me. I was scared.

Of course, she was wrong! I couldn’t WAIT to get out of that place! Couldn’t happen soon enough! If I was scared wouldn’t I seek comfort from my parents? Why would I want to get away from them and this town and everything familiar to me? The answer is easy now, if I made “them” the enemy, then it would be easier to move on, wouldn’t it?

That dream has been visiting me a lot lately. Now, I stand on the other side of the flames and I’m screaming at the window trying to get my kids so see that it will be OK, that they will be fine, as long as they plan and think ahead. I’m not screaming because I need their help, I’m screaming because I want to help them.

They, on the other hand, are having anxiety over what to do as their world, as they know it, is burning down around them. It’s no wonder really that they are kicking and screaming and fighting all the way. What they really need to know is that their father and I have done everything in our power to make sure they are prepared, but they are going to have to come to this conclusion for themselves. We can’t make them see or hear it.

As a result of this new perspective, I’m trying to remember to give them the space to make decisions and preparing myself to allow them to sift through the ashes of their messes if need be. Of course I’m over simplifying it, but I know it’s what must be done, and I struggle everyday to stand back and let their lives play out. I try to be grateful, not jealous, when The Girl comes home excited about advice she’s gotten from her Art Teacher, when I’d given the same advice just the week before. At least she’s hearing what I’m trying to say, even if it’s not my voice she hears.  I have to sit back and trust in what I’ve done up to this point is enough. Not easy to do at all.

Bottom line, this is just not something we can avoid. Even parents with the most agreeable children will see it to some degree. Still, I can’t help but think how nice it would be if both sides could see it from the other person’s point of view. If we all just realized that we are all walking though this together, and that we remain together, no matter the physical distance, because we are bound together by our hearts.

Friends, SFS is just something we, as mothers, can’t avoid. Though our eyes sting from the stench, we must grit our teeth and smile, and maybe drown ourselves in a Calgon bath to ease the scorch of the flames. (Large glasses of wine couldn’t hurt either.) We don’t stop parenting at this time, we just have to take a step back. If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that eventually they come back around and we are once again the most sage, sainted people they’ve ever met! For now, however, grab the air freshener, a glass of wine and breathe deeply. This too shall pass.

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