Do they have surreality shows…?

…’cause if they do, I think I need to sign up.

The kids started school today, officially bringing this summer to an end. Not a moment too soon, in my book. This has to be the strangest summer I’ve ever had. And that’s saying something.

As a corollary of the fact that Little Miss and Dr. Doo-Be-Do didn’t have any formal/medical/mental health programming this summer, I actually functioned as a Stay-at-Home-Mom. As I’ve worked forever, even carting baby B in a bassinet along with me to my floral design employer, it was an odd shift. (Recalling that job, born of the Mariel boatlift to Miami, and Bobby Catoe, the man I worked for, I remember he kept calling the baby “it” or “Ger-trud-ah”. He wasn’t a family man.)

I think the shift began when my father stayed with us this spring, and I was called upon to be available all day long as he needed help. I noticed my greater focus on tending the home–not that before, I just let it run wild, but it wasn’t as high a priority. Now it’s something I do all day long, not just in breaks from the office. Of course, when the children were here, I also played taxi driver, entertainment coordinator, main medical shuttle, food canner, jelly maker, garden maintainer, clothes shopper, etc., like many of the other moms I know who don’t have to work outside the home. It was refreshing. I like it.

I worked on and sold another novel this summer. I moved from student at writing conferences, to teacher at writing conferences. I sold books. I got interviewed. The writing life is mine to have now, which is a surreal existence all on its own. I’m still trying to fit it in with all the other hats. Not always a cozy fit.

The Cabana Boy is finally teaching full time in addition to his computer/network side business, and I got an official job with the county, which means a steady paycheck. Haven’t had one of those in about ten years. Definitely an unsettling experience. It still surprises me every couple of weeks to see a new deposit in my bank account. Pleasant surprise, mind you, but…weird.

And then of course, there’s the saga of the Captain, who completed months 12 thru 15 of his three-month stay in partial hospitalization, had his first interaction with the juvenile justice system and pushed his father to extreme sanctions out of desperation. It is a totally unreal feeling to know as a parent, that you have done EVERYTHING within your power to help a child and see what’s necessary to comply with the house/societal rules, and have him do something other than that. I mean, I’m not naive. I work in the system. I see parents and kids who have lives that are out of control, but so often those are due to economic or social issues that affect the family. I’ve had teenagers, too, a lot of them. I know they have interesting twists and turns all to themselves. But that’s not what we saw here. We were powerless to make the necessary changes happen, after doing everything we’d been recommended to do by those working with the Captain in the system.

So he’s in a therapeutic foster care setting. Because we failed. Even though we know in a cognitive manner that we had done everything we could, and that the worst part of his issues are due to things he can’t control, it still feels like we failed.

On the other hand, it’s been a week now, and our household has lightened immeasurably. The Cabana Boy says his chest has stopped hurting when he approaches within five miles of home on his way back from work. No more headache trips to the ER from the overload of stress. No more ulcer symptoms.  The other two children have adjusted beautifully and “the team” has become more than just lip service. We’re a family again, a “normal” family.

Any one of these things could have been a major shift in a life. We’ve experienced them all in a season, half in a blind rush that shoved us through the days. Only now that the pressure is off can we look back and reflect. It still seems like a bad dream, a lot of it. All we can do is hope as the days go by, that the worst of it fades and that we get to keep the best.

Until Hollywood calls…

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