I’m an only child which has been a godsend and a burden my entire life. I flip flop a lot on whether or not I like being an only child but for the most part I love it. Growing up being an only child was amazing. I got to pick my siblings and hang out with them as much or as little as I wanted. When I wanted to go home I did and when I got there I didn’t have to share anything with other people. Occasionally though, I wished for a brother or a sister. Obviously it would have been nice having one while everything was going on but I seemed to manage pretty well relying on my friends to help me out. Now I’m realizing that I still wish I had one around to help me adjust to this new family dynamic I’ve got going on
The three of us always seemed to work well together. My mom was the more “serious” of the two and my dad was the constant goof. Not to say that each of them didn’t also have the “serious” or “goofy” qualities but 9 times out of 10 they kind of fell into those roles. I learned most of my real life stuff from my mom and got most of my humor from my dad. It was the perfect mix of individuals and I had a great childhood because of it. It was always an even balance.
So, now that my dad is gone the balance is off. My buffer is gone. My mom and I are very alike in a lot of ways. Like I said, she taught me more of my real life experiences including how to deal with confrontation, how to stand up for myself, and how to not take shit from people. These are all great qualities to have but when you’re using them against the person who taught them to you, you can quickly find yourself at a stand still. My dad could see this from a mile away and could cut the tension with a quick joke or a goofy dance and usually my mom and I could just let things go. He was there for both of us with a movie suggestion or a new TV show to watch when we got so frustrated with each other that we needed a break. He also knew when we needed to be told to let things go or to apologize to one another. Now the buffer is gone and I can tell my mom and I have quite a few adjustments to make.
We’re about three months into this “new normal” and while I thought things would be much worse there are a few times we could have really used my dad. We’re both so stubborn in our thoughts that I know every time we get into a little spat we both think that there’s no conceivable way the other person is right. I think that because I’m gone most of the day (from 7:20 am-7:00pm) she could help me out with picking me up from the train occasionally or picking up a chore of mine on particularly long days since she’s retired and home most of the day. I’m sure she thinks that since I’m living rent free I should pick up more slack or have better time management when it comes to doing things around the house. Both very different views but somehow we have to make it work because my dad isn’t around anymore to help out.
I don’t want anyone to read this and think that I don’t love my mom or that living with her after my dad died has been difficult. That’s not what I’m trying to say at all. I’d be writing basically the same thing if it were my mom that died because I know I would have problems with my dad for not taking things seriously or for being overbearing because he worried about me so much. What I’m trying to explain that this is a huge learning experience for me… and probably for my mom too. I’m learning how to bend for her. I’m learning how to take a look around and see what needs to be done. I’m learning how to do things without expecting a thank you in return. I’m learning how to be my own buffer.
The other night before I went to bed I walked into the back room and told my mom I loved her. She of course said “I love you” back but the way she said it made me smile harder than I probably have in a long time. Of course I always know my mom means it when she says she loves me but on this day it felt different. I had come home from work and my mom picked me up in her new car. We scoped out the new car together, showed it off to the neighbors together, ate dinner together, washed dishes together, watched tv together, picked up around the house together… everything just meshed that night. So sure, maybe I’m reading into that I love you a little bit too much but for the first time I felt like maybe we finally had a bit of a handle on how to manage the “new normal” together.
Be patient with each other. One day it will click.