I'm struggling a bit today. The tensions surrounding my children are getting me down. Karl is stressed out because growing up sucks. And while I know that everyone has to do it - and that it sucks for a lot of people, it doesn't make it any easier to watch my child realize that childhood has slipped away and responsibility is breathing down his neck. He and I are very different people - and when I was his age going through what he's going through it was a pretty grand adventure. There were scary bits and hard bits, but for the most part, it was fun and exciting. I think that since home has always been a pretty safe and comfortable place for him, the real world and adulthood seem more scary than exciting. For me, of course, I'd have lived in just about any circumstances to avoid ever living with my step-father again. Karl doesn't have that sort of motivation.
Fortunately, he's made plans to hang out with some friends this weekend, which is really good. He spends way too much time locked away in his room - which I'm sure is the way he avoids ... everything. I expend as much energy as I can trying to drag him out - with chores, reminders to him that he should contact friends, mandatory job search outings, dinner, etc. But, he can't be my full time job, because I've already got one of those. I want so desperately for something to SPARK him... to make him excited about exploring the world and becoming independent. But, I can't control that.
Britt was denied a Pell Grant because - since I remarried - I make too much money for her to qualify. The thing is... I only "make too much money" on paper. In reality, I make exactly the same as before and have all the same expenses as before since Pete and I don't combine our finances (he has financial obligations to his own children). I found out today that she also doesn't have a student loan this year. She says they didn't offer her one, but that seems odd to me. I'm frustrated because if I had known this a year ago when she should have received her financial aid info - I could have done something about it. I could have helped her get a loan elsewhere or something. But - I was never informed. So, all year, her Dad has been paying a crazy amount for her tuition while I assumed he was paying his usual child-support amount. Now he's struggling to get by and I honestly don't know what will happen for her Spring term. She's freaking out because she thinks she'll have to drop out. I have re-checked all of my finances and I just don't have the extra resources to pay for her tuition - so I've been researching extra jobs, etc. I have a freaked out daughter, there is now tension between her father and I, and no one really has the ability to make money appear from the air. Her dad thinks he should claim her on his taxes, but according to what I read, the person the child "lives with" is who should be used for the FAFSA - and if we claim she "lives with" him - then I don't think she'd quality for in-state tuition anymore. Plus, I'd have needed to change my withholding a full year ago in order to not claim her this year. If I just suddenly don't claim her this year, I'll get slammed with taxes. Crap situation all around.
So... stress... and in my current frame of mind, it all spirals and I start thinking that I've failed at life because I didn't manage to save for the kids to go to college... and because I don't have any retirement and a thousand other things (things my dad would have counseled me to do differently, of course).
I was listening to an online radio show today and the song "Hurt" by NIN came on. I can still remember the first time I ever heard it. It was as if the stereo cast out a fishing line that hooked me and reeled me closer until I was standing with my ear practically pressed to the speakers. I had no idea who the song was by or what album it came from, so I researched it until I found out. It seems pretty cliché to identify with that song - but I did. A lot.
Operative word - DID.
It was a rough time in a life that had a few pretty rough times to its credit already. But NOW...in spite of all of the stress and the general feelings of depression the stress has caused, I am no longer the person who identified with that song. When I hear it - it seems familiar... as if it was a story that I saw in a movie once. It doesn't seem familiar as if I lived it anymore. That's something to be grateful for.
There are a million things I could have done differently that would have made this moment easier. Maybe. But - I don't hurt myself to see if I still feel. Not anymore. That's something.
We're all healthy. That's something else to be grateful for.