My dad left for Kansas on the 8th, and he took his little dog, too.
Despite the fact that now I have to clean my own kitchen--which really sucks--and run my own errands--which only slightly sucks because he didn't really do a whole lot of that--I am always amazed at how much better things go when he is not here. It takes about a week for things to click again, and then it is fairly smooth sailing.
It isn't so much that he DOES anything so terribly wrong, he does a lot of little things that just don't jive with cooperating as a family. We are so disconnected that once we both rented the exact same Netflix movie within days of each other and both watched them separately. That kind of amused me. And I could do the separate lives thing, like I've done with roommates in the past, where you just sort of coexist. But at least for the most part roommates try to be considerate and know that they are coming into the arrangement from equal positions. My father thinks his needs trump everyone else's. As I've said before, I can take it--I just ignore it--but it becomes really hard on D and the kids.
I could bullet point a bunch of things that are little that he does. No one thing is that big of deal, but together they make my life much, much more complicated that necessary. Like:
- He leaves very dangerous things around the house, garage and yard. He once left a sharp pair of hedge clippers in the babies' stroller. I found them again out in our patio on a chair. He left electric hedge clippers (the kind that look like a chainsaw) on a low shelf in the garage. He leaves knives and the cheese shredder and things down low. He leaves his heart medication where the kids can get it. I am constantly having to on the spot baby proof and I get nervous leaving the kids in another room unless I've inspected it.
- He leaves the garage in a complete mess. electrical cords, tools, whatever, just thrown any which way. I've tried to keep some things together like the Christmas stuff or my gardening tools. Christmas stuff gets dissipated everywhere. Gardening tools, gone.
- Along those lines, people say to me that it must make me feel better to have my dad in the house so I'm not alone with small children. Well, it might...except he often leaves the doors unlocked all night long. I have to always double check it before I go to bed.
- He crabs at me at least monthly that I need to pick up the dog poop and make the dog poop across the street in regards to a future, potential guide dog that I don't even own yet. But! The kids and I were out planting some annuals the other day (with kitchen spoons since my gardening stuff is gone) and there was Abbey poop EVERY THREE TO FIVE FEET. It was EVERYWHERE. The kids kept saying "mama! dog poopies!" and spooning them up for me to see. Lovely.
- Every time he leaves I go around and match the lids to the pots and the storage containers with their lids and have all the baking stuff together and the silverware together, etc. And we go along like that, happily. Naim (and Aaron on occasion) help me empty out the dishwasher and put most of the stuff away that goes on the bottom shelves and drawers. They manage to put it all in the right place, but my dad messes up everything. And not always the same way, either. So one day I can find the measuring cups over in this drawer and the next day I can find them in another, neither of which are where I always put them. I spend A LOT of time simply finding things. And I'm blind, so I have very little patience for that shit.
- He complains if I give the kids a small cup of his orange juice or if we eat anything he has bought at the grocery store. However, he eats my peanut butter, my crackers, any and all condiments, any food that I make for dinner if he is around, potato chips, any kind of snacky food, etc. Now, I don't really care because I think feuding over food is asinine, but since he can and does go to the store ANY TIME HE WANTS, and I have to plan ahead and order online, it gets really irritating that I can't use his things when he has eating all of mine.
- Then he says just purely asshole-ish things like, "maybe you could get a little refrigerator to keep in the garage for some of your stuff so I can fit my food in the fridge better." Um, excuuuuse me? First of all, I am the one who is feeding at least three, sometimes four and sometimes five people three meals a day. Second, if you would share food like a normal human being, then we wouldn't have to have doubles of everything and we would have more space in the fridge.
- Oh, and he gets mad at me for cooking. For cooking for my children and I and D. He likes the nights when I make sandwiches or just feed the kids canned ravioli. If I cook anything at all, he flips out. And first of all, I am no gourmet cook, so it isn't like I'm doing complicated recipes with 500 ingredients and 50 pots and pans. One night it was because I used a frying pan and a small sauce pan. Another because I used a 9X13 baking dish. I keep telling him that I cannot feed his grandkids chefboyardee every night and still fulfill his wish that they become big, strapping tall men. (Nor can I afford it when someone is eating my food without contributing. My grocery bill goes up around $100/mo. when he is here.) Secondly, when we were growing up, My mom (sometimes my dad) usually cooked and my sister and I alternately cleaned the kitchen each night. Methinks he has selective memory of all the crap my sister and I cleaned up after their cooking. They (gasp!) actually used pots and pans too!
- He bitches about the potty training status of my boys (which I haven't had the inclination to blog about...because uuuuggggh, it isn't even something I'm comfortable working that much on when my dad is in the house.) yet he brings the little dog out here who he has had for ten years. And that dog is not anywhere close to being housebroken. Daily, DAILY accidents. And if I find them, or if the kids have found them by walking in dog shit, he doesn't even offer to come clean it up. He will clean them if he finds it first, but it all involves a string of irrational yelling and cussing and threatening to kill the dog and wishing upon her a speedy death. And my kids actually hear this stuff. And sometimes repeat it. And let me just say, the f word coming out of your three year old's mouth is not near as hard to explain to strangers as is your three year old saying "Abbey! I wish you would die," to the little girl in tumbling class who happens to also be named Abbey.
- He does that archaic thing that men do sometimes where he basically says to the boys "ah, you aren't hurt/there's nothing wrong with you/boys don't cry." Or he says things like "they need to learn to be competitive! You need to get them into sports or something where they can compete!" Yeah, dad. Competition is all around us. I'm more worried that they learn to cooperate and share and be generous, compassionate individuals thankyouverymuch. Not only is that unhealthy, but it also gives boys a bad view of women, as what they are often derogatorily compared to is some form of the feminine if they act with any emotion (or express interest in anything feminine or pink.) It also breeds that asshole type of guy who feels the need to prove that he is a "real man" every five seconds by putting women and gays down. This drives D so nuts that at some point I think he might call CFS on my father...or pack me up and move us all into his one and a half bedroom apartment.
- He insults D's role as a father often by saying things to the effect that they need a male role model around to teach them to play ball or act more manly. He suggested that I get the boys involved in "Big Brothers." Well, great program. But first of all, I know there is a long waiting list for boys who actually don't have fathers to get a big brother, and second, if he wants a man to play ball with the boys, he can get his damned ass off the couch and play ball with them.
- He watches TV ALL. THE. TIME. He doesn't even bother to turn it off when he leaves. And it is loud. (and if I think it is loud, then it is LOUD.) He has an obvious hearing loss, probably due to working around heavy machinery his whole life. But he won't do anything about it. I at least have the courtesy to put on my hearing aids when I 'm going to talk to him.
- You can't even just have an hour to yourself sometimes. Because he will just all the sudden have some sort of need or crisis that you have to help him fix NOW!!! Or he'll just want to tell you something arbitrary. He barged into my room one morning at 7am, waking me up in my non-hearing aided state to tell me that the TV wasn't working or something.
- He is completely oblivious to the disrespect he has for me, D and the kids. I have too much on my plate with not enough support to deal with that shit.
The things is, the boys really love him and he can be good with them. And we could have a cool little intergenerational family thing going. But the energy it takes from me to monitor everything and enforce any sort of rules with him is exhausting. You practically have to strap him into a chair forcibly to have a conversation with him. And even then, he is looking the other way and not even paying attention. I almost feel like I need mediation to deal with this.
Something happened the other night that sort of woke me up. I made an honest and unintentional mistake where I caused some damage to the house. And I hate to say this but it was blindness related. If I could have seen, it wouldn't have happened, or to the extent that it did. I'm already in the process of getting it repaired and it is going to cost me a few hundred dollars to fix it. Which I would do no matter what my relationship was with my father. But the night it happened, I literally FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. The fact that if he saw it, he was going to fucking kill me and I would never hear the end of it. And the fact that I, as a newbie "homeowner" don't know anything about house things, I couldn't just call him up and say, "hey, I made a mistake, I'll pay for the damage, but I don't know who to call or what to do to fix it" really pissed me off. I have had to basically go around and interview everyone I know about it to get advice and referrals. And then, the next day, I was in the kids bedroom putting away laundry and I don't think I had my hearing aids on. Naim came around the corner suddenly and did a loud growl at me because he was pretending to be a monster or a dinosaur or something. And for a split second, I thought it was my dad and he had found the damage. And I was hit with such a panic that it practically blew me over. Over some damage to the house. This is a nonproblem, or a mere irritating annoyance. No one is dying here. Nothing is doomed forever. No civilizations are being brought down. I have to call a repair person and shell out a few hundred bucks. What is living here doing to me? It is the same panic I had growing up. The childish panic of being the loser screwup that I thought I had gotten away from.
The kids are getting older and more impressionable. My tolerance for what he did around them as unaware babies has dwindled significantly. Here is the thing he is going to have to understand: NOTHING. Not his coffee cups or his poopy dog or his TV or his dancing or his damned house are more important to me than the well-being of my boys. NOTHING. The level of disrespect he has shown for me, D and the boys and the level of disrespect he models in general is unacceptable as the boys grow older and start to understand what is going on. Between now and his next visit in summer, I'm going to come up with a concrete plan and rules that need to be followed in the house...and also hopefully just foster a more cooperative, loving family and household in general. (I may have to seek mediation or someone to help me out with this, I'm too "blinded" by the close ties to see it objectively for what it is sometimes.) And if he doesn't improve significantly, I am going to have to leave this arrangement. I have strong, strong emotional ties to this house. To this neighborhood. And to the idea that my mother wished for when she died that my father and sister and I would stay close and care about each other. But both D and I feel that being good parents, having a positive family life, not having to run up and down the street to see each other and care for each other, having our kids and our kids parents be respected, is worth more BY FAR than a nice house with cheap rent.
Okay, I think I needed to write all that out, but that was totally not what this post was supposed to be about. I was going to say how nice it is to be healthy again. I have had what was probably bronchitis for the last two months. I was coughing nonstop. The kind of coughing that makes your abdominals ache, and keeps you up all night and makes you feel like gagging and just is exhausting. The kind of coughing where people start to look at you funny and edge away. I didn't go to church for two months simply because I knew I would cough all the way through the service. It was often hard to have conversations with people.
I tried humidifiers and cough drops and tea and cloroseptic and gargling with hydrogen peroxide and zinc tablets and sitting in the steam room at the gym and cough suppressants of every kind and everything. Nothing seemed to work for more that a few hours. Finally, I tried live probiotics, the kind you have to refrigerate. I am not 100% sure that this is what did it, but within a week after starting them, my cough improved about 50%. Now, two weeks out, I think I'm about 85% there. I have maybe one or two coughing attacks a day rather than 10 an hour. It is SOOOO NIIIICE to not have to cough all the time. It is the kind of sick where you are not so sick that you can just lay down and quit life for two months or check yourself into the hospital, but you are sick enough that it makes every day about sludging through and just trying to get the basic things done. I was so tired all day I can't even describe. Every minute I thought about sleeping and the smallest tasks seemed huge. The kids watched WAAAY to much TV.
So, I'm back to doing Weight Watchers and planning meals and cooking! (Without someone monitoring my dish usage!) Tonight the kids and I made a really good homemade pizza with pineapple and canadian bacon and lots of stealth veggies for the kids to eat and only 5 WW point for me. Fresh food again! I'm sleeping 8 hours a night. I've started exercising again. D and I have set up a schedule where I go over there to work fairly early so I can get out of there early and have the whole rest of the day to do stuff with the kids or exercises or do "school" or whatever needs to be done...and I'm actually getting stuff done. I can tell that I still have a ways to go and still need to take it slowly and get lots of rest (I did 20 minutes on an exercises bike my first day back to working out and had to quit early because my chest was tightening up something awful and I was coughing up an embarrassing amount of yuck that I could no longer hide.) But I'm just trying to do 20 minutes a day now and work my way back and make sure I get to bed early. I have limited myself (and made myself) do an hour of housework a day after the kids go to bed. Whatever I can get done in an hour is great, then I just forget about the rest. In the long run, I get more done this way because I am doing it every day instead of being so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work. (Very flylady of me, huh?)
We are STILL in the throws of potty training and Aaron and I are struggling through some tough behavior issues. But I feel like we are pushing through them as best we can. I've become a much more patient and loving mom lately. I've been able to give Aaron some extra one on one attention and a bit of babying that he seems to really need right now. (I'm sure I'll write more about this later.) D is status quo at the moment. So it isn't as if there aren't problems to deal with, but it is so much easier to deal with problems when you have energy and are not coughing up a lung. And you are not forced to worry about hedge clippers and dirty frying pans.