Stress Busting Parenting Tips: Grand Central, Empty Fridge, Locked Door, More Coffee

Teens in. Teens out. Teens in. Teens out. Frazzled nerves, fridge empty, more driving, less sleeping. STOP! Now! Somebody get me out of here!

Parenting Tips for Stress Busting

Parenting tips? Sure. I’ve got a boatload. And thus far, without pharmaceuticals.

  • One petite padded room, with shelves for my designer footwear Mr Coffee is my friend, so I won't go 'round the bend!
  • One power strip for my laptop and heating pad
  • One Mr. Coffee One-Cup, oh go ahead – make it a 4-cup, for my glorious inches of Italian Roast
  • One sampler of Espresso, and Ethiopian Harrar
  • One book of poetry
  • One week to myself – no phones allowed!

Now really. Am I serious? Wouldn’t I have my always-at-the-ready guidebook filled with stress-busting parenting tips? My cheat sheet penned on my palm? Words of wisdom after all these years?

I could use any of the above after the past few days and nights. But I long ago tossed the prescribed shoulds and milestones in favor of intuition and taking cues from my kids. I go with the flow (within reason), and hang by the skin of my teeth most of the time. Or by my fingernails, off the precipice. (Both images are quite amusing when you actually picture them. And both neatly illustrate my daily life!)

Real World Parenting Chaos

Real world parenting?

That means juggling your own “stuff” (which covers a great deal) along with a houseful of kids (some of whom are yours). And for a single parent, you’d never survive if you didn’t live by the “Don’t sweat the small stuff” rule. Still, with the arrival of my firstborn from college Friday night, the chaos level has ratcheted up a notch, as expected. And it isn’t all him; my younger son is a social creature as well. It’s been Grand Central Home-Sweet-Home, complete with arguments over taking my car keys and going out until the wee hours, Latvian friends of Latvian guest, one kid on his Spring Break while the other is studying for midterms, and a confluence of conflicting commitments, schedules, and school work.

Repeat after me: Raw. Nerves. Abound.

Fathers and babies: little kids, little worries - even if sometimes they seem big. It’s been wild, wearing, and only 48 hours since the increased onslaught. But the commotion (normally fine) has both drained and annoyed me – which says much about me these days, and not so much about the teen behavior. My sons and their cohorts are acting as they always do. What is different is me, my stress load already nearing the red zone.

And then there’s that fridge!

Little Kids, Little Worries (Coffee, Please)

When your children are little, your worries are new, plentiful, but generally around basics: health, safety, their sense of self, providing tools for learning. When another parent or educator makes a comment about your child’s development, you flip furiously through the parenting books, comparing his or her performance to age and gender appropriate guidelines. You furrow your brow, or you breathe a sigh of relief. Until the next reason to worry.

And those “little kid worries” are many indeed.

  • He’s 12 months old, but isn’t walking yet. (All the others in daycare are!)
  • Your sister’s son is potty trained at two; you’re still having issues at three.
  • Is she old enough to cross the street? (You practice for weeks.)
  • Why isn’t he tying his shoes yet? (All the other first-graders can.)

That list? I know. It doesn’t scratch the surface. But when you add a second child or a third (or more), you’ve fallen into the rhythm of a veteran – or delirium. You’re so tired that you take it all in stride, and realize the developmental timetable of every child is different. And as for worries? Suddenly the little ones really are little, and the basics return to a more manageable size.

My only real tips? Go with your gut, get as much sleep as you can when you can, and lock the door if you want some privacy. (More on the privacy tip in a moment.)

Big Kids, Bigger Worries (Coffee, Please)

By the time you hit the “tween” and teen years, the worries are gargantuan in comparison to the days of toddlers and tantrums. Sex, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, peer pressure, hormones – they all raise the worry level considerably. Then there are those driving lessons – teaching your teens about highway safety, the no cell phone while driving rule, and anticipating “the other guy.”

That’s the one that is the hardest. Adolescents feel they are invincible and immortal. Remembering to drill into our kids’ heads that it isn’t about not trusting their skills or judgment, but it’s about the other guy who may be drinking while driving. Or on the cell phone and not paying attention.

Parenting Teens and Adult Children (Martini, Please)

Tired and Worried WomanI haven’t hit the “adult child returning home” stage yet. But does my college teen qualify?

He’s 18, very independent, and used to being on his own. He’s respectful as I request the details of his comings-and-goings (especially since he takes my car), but there have been a few scuffles in the past 48 hours, albeit mixed with humor and a sizable dose of patience on his part. Yes, I said on his part.

In the past two years I’ve told both of my sons: I recognize that you are maturing and more responsible, but please remember that I’m used to you being little kids, and needing to watch out for you. So be patient with me as I adjust to your maturing.

I’ve been fortunate with that exchange. While they roll their eyes in exasperation over seemingly simple reminders, they also exercise patience with my questions, respond appropriately, and things are more or less manageable. But manageable doesn’t mean without worry. And I admit – any time one, both, or an entire crew take the car at night, I’m worried and waiting until everyone is accounted for.

Empty Fridge Syndrome

This next week will be a doozie. The three teens, each with a different mission and a different schedule. A birthday to celebrate (no, not mine; I’m sticking at 42, thanks). More comings-and-goings, a party, midterms, job and project leads to follow up, even a few “guest posts” to finish. Sleep? I guess I’ll get some eventually. If this last worry doesn’t do me in: the dreaded Empty Fridge Syndrome.

Did I mention that this morning is the fifth time in ten days that I’ve strutted my stuff at a Kroger’s, Publix, Target, or Trader Joe’s for food? Have you experienced that irritating (and wallet whittling) habit that teenagers have of standing on two hollow legs attached to perpetually empty stomachs?

And yes, we’ve also availed ourselves of Domino’s Pizza (the non-Latvian combo), and take-out Chinese. Yet every time I turn around – the refrigerator is flapping its fatuous gums at me and whining that it needs to be filled up.

And did I mention they’re even drinking my Italian Roast, my Espresso Roast, my fresh-ground Ethiopian Harrar??

Parenting Tip for Any Age: Lock Your Door for Privacy

Privacy with a small house and round-the-clock teens? Say what?? Tub coffee and a lock on the bathroom door. The kids can get their own damn coffee.

I’m going to have to haul out my own advice on giant cue cards, and remind myself of fundamentals. Every adult needs a small amount of time for himself or herself. And sometimes, that means locking the door and hanging an “Off Duty” sign.

It may mean a soak in a tub (except I’m too tired to fill it), an hour with a book (too frazzled to concentrate), or lying quietly on the bed, breathing and imagining an exotic beach (I think I can manage that one).

Other than that? I’m open to suggestions. But don’t take too long. I can’t stay. I’ve got groceries in the car yet to unload. And I need to brew another pot of coffee.


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  1. says

    I guess we become more busy as our kids age, don’t we?

    As for your advice–I will take it. In fact, this morning I decided to take a shower by myself. I put the babies into their beds and hopped into the delightful warmth. It was lovely.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      We do indeed become more busy as our kids get older! And on that note, perhaps I’ve now earned one more cup of coffee. And I’m going to take a page from your book, Amber, and take a shower. (Yes, I’m bringing my cuppa Joe in there with me. Multitasking, thy name is motherhood.)

  2. says

    Parenting is all about “letting go”. One thing that has helped me – I share my screw-ups with my kids. Usually in the form of funny stories. But they definitely know I’m human. That takes the pressure off them needing to be perfect, and takes the pressure off me needing to helicopter near them. We’re all just people at different stages of awareness and psycho-emotional evolvement. But we’re just people. We make mistakes. We need compassion.

    And when my teen daughter has her friends over? I stay in the kitchen while they have the run of the house. It sort of works.

  3. says

    Oh, BLW! I so understand where you are coming from. Luckily, #5 was not home the entire length of his between semester break due to a team trip to Florida to dive at the Swimming Hall of Fame. He was, just two weeks ago, home for a week. He wanted to come home this past weekend. I told him NO! In no uncertain terms, he was not welcome home this past weekend. I knew that #3 was going away this weekend and I had some vague plans and #6 was going to NYC for the day. I did not, on the weekend of the St Patrick’s Day parade, want a college student home to fight with over alcohol and what not. He was unhappy but when I spoke to him on Sunday – via IM – he had actually gotten school work done by staying at school.

    Realize that the fridge will survive with less in it, though I am sure the teens do not believe they will. :) They will. I have become a huge advocate of portion size lately, something teens and adult children have no clue about. Institute portion size. Institute the “you have to ask” rule before eating that leftover. There was a huge fight at my house last week as #1, late at night, ate the pizza #3 had planned for lunch the following day as a snack. They are both adults and I keep reminding them they can go elsewhere.

    Lock your door and take a nap!

  4. says

    Ahh, I sometimes miss the days of little kids, little worries…
    I’d add that a sense of humor is also mandatory. (Which you already have, of course, I just didn’t see it on the list!)

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Oh boy – do you have that right! A sense of humor is a must. (See, mine is dusty.) And TKW – I managed a brief shower undisturbed. It was L-O-V-E-L-Y.

  5. says

    I really love this post because it is full of your undeniable brand of humor, but also with priceless nuggets of life-honed advice. I am many years away from parenting teens, but I think about the days ahead. And I worry. There, I said it. I know in my heart of hearts that intuition and instinct are so often the best measures, but it is hard, so hard, not to get caught in the undertow of opinion. Thankfully we have coffee and cocktails to help us through the morass of modern parenthood.

    (My fridge is empty and my kids barely eat. What does that say about me? Oh, and I love Domino’s!)

    • BigLittleWolf says

      You make me smile, Rebecca. It does get a little wild, but most of us get the hang of the parenting thing. Though I will admit, a cat doesn’t take your car keys.

  6. says

    I know what you mean. My 19 year old is home for the week from college. I’ve gotten so used to just me and the 15 year old. Suddenly we need A LOT more food, there’s more stuff around, they’re arguing, laughing. More technology in action. I’m happy and more stressed all at the same time. How did I (we) do this with 3??

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Maureen – I’m still trying to figure out how Nicki has done it with SIX. And managed to stay sane!

  7. says

    What is it with teens, BLW? They are so big and clunky, always rushing off somewhere, or, as you say, eating. And they have so much energy. Did I do this? Probably not, but I wasn’t a boy.

    Sometimes you add one more boy to a Latvian stew and you know what you get? Mom stuck in the bedroom, out in the cold. Is the two weeks up yet? And, more importantly, where can we send grocery vouchers?

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Ah, Linda. The things we say “yes” to. Our visiting student is here for 3 more days I think. A total of 15 or 16, something like that. He’s been absolutely delightful. And the deal with my kid was that I’d manage the extra work (cooking, cooking, cooking) if he’d pick up the tab from his savings. Um. Yeah. Let’s just say that the savings is no more… but they’ve had a great time. Add Big Brother to the mix- still a great time for all. But a little much circus-wise for me, with everything else to juggle. Which reminds me – time to fix breakfast, make lunches, knock 18 times on doors to wake teens… (they have magical powers of sleep- did you ever notice?)

  8. says

    Never thought of parenting coping this way, it’s revolutionary. In my case (I don’t drink coffee or alcohol), maybe just bigger and pieces of chocolate. Or trips abroad. Or shoes. :)

    PS: Thanks for the poetry comment. I’m a fan of Neruda and Sexton, too! I’ll be back to your blog, you have a lot going on here, girl!

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Love your blog, Terresa! So thank you for coming by. (I almost couldn’t pull myself away. And I was dying for a trip to IHOP – or Belgium – for waffles with more poetry.)

  9. says

    Were you eavesdropping on my brain when crafting the “Little kids, little worries” section of this post? Guilty as charged!

    Having lived in a dorm with teenage girls while teaching at a boarding school, I nevertheless manage to forget how much more complicated everything becomes as our kids get older. As a mother of two young boys, I am often overwhelmed by the sheer physicality of parenting, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the physical is much easier to cope with than the emotional.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      I have a suspicion your suspicion is right! But even as they get older, it’s physical. Just physical differently. Hauling kids, and sporting equipment, and easels and portfolios, and musical instruments, and all those groceries… And worry eats into your sleep at night. (That’s a cheery prospect, isn’t it?)

      Even with all that – it’s the most glorious experience I’ve ever had, and I’ll be terribly sad when my nest has emptied.

  10. Katie says

    Parenting is always stressful, no matter what stage of life your kids are in! It just changes. The only thing you can do is try to understand when you stress is legit and when it is all in your head. (or a byproduct of insane family/cultural expectations that have nothing to do with being a real parent) I found a book called Break Free of Parenting Pressures that has helped me a great deal with this.

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