It’s been a rough few weeks in the Straub family. And I’m parenting in crisis mode.
If you follow me on social media, you may have already heard about the humongous tree that fell through the roof of our home two weeks ago, leaving my family temporarily homeless.
And if you don’t follow me on social media, buckle up, because here comes the tree-zaster story.
But in this blog–the tree…and the challenges of being a parent when you, yourself, are in crisis mode.
We lost our house to a falling tree
On Saturday night, September 23rd, my husband was recuperating from COVID in our guest room; my daughter, a high school senior, was out with friends; I was working on a project at our kitchen table; and my son, a college sophomore, was thankfully out of state.
At 8 pm that evening, the huge oak outside of our dining room let out a bellowing, croaking, CRACK, and then that whole darn thing fell directly through our roof, taking out the entire master bedroom and the dining room below it as well as the outer walls of the home. Had my husband been resting in our bedroom instead of the guest room behind it, I’m not sure he would have lived to tell the tale. As it was, he crawled out from under the collapsed guest room ceiling with nothing more than a cut on his ear and a few scrapes on his arms.
In the minutes thereafter–assured that my husband was alive but beginning to digest the enormity of the damage, I would go into a state of shock in which I’d be unable to finish thoughts or speak without stuttering for the remainder of the night. And about the same time, many, many wonderful friends and neighbors would rush to our aid, along with the fire department, the county building inspector, local crisis response workers, and even the Red Cross.
So much CHaos. Not enough comfort.
And in the midst of all of that chaos, we’d call our daughter and tell her and her friends to come home, and she, too, would take in the disaster and simply begin to wail.
There was little time to comfort her, however. We needed to locate our missing cats (we found them burrowed in the ripped box spring of my son’s bed); grab what we could carry; and get out. We didn’t know if the house was stable enough to remain inside.
In the days that followed, our home would be declared unsafe by the county, an army of colleagues and loved ones would pitch in to help us pack our entire household in a under four hours, I’d catch my husband’s case of COVID and get pretty sick, and some very generous friends would open up their homes to my family and put us up in their guest rooms, where we have now been for two weeks–with two weeks still to go before we move into the rental home we were thankfully able to procure through our insurance company.
To say that we are living in a state of chaos is an understatement.
Which is why the first-of-the-month-ly blog I silently committed to over the summer is out more than week late. (And, at the rate I’m going, I’m not placing any bets on November’s first of the month post being being on time either.)
And it’s also the reason, my daughter, a high school senior in the midst of the college process, is feeling so, so tired and needs extra TLC. Frankly, we are all feeling this way.
How to do I parent when I’m Feeling so Needy myself?
But how can I be there for my daughter at the same time that I am so needy myself?
I lean on my own helpers, that’s how.
A wise grief therapist friend of mine uses an image of concentric circles to illustrate the best way to “be there” for someone in the aftermath of a loss. If the loss is at the bullseye, she says, the people closest to the loss make up the ring that circles that center. Each subsequent ring is composed of folks less and less directly affected by the loss. When it comes to “being there for someone in need”, we need to figure out what circle we fall in. We ought to offer support to those in the circles closer to the loss than we are, and ought to lean on those in the circles outside of our own.
Well–in my family, we’ve all experienced a loss, and we are all grieving. AND, I am honored to be in one of my daughter’s inner support rings.
That said, I have cried so many times in the past two weeks because of the kindness and generosity of the many folks surrounding my own bullseye. Further, I’ve had to get used to accepting help–not always easy for this independent woman. But an important habit to model for my daughter.
Practicing what I Preach
If I want my kiddo to be open to receiving, I sure as heck better practice what I preach.
Yes, I am in crisis mode. And I’m pretty sure that the only reason I’m still in one piece is because of the help I’ve asked for–and received–from so many different folks. Earlier this week, for example, I burst into tears after getting my hair cut because my hairdresser, after learning what happened to my family, sent me out the door without charging me. She did NOT have to do that, and I didn’t ask her to. This is one of many occasions these past two weeks in which I’ve felt the good in other people’s hearts being directed my way. I’m choosing gratitude as a way of managing this mess.
I often tell parents that one of the best gifts they can give to their children is to work on themselves–the whole put on your own oxygen mask first metaphor.
And I have tried to do so these past few weeks. And as a result, this blog is days later than I wanted to be. AND, I’ve been able to hug my kids more often than usual, sleep through the nights most of the time, and find the light and love in the aftermath of this sizable loss.
If you’ve read this far, please hug your own kids. In addition, please choose to do something unexpected and kind for someone in your own life. You’ll feel good about it, so will the other person, and your relationship will benefit from your actions. These are the gestures that have sustained my family and me since the tree-zaster, and they are the actions that, if done with enough frequency and intention, will make the world a better place.
With fondness and fatigue,