I am organized to a fault. I have an excellent memory — I can remember dates, past and future. I know when it’s time to schedule appointments for me and for the children. I can even remember the dates of last year’s annual physicals. I cancel appointments if there are scheduling conflicts well in advance; I know when prescription refills are due. I work two part-time jobs and have been able to keep both schedules working together smoothly, although my coworkers keep joking that they are waiting for me to show up at the wrong job on the wrong day! I carry around a calendar although I rarely need to look at it; everything is in my memory. Field trip permission slips are turned in way before the due date. I have never missed an appointment.
Until last week.
I was mortified. This has never happened to me! I have children with ADHD and a system in place at home for organization. Backpacks get packed the night before school and lined up by the door, shoes in line next to them, lunches packed the night before. This is not always fool-proof. I will often hear them claim, “I KNOW I put it RIGHT here and now it’s gone!” Really? Someone came in and stole ONE shoe? To help the children remember things I put notes up for them. A note by the front door to set the alarm and turn off the porch light; a note on the basement door that my older son will see before he goes to his room at night (he sometimes works until 10:30) to take his medicine. My children have started leaving notes around the house as well; sometimes a reminder to pack something in a backpack for themselves and sometimes to tell me something. Frequently you will see notes taped to various doorknobs or light switches.
As a family we have been juggling many issues. As with every family, every member has their own stressors that they deal with on a daily basis. The adults have work and financial stressors, the children have schoolwork and social stressors. The teenagers have THAT — just being a teenager is stressful enough. Our children also have mental health issues which sometimes keep them from dealing with stress the way typical children may deal with the same stress. When you toss in sibling rivalry, it makes it even more difficult.
We started looking into some respite care for my stepson because his emotional issues and behaviors required all of our attention and we were unable to have a break from him, and him from us! We signed him up for soccer, knowing this meant additional juggling getting him to practices and games but we felt it would be good for him socially.
We also decided to do something different with our basement since we were all feeling overwhelmed in our own ways. This was going to be a family project. We decided to paint the basement, give it a fresh new look and create a more inviting space for all the children. Although it was initially my idea, I couldn’t participate because my shoulder was bothering me to the point of needing physical therapy. Ok, not a problem. I can still help in some way, maybe supervise! Then, BAM! After one day of painting, the basement flooded!! Alright, we can deal with that. We can get new carpet, an expense we were not prepared for, but not the end of the world. What can you do, right? So our plans were derailed a bit, but we tried to look on the bright side. Now we do not need to use tape, we can drip right on the old carpet (the wet pieces had been carted away).
Then, BAM! Within a week my 13-year-old gets diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. The day of his step-brother’s very first soccer practice. We had a 4-day hospital stay (I stayed with him the whole time) and then we came home to a whole new lifestyle. Now we have more things to remember: different foods to buy, more medication to keep track of, more communication with the school on a daily basis, the list goes on.
So then it happened. I missed a physical therapy appointment. It was on my calendar, but I never needed to look at that before. I knew my schedule. As I said earlier, I was mortified, beating myself up and down for days. Now there are notes around my house from ME to ME to remind me of simple things I had no trouble with before. I could remember that my son had a shot now at bedtime but could forget his regular medication he had been taking for years. Or vice versa. He’d get the medication and we’d both forget the shot. I am relying on the children to step up to the plate more than ever before. I have had to say “no” to attending too many events in one day.
As each more stressful event piled on, I asked myself how I was going to mange this new thing. Of course I figured that would be it, after the latest slam, nothing worse could happen, right? I talked with friends about my stress level. I felt like I was juggling a stack of plates and then someone kept piling on ‘just one more.’ My friends tried to make me feel better by saying, “if anyone can handle this, it’s you.” Or, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”
Yesterday my hours were cut back so far at one job that I will now lose my health insurance (of course I carry the children on mine!) and all of the other benefits, including no longer earning sick time or vacation. I will never ask, “What more can happen?” again.