I'm Fragile, But At Least I'm Organized

by Connie Lissner
Originally Published: 

This is an emotional time in our house: Our oldest is leaving for college and our youngest is starting high school.

I have no control over the events that are unfolding, and I’m not ready. It would be fine if I was the only one in the house who felt this way, but that’s not the case, of course. There can never be only one person in the house who is stressed—it’s like a virus.

For instance, last week my younger son had tryouts for the high school soccer team and he was a bundle of nerves, so I was walking on eggshells wondering what I was supposed to be doing to be supportive. Should I ask him any questions when he talks about tryouts? Should I ignore him? Should we distract him? He would come off the field, and I would try to find just the right amount of humor and silliness to take the edge off, unless he wasn’t in the mood for humor and silliness, in which case he would just glare at me. That was fun.

And, I’m overtired because I’ve been staying up late waiting for my oldest to come home from saying goodbye to friends leaving for college. Then I’m up at the crack of dawn to drive my youngest to his tryouts. No sleep + no control = overemotional mommy, and that’s not a good thing…for anyone.

Then, of course, my son is leaving in three days (or three days, 11 hours and 26 minutes according to the Welcome Week page on the college website that I just checked). Three days! Why couldn’t he have left last year when he was a total pain in the ass? Last year, I would have gladly moved him out of our house and into a dorm many, many hours away with barely a glance back. But now he’s become sweet again and pleasant to be around and nice to his brother! What is wrong with him?!

So, yes, I’m fragile right now and I get teary-eyed at the littlest things. Yesterday I got a delivery notification for a table I bought that will be delivered on August 25, and I cried. Why? Because my older son won’t be here to see it. It’s ridiculous.

© Courtesy Connie Lissner

Do I sound a bit manic? Well, I am. Nothing, at this moment, is within my control and I need to control something. So I organize. I may not be able to control what is happening in my life, but I can control what goes into my junk drawer and how well my fridge is organized.

Thankfully the times when I’ve felt that I’ve had little or no control in my life have coincided with packing and organizing. For instance, moving after I got married was overwhelming, but I distracted myself by looking for great baskets and drawer organizers at the Container Store; having a baby was also a bit stressful, but I dealt with it by searching for the perfect bin, box and shelving system for my newborn; and when my dad was dying, I distracted myself by helping my mom unpack and organize the house that they had just remodeled and moved into. I am great at organizing under duress.

So, now, as I get ready to move my kid out of my house and into his dorm room, I have become maniacal about plastic storage bins. Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve found an endless supply of plastic bins in every shape, size and color you can imagine. And believe me, I can imagine a use for every one of them. That three-drawer number in blue? It’s the perfect size for school supplies and a great height for a bedside table! The extra-long bin with the hinged lid? Perfect for storing wiffle ball bats, golf clubs and tennis rackets under the bed. That little red container is perfect for first-aid supplies! (Get it? First aid? Red?)

Don’t worry, I haven’t bought any color-coded bins…yet, and I’ve held back from slapping labels on the side of each container, which I realized would be mortifying for my kid, but believe me, I really, really want to. My husband thinks I’m nuts and my kid just shakes his head, but I don’t care.

I may not be able to control what’s going to happen to my son, but he will be the most organized freshman on campus…at least until I drive away.

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