Quarter Life Crisis

It’s come to my attention recently that Nate and I have very…meticulous… personalities – if such a thing exists. We like our things the way we want them, please don’t touch them. Don’t disturb the peace. Don’t mess with our schedules, nor our routines – for fear of resulting tantrums. From either one of us.


For example, there’s a reason that I keep the dryer sheets to the left of the laundry detergent, but to the right of the small stack of hand towels on the shelf above the washer and dryer. There’s a reason I maintain a system when I organize condiments in the refrigerator, or the cereal boxes in the cupboard – nutrition labels always facing out. And if I observe offending chaos in your pantry, I’ll probably fix it for you. You’re welcome.


And Nate’s very similar. He keeps his Ninja Turtles on an end table in the living room, next to the “brown sofa,” and from that perch, he eats his breakfast and watches his PBS Kids shows every morning. When I tie his red Raphael mask around his head, it has to be just the right tightness for his Highness, or we have to start all over. And don’t even get me started on his fondness for red – he’s almost ritualistic about his “bright red” Flintstones vitamin that he demands each morning. He and I have gone many rounds about the shade of red that’s acceptable. Crimson, no thanks. Maroon, forget it. Has to be fire truck engine red. And if it’s not, here come the tears. Soul-crushing.


He even has an arrangement for the throw pillows that surround him. It conflicts with my envisioned pillow arrangement, of course. It’s actually an unspoken battle we have, and we each “fix” one another’s design several times throughout the day. I have the last laugh, though, because when goes to bed at 7:30, I do what I want: smaller, red pillows in the back, burgundy in the front.


And of course, Nate and I don’t actually have OCD. I know the DSM requirements for such a diagnosis and what the implications are. We’re just meticulous. And habitual.


You’d never know it by the state of our house, of course. As I sit at the dining room table and type this, I can see Crayola markers under the baker’s rack, just out of reach…puzzle pieces and Legos scattered across the carpet in the next room…and yogurt smudges on the chair next to me. Gross.


Yes, you’d never know of our OCD tendencies because Sam was born. Sam.


He’s a disruptor. And he has more energy than Nate and I combined – even after my morning coffee. In fact, he often demands a sip of my coffee. “No way, Sam. No freaking way. And stop digging around in the trash can for the discarded coffee grounds!” Because, yes, he does that.


I cringe when he nears the open refrigerator. “Don’t touch the BBQ sauce! That’s where it goes!”


So, when we get home from the grocery store, I like to unload our merchandise by myself. I usually let them hang out in the driveway and the garage while I get myself situated. And if allowing them to climb around in the car for a few minutes lets me do what I need to do inside the house, then climb around in the car they shall! Don’t worry – I take the keys with me, and I leave the kitchen door ajar so I can hear their shenanigans. It’s usually pretty harmless. They crack up at each other while they take turns sitting in the driver’s seat, pretending to drive. Or they play some version of “tag” – racing back and forth from the very back of the SUV to the very front, giggling and squealing the whole time.


So, the other day, when I heard Nate screaming bloody murder from inside the car: “No! No, Sam, no! Mom – oh, no! Mom, help!” I was immediately alarmed! I rushed down the steps, preparing to tie a tourniquet, sew a limb back on, or commence CPR. In just a few instants, every ER horror story I’d ever heard blurred through my head as I recalled what it’s like to pound on the chest of a Red Cross dummy.


“Sam took your money, Mom!”


What? Really?! Who cares? I sprinted across the garage for that? Because Sam was pocketing the quarters that I keep in the cup holder of the car? I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I slowed my pace and started to turn back to my kitchen tasks. I shook my head, wishing Nate had some of Sam’s financial sensibility. Then maybe I could stop buying future living room debris at Target.


“Mom! Look what’s he’s doing! He’s sticking them in the DVD player!”


STOP. That’s a problem. I pivoted again and sprinted back to the car. Peering into the narrow slot, I saw the tiny ridges of three quarters glaring back at me as Sam casually lifted another one to join its friends.


“No!” As I knocked his hand away, my brain foresaw the potential invoice from the dealership to fix that mishap. We cannot live without a DVD player in the car! We don’t use it on a regular basis, but we definitely need it for those long car trips to Baltimore and (coming soon!) to Charlotte!


Nate also realized the severity of this calamity as he was on the verge of tears. Imagine! – having to sit still in a car for 16 hours without Ninja Turtle entertainment! We might have to converse! Or sing songs! Or, dare I say it, look out at the scenery!


So, Nate and I evicted Sam from the car, composed ourselves, and with steady surgical hands, removed the quarters with a pair of tweezers. A spirit of détente returned to our house, and we ate lunch. Thank you for letting me write about this – it is my therapy. Road trips without a DVD player are no joke.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go rearrange the throw pillows on the sofa.