Monthly Archives: January 2015

I’m Taking Over Now

The cool thing about being a stepparent is that I can opt in or out.  Today I’m in.

See, I went to bed early (for a Friday), and dragged my ass out of bed even earlier (for a Saturday) only to discover all the lights on in the rec room, one kid planning his next move in Seafarers of Cataan, and another playing games on the iPad. At 6:15. I’m taking over for a few moments today and declaring an across-the-board 8:30 bedtime. If they’re going to get up at six anyway, they’ll have to be forced to go to sleep earlier. I don’t want miserable, unrested kids on my watch. My husband’s last words to them last night, around ten, after “I love you,” after they’d watched the entire NHL All-Star Fantasy draft and a couple episodes of Seinfeld, and then played one more round of Seafarers, was, “No need to get up early.” Uh huh.

You can’t give little people who aren’t programmed to sleep-in your permission to sleep-in. What he was doing, crafty adult male that he is, was giving himself permission to sleep in, while I spent my precious, still-dark early-morning writing time listening to Cataan scenarios and cheers of victory over whatever rigged team was losing on the iPad. Well, I foiled his plan and sent the kids back to bed with the option of reading under their book lights if they still insisted on being awake before daylight (Let’s organize a return to reading books while we’re at it, before their brains turn to Jell-o.).

I’m holding my ground until 7:00. Even though I hear their voices downstairs, probably discussing how crazy I am for making them sit in the dark for 45 minutes while bacon is probably sizzling over there in the alternate reality, I’m not budging. It’s the adults in this world who are burdened with crafting order out of chaos. The children in this world need it, crave it; although children can’t always express that need except in poor performance later on in the day after a short, sleepless night. My sweet husband had his chance, and he blew it with a no-need-to-get-up-early. I’m taking over now.

I’ll Take a Good Compromise

I grind my teeth.

I don’t know for how long I’ve been doing it. I just know that when my teeth began to fall apart (after forty, of course), my dentist’s hygienist told me quite bluntly that I had the teeth of a seventy year-old.

Neither my dentist nor his candid hygienist explained to me why I grind my teeth. It isn’t their job to explain why. There is no room for preventative psychoanalysis in the straightforward dental profession.  That part, I’ve learned, is my job. And I blame kids.

Here, I could try to go in the direction of one those sadly amusing Mommy blogs, but I’m not a mommy. I’m a stepmother, and that’s a very different experience. I didn’t carry these kids to term, I didn’t breastfeed them. As I neared the big 4-0, I just became a parent to two human beings who had already traveled with their biological parents through the delirium of those early months.

As a consequence, I don’t have a parent’s delusional filter that spares me from taking a child’s behavior too personally. I don’t have that inexplicable love coupled with guilt for bringing them into my mess, the emotional combo that ultimately engenders forgiveness. I feel and think every bump and pothole on the road to these kids’ maturation. And I dread the end of it.

I tried writing about this topic last night, in the heat of my frustration, and the result was just embarrassing. I just can’t do it at night. Correction: I can’t do it well at night. I wrote something, but it wasn’t an idea. There was no resolution. I just vented and then went to bed upset. I still am. I don’t need to explain the action that brought me here. I just think that kids, by virtue of their immaturity and confusion about life, are capable of being hurtful in all kinds of creative ways. You don’t need to be a stepparent to know that.

So I’m doing poorly today in general. I have a slight headache. I didn’t wake up feeling refreshed and thrilled about the daybreak. Rather, I woke up sick and tired from odd dreams, probably a result of the sixteen sandwich cookies I ate in lieu of an alcoholic bender (my trusty, thirty-something method of solving these problems).

One positive spin on this morning, though, is that there are no kids to wake up with me at 6:15, no little people milling around helplessly while I try to process my coffee and bring whatever I’m writing to an abrupt end. I’m not for sharing in the morning, at least until not until I’ve drunk that coffee and sat in the dark in front of a glowing monitor (That’s a side of me that I’m sure the kids’ll remember well into their eighties.). Meanwhile, in an alternate reality about three blocks down the street, their mom is cooking them a wholesome breakfast and showering them with her guilt-love.

Actually, they are good kids. One is a particularly agreeable little soul, sensitive and polite and highly empathetic. The other one, well, he’s a little more “complicated.” But he behaves well, and he plays the part. Whether he’s feeling the love or not (and who knows what he’s feeling), he usually acts like an obedient child. And you know what? That’s something. That’s a lot, in fact. Kids all around us these days, from the store to the soccer games and into our TVs, are acting like disrespectful, entitled little turds. I’m glad to be half-raising kids who don’t act like that.

I’ve often heard from parents and teachers that children at certain stages in their development don’t have to like you, shouldn’t like you, in fact. They just have to respect your rules and your wishes, your sometimes batshit ways of achieving order and routine around the house. And these kids do. They accept me and my vision, even tease me about it. My husband insists that they even like me, even love me, but who knows.

I can’t have it all, so why complain about what I do have? Anger and protests are for those decades past. Mine is, I suppose, for compromise. Because everyone likes an agreeable little soul, even if she is sometimes playing a part. And grinding her teeth.