Note: This post is not so much about step-daughters as it is about being a step-mother. It’s an email I sent to a dear friend of mine about how I was feeling and what I was thinking while trying desperately to figure out my role in Nena’s life. I wrote this last summer when Nena was staying with us. I’m posting it because I think others must feel the same way. I’m posting it because it gives me hope to look back and see that I’m making progress. I’m posting it because it is real. Here it is: Step-parenting sucks. I mean it is great but it sucks. No really. Ok I shouldn't say it sucks - mostly because I'm afraid someone besides you will see this note. I've checked the email addy 4 times already worried I accidentally typed someone else's address. Someone who works for the DFS.I guess I should say it is a huge reward that is challenging at times but that's what makes it worth it!
No, "sucks" is better.
"Oh I know!" she cried and laughed ..."I know ... I know I know I know!"
And I wanted to scream... "No you don't! You don't you don't you don't!" in the same sing-songy make-you-wanna-puke way. Because she doesn't. It’s different. It’s a tightrope so thin and so high. It takes the will of a tri-athlete, the grace of a saint, and the cunningness of a fox.
And a lot of chocolate milk.
I know. Any parent has a ton of things to deal with. ANY parent has it tough. And why am I complaining? At least I get to send her back at the end of the summer, right? At least I get a break from parenting. Most parents would give their dishwasher to get a break. And I know that's saying a LOT.
I'm not complaining. I'm really not. And that's the bummer of it. If you TRY to express your frustrations you only reinforce the evil step-mother label. And none of us need that. You don't have a real place ... not a REAL one in the child's life. YOU didn't carry her... YOU didn't almost give birth to her in the ambulance on the way to the hospital... YOU didn't get up with her night after night when she had colic. Come to think of it, you don't even know if she had colic.
And come to think of it, you've forgotten her middle name. Again.
You obviously didn't choose it. You weren't there.
It’s someone's maiden name. Her grandmother's I think.
What kind of mother forgets the child's middle name?
Well maybe you aren't expected to know everything about her. Her allergies are written down and you can get the immunization record from her pediatrician. She’ll remind you of anything she can remember - and she remembers a lot - so I don't think the expectations are too high. After all, you are just a fill-in. The substitute teacher doesn't know much about the students, right?
But you ARE expected to embrace her, and know how to put in pony-tails and mop up the spilled milk. Again.
You are expected to know what requests for "huggies" are legitimate and what ones are manipulative.
You are expected to know who Dora the Explorer is and to be able to sing along with Bob the Builder's theme song.
You are expected to not challenge her to an arm-wrestling match to prove you are stronger-willed than she is.
God help you if you get frustrated.
And god help you if you say no - to anything. Unless you like hearing a thin, loud howl "IIIiiiiii waaaaaant myyyyy maaaaaaaamaaaaaaaaa!"
(Btw, "so do I" is not a good response)
So to avoid another night at the Wailing Wall, you, like any mother, find yourself making ridiculous rules:
"No pulling apart fruit at the table!"
"Only dinosaurs in the bathtub!"
"No opening the ashtray in the car unless you are going to smoke! .... yes I know you don't smoke.... no opening it unless you are going to throw paper away.... yes or clean it out ... yes or show the cleaned out ashtray to daddy .... Yes or put your gum in there ... NO I don't have any gum!"
This parenting thing...
This STEP-parenting thing...
I have to go pick her up. Of course, I'm looking forward to seeing her. We’ll have a great night - or a terrible one - and either way once she's asleep the house will feel so quiet and I'll miss her running into my legs and tripping over the dogs.
It’s a mystery.
Nena and Jenne