Thursday, December 22, 2005

When Good Kids Go Bad

The Boy and Cinderella are now mortal enemies. No longer the pair of loving siblings, these once sweet children have now turned into hellions whose sole purpose is to drive my post-partum self past the brink of insanity.

Since we moved The Boy upstairs, Cinderella has made it abundantly clear that she doesn't like hates having to share a room with her little brother. And apparently, although I've read it millions of times, the terrible twos can strike at ANY time -- even beyond age 3, as apparently is the case for The Boy. Woohoo! The Joys of Motherhood are upon me!

These days, our house is filled with whiny pleas of "STOP COPYING ME!," which are then typically punctuated by everyone's all-time fave: "I'm telling Mommy/Daddy." (BTW, Cinderella was the one who taught The Boy the joys of copying people, despite her father and I forewarning her that she would one day regret it, but what do we know!) The concept of sharing is now lost on my stepdaughter who is apparently attempting to wield some control over her loss of space by trying to keep her belongings away from The Boy. The Boy now screams screeches shrieks when he doesn't get his own way--and DAMMIT IT why shouldn't he as the world DOES revolve his 3-year old self, doesn't it?!?

Yes, hormonal temper tantrums are running rampant in our home. Sadly, these outbursts have not been limited to the children. I'm afraid to admit that I've not displayed the most exemplary behavior over the last month either. Post-partum hormones are no joke. (Please don't tell Tom Cruise because I don't think I can take his tongue lashings right now.) (BTW, I'm so over him. What a dumbass.)

I'm most guilty of feeling that Cinderella is to blame for most of the recent sibling conflict. After all, she is 6 years older than The Boy and should be setting a better example. Then there's the bio-kid vs. step-kid struggle. My stepdaughter is not with us full-time which only draws more attention to the fact that things are more peaceful when she is visiting her Mom. I've had to work extra hard at being fair to BOTH children, not be so quick to judge or intervene, and even realizing that The Boy is just as capable of being the instigator as his big sister. (Gasp!)

So how are we coping with the sibling rivalry?

First, Hubby and I have discerned that the majority of the conflict began when The Boy moved upstairs and Cinderella had to share her room. Her sense of personal space and privacy has been violated, even though she has not had to give up any actual space as The Boy is in a previously unoccupied area of the upstairs room (we were using it for storage). So we've had to do a lot of privacy control, laying down boundaries and reassuring Cinderella that The Boy is not allowed in her area of the room when she is not at home -- and vice versa. They BOTH have to ASK before playing with each other's toys, and they are allowed to give some toys "special" designation and are not required to share. Then, there are those toys that become common property particularly when they are left downstairs in the family room (this is a great trick for getting them to clean up BTW!)

When conflict does ensue? Unless there's a legitimate threat of physical harm, I've resorted to letting them work things out on their own. Actually, I've had little choice in this. Have YOU ever tried to race up a flight of stairs with a nursing infant attached to YOUR boob? It's impossible.

And when all else fails, a little absence makes the heart grow fonder. I simply send them to their respective corners for a while. A little alone time is all they need to realize just how much they do love each other and how boring life is without the other.

Does anyone have any other suggestions for keeping peace among squabbling siblings?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Boy... on Parenting

The Boy: "How are you, Mommy?"

Me: "Frustrated."

The Boy: "Why are you frustrated, Mommy?"

Me: "Because you weren't listening to me just now, and you were being very fresh."

The Boy: "I'm sorry I was being fresh, Mommy. I won't do that anymore."

Me: "Thank you, baby. I"m glad to hear that."

The Boy: "Just next time, let me do what I want!"


Obviously, The Boy prefers me to be a permissive parent, but I'm more authoritative according to this quiz. What's your parenting style?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Million Little Details

There are certain events of one's life in which you want to remember every detail. One such event, for me, is the birth of my children. The day comes and goes at such a rapid pace, it's easy to forget those little moments that have the potential to become treasured memories. Here is my account of the birth of my second child; it was just two short weeks ago, but already seems like a lifetime has passed.
...
I awaken. The room is dark but all too familiar. This has been my only place of comfort during these final weeks. I sit up, trying to relieve the increasing pressure and muscle tension that the last month has brought. I put my feet up on the edge of the couch next to me and stretch the blanket along the length of my body. I look at the clock.
It's 4am.
Just 2 hours to go.
A noise from the hall. My mother, and elected keeper of The Boy for the next week, has emerged from her room. She sees I am awake and decides to join me in my vigil.
How'd you sleep?
The same as I have for the past month.
I'll keep you company.
She takes her place on the opposite end of the couch. We both snuggle into our respective blankets and try to pass the time with sleepily idle chit chat, each of us trying to suppress our growing excitement. The stirring in my belly tells me that She, too, is aware of what today will bring.
Today will be Her birthday.
Another noise from the hall. My Husband is awake.
It's now 5am. He makes himself a pot of coffee and goes outside for a smoke.
Hey, wiff.
Yeah.
Come see this.
What?
The moon is bright red.
My Mother and I step onto the front porch. The moon hangs low in the pre-dawn sky and is a beautiful Harvest Moon
. Not quite the red my Husband described, but noteworthy nonetheless. I will make sure I tell Her the details of the morning she was born.
(I wonder if it's significant that instead of watching the sunrise, I am watching the moon set.)
I go back inside and decide it's pointless to sit any longer and that I should start getting myself ready. I check my bags for the millionth time and decide that if I haven't packed it by now, then I don't need it. My Husband showers and gathers his things together. Having been through this once before, he wants to be prepared. He fills two thermoses with coffee. Hospital coffee sucks.
6am. It's time to leave. I tip-toe upstairs and kiss The Boy goodbye. Tell him I love him.
We leave for the hospital.
It is still dark when we arrive although the sky is showing signs of its transformation to azure blue
. The Main Entrance to the hospital is eerily quiet. The security desk is empty and we realize that we are not sure where to go. There are no signs for the Maternity Ward. We aim for the Women's Pavilion. I don't remember the walk being so long the first time we made this journey 3 years ago. We follow the red and green dots along the floor to the elevators, push the button, and get in. The doors open on the 2nd floor. It is quiet.
We walk through the set of double doors to the Maternity Ward and go to the nurse’s station. No one is there. Computer screens cast a soft glow across empty desks, patient charts and various paperwork.
We look over at the nursery. A nurse spots us and emerges. She has on her face a smile that is as full of hope and excitement as my waistline is full of the infant I am about to meet.
I tell her I am here for a scheduled c-section.
She escorts us to what will be my "labor" room and tells me to change into a gown and that there is an emergency c-section going on so it will be a few minutes before someone is in to see me.
I get changed in the bathroom and emerge to assess my surroundings. This room isn't as nice as the last time I was here. It is smaller. There is no whirlpool tub. But I don't need it this time. Today there will be no unnecessary drugs meant to encourage my body to expel a baby too big for me to handle. No prolonged waiting. Today is scheduled. I know what to expect. Or so I think.
I sit in the chair by the window and begin to rock hoping it will soothe the anxiety that is building inside me.
7:00am. A nurse comes in to hook up my IV and decides against putting me on any monitors. It's too soon to take any vitals.
We are being bumped for the emergency c-section they mentioned when we arrived. Our 7:30am appointment is now looking like it will be closer to 9am.
My husband and I pass the time by watching the news. He takes random pictures of the room: the clock, the TV., me trying my best to look calm and maternal as I rock in the rocking chair.
8am. The nurse returns to hook me up to the monitors. Outside, we hear the circular swooping sounds of the helicopter rotors as it air lifts the newborn infant from the emergency section to another hospital. Husband, the Nurse and I each exchange glances that convey the uneasy awareness of the true fragility of life. That sometimes, no matter how hard you try to do all the right things, things can go terribly wrong. Our thoughts momentarily take flight with the swooping sounds and with the new life carried within, and with the Mother.
We are brought back to the moment by the sounds of our own child's heartbeat from the monitors that are now strapped to my belly. Her heartbeat is strong. She is active. She has been awake since 4am.
8:30am. A visitor. A woman of small stature, dark skin, and middle-eastern accent. She is to be my anesthesiologist and she is here to go over the different types of anesthesia that might be used during my surgery. Epidural. Epidural with sedation. Spinal Block. She tries her best to make it as clear as she can, but I am admittedly too anxious at this time to make note of every detail. I am about to become a Mother for the second time. I trust her explanation and put my fate in her hands and sign my name by the X.
9am. It's time.
I am wrapped in a blanket, kiss my husband and walk out of the room through a set of double doors and into a small postage-stamp sized operating room. It is filled with instruments, large lights looming overhead, and a small bed in the middle. I am told to hop on board and sit "Indian style" slumped over so the anesthesiologist can administer my epidural.
How tall are you?
5'8".
Wow.
You're going to feel some pushing, but it's just my hands right now.
She pushes along my lower spine, trying to feel the gaps between my vertebrae in which to administer the medication that will allow me to remain awake during my surgery.
Now you're going to feel a little pinch and burn.
She begins to inject the Novocain into my spine to numb the area.
They say the body has no memory of pain, but the burning pressure and pinpoint stings instantly call me back to three years earlier during the birth of The Boy.
Another pinch.
Just relax.
Once I am sufficiently numb, she injects the epidural and I am asked to lie down.
Instantly the O.R. staff goes to work prepping me for surgery. Drapes, blood pressure cuff, nasal cannula for oxygen, heart monitor, blankets to keep me warm. I watch the clock.
It's 9:20am.
Then another familiar sensation. My body begins to tremble. Partly due to my increasing excitement and anxiety, and partly from the medication. I breathe deeply to try to calm my body and remind myself that this will be a walk in the park. In 20 minutes or so, I will have a daughter. I keep my eyes focused on the clock and try to control my breathing.
Where's the Dad going to sit?
The staff scurries to find a place for the stool on which my Husband will take his place by my side.
Dad's getting anxious. He wants to come in.
Let's get him in here quickly.
My Doctors are now here. Their eyes smile at me from behind their masks and they begin their prep work.
I feel pinching in my belly. I tell them.
Don't worry. We haven't begun cutting yet. We're just testing to see if you're numb.
I'm not. I feel what you are doing.
Ok. Don't worry. We'll wait.
I keep my eyes fixed at the clock in an effort to calm myself and take my mind off what's about to happen.
It's 9:40am. I struggle to speak.
I'm feeling light headed.
And my throat is feeling a little swollen.
I feel cutting in the left side of my stomach.
No one’s cutting you. Just relax.
The anesthesiologist tries her best to calm and reassure me.
The hustle and bustle of activity continues. Voices, commentary, conversation. Bright white light. The excitement level increases as we all prepare for the new life that is about to enter our lives.
The voices echo and resonate through my mind. The commentary, hustle and bustle continues.
Suddenly I become ware that my eyes are closed. The voices and activity around me sound as if they are coming from a distant hall. Bright white lights rolls overhead. I am being moved.
Where am I going?
What happened?
The questions come, but I am unable to speak. I struggle to open my eyes but I can't. The voices, conversation and commentary continue but I cannot open my eyes. I do not know what is happening.
I cannot see. I am being moved, bright white lights roll by overhead and the voices continue. I fear something has gone terribly wrong.
Am I still pregnant?
Am I dead?
In a coma?
Where is my baby?
Where is my husband?
Where are you taking me?
What the fuck happened?!
My questions go unspoken. Unanswered. Why won't someone answer me!
Then a voice speaks to me.
Your husband is with the baby.
What baby?
Where am I going?
Again I ask the questions but no one hears me. I still cannot speak.
I am sitting up now. I manage to open my eyes enough to see I am in a room. There is a bed next to me. I think I must be in another area of the hospital. What happened to my private labor/recover room? There are voices and people around me, talking to me, but I don't know what they are saying. I look at the clock. It's 11:20am.
An hour and a half has passed.
What the fuck happened?!
Still, I cannot manage to make my mouth work. To formulate the questions that are welling up inside of me. I am panicking, but my panic is suppressed by the sedative veil.
Suddenly a familiar face. My husband comes in to the room and he is wheeling a bassinet. Inside, a small bundle swaddled in a blanket is removed and placed in my arms. I am holding a baby. My baby. My eyes can barely focus. My throat is swollen and I struggle to speak.
What happened?
My voice is thick and slurred.
You had a baby.
But how?
The people in the room find this question funny, but my sense of humor is numbed along with the rest of me. My husband tells me I was sedated during my c-section.
Why?
I don't know. You were out when I came in to the O.R.
I missed her being born.
The tears come. My husband hands me a tissue and tries to comfort me.
You didn't miss anything. She's right here. Look at her.
I try to focus my eyes on her face and take in her details. She is sleeping. Apparently also feeling the effects of the sedation. Her skin is pink, her hair golden brown. She smells of peaches. She is beautiful. More beautiful than I could ever have imagined. Angelic. Innocent. Peaceful.
I try to draw from her peacefulness, and accept that there are no do-overs. I missed her birth, but am reassured to know that my Husband did not leave her side for the 1 1/2 hours that I was in surgery. I am grateful that they had that time to bond and get to know one another. And I am thankful that she is healthy and finally here.
She opens her eyes. Her gazed fixed on my gaze. Her eyes are a deep blue-gray... and I am instantly lost. Lost in love, in hope ... in peace.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Boy ... on Lactation

The Boy: "Mommy, you're like a machine."

Me: "I am?"

The Boy: "Yeah, because you make milk. You're a milk machine!"

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Self-Portrait: Before and After


8 Months


8 Days Post-Partum

The Stats:
BabyGirl (a.k.a. The Mouse)
November 14, 2005
10:00am
8lbs 15oz.
20 inches

Sunday, November 13, 2005

My Breeder's Cup Runneth Over

Hubby and I found out at our 39 week OB appt on Thursday that bioBaby #2 is a whopping 8lbs 15oz already. Her older brother, The Boy, didn't reach the 9lb mark until 42 weeks.

Damn, I make some big babies!

The clinical term for big baby syndrome is
macrosomia. This is a fairly common diagnosis in women with gestational diabetes, which I have been fortunate enough not to have. However, my overly-fertile uterine environment paired with inferior birthin' hips means I must go under the knife once again to free my offspring from my loins. My second c-section has been scheduled for tomorrow, November 14th at 7:30am. We have to be at the hospital by 6am. Ha! Guess I won't be getting much sleep tonight.

The good news is, I won't be subjected to an induction, followed by 12 hours of labor, and 1 1/2 hours of pushing before having to endure major surgery as I did with The Boy. The bad news... hmm... let's see: 4 days of rest in a hospital where I will have my meals delivered to me and a dedicated staff of nurses to make sure I am comfortable? No. Pain killers (a.k.a. happy pills)? No. A healthy baby girl? Nope. Nothing to complain about here.

Oh, and one other plus, is that increased birth weight has also been linked to
increased IQ in adult life. I'll gladly allow my mid-section to the stretched to it's limits and then my guts strewn across an operating table if it means my children will grow up to be geniuses, get high-paying jobs and support me in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed. It's the least they can do to pay me back for the months of nausea, swelling, constipation, joint pain, carpal tunnel, post-nasal drip, and insomnia I had to endure to bring them into this world!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Surviving the Holi-DAZE!

It's easy for me to forget that the holidays can be challenging for blended families. After all, I've been doing the Stepfamily Holiday Shuffle for almost [gulp!] 30 years. My parents divorced when I was 7, and stretching Christmas between their homes was something I was completely used to. Then when my Dad and Stepmom split up when I was in my 20s, I had no problem adjusting my holiday visits to include one more household. So by the time I met my husband and SD, I was an old pro at this holiday schedule balancing act. It was literally second nature. My husband had a harder time incorporating this way of thinking into his holiday mind-set... especially when it meant dealing with my freakishly large extended/blended family. In fact, he is still getting used to it but here's how we've been managed so far...

Be flexible. In order for our holidays to be successful, we have to expand our thinking b-e-y-o-n-d the 24 hour time frame. Christmas simply can not be done on December 25th alone, so visits are planned for the 24th and/or subsequent weekends depending on where we are in the holiday custody schedule. Again, I am used to this concept. My husband is still getting the hang of it. But my SD? C'mon!! What kid doesn't love getting presents, and in our family the gift giving mayhem gives Chanukkah a run for it's money... sometimes lasting well into the new year!


Plan ahead. Lucky for us, my husband and his ex had the foresight to work out a holiday custody schedule ahead of time as part of their divorce agreement. Each year, they alternate who has my SD on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Day, New Year's Eve/Day. Halloween is shared with each getting 2 hours to go trick-or-treating. Knowing ahead of time when my SD will be home with us makes planning our holiday visits so much easier. And, a detail which I think is brilliant, the exchange time for Christmas is always 11am on Christmas morning, so Santa has never had to change his schedule. ;) This year is bioMom's turn to have my SD for Thanksgiving, so that means she will be home with us Fri-Sun. A left-over turkey feast is just as good the second time around, IMO, so SD will get a mini-Thanksgiving celebration with us too.

Don't over do it. Not doing too much is also a challenge, especially with all of the steps and ex-steps in my family. We try not to over-book ourselves and keep the kids in mind, especially my SD who often travels over 4 hours to visit her bioMom's family for holiday celebrations. We try to have as many people over our house as we can to cut down on the travelling. And we plan visits with relatives who live further away in the weekends that follow Christmas... oftentimes extending into the new year just to give ourselves and SD a break from too much travel.

Develop your own traditions and memories. We always decorate the Christmas tree together as a family. In the past, that damn tree has sat bare in our living room for days until my SD came home from visiting her Mom. It was so worth it. SD has her own special decorating job -- which is to to hang all the non-breakable ornaments. She knows which ones are "hers" and tackles them with great enthusiasm and last year happily showed her brother how to hang them just right.

In recent years, SD has also expressed an interest in helping me bake my Christmas cookies. I've usually done this alone, when she is visiting her bioMom and when The Boy is napping. It's just easier and much more productive for me to have the kitchen to myself. (I can bang out over 3 dozen butter cookies in an hour!) But I now realize that I'm robbing both my SD and myself of a wonderful bonding experience and a cherished holiday memory. So this year, instead of taking the easy way out, I will share this tradition with her just as my mother did with me. Baking our Christmas cookies is one of my most treasured holiday memories with my Mom. I want my SD to have the same memory... one that she can then share with her own daughter one day.

My husband and I have learned that in order to be successful, holiday expectations have to be tailored to fit custody arrangements and several sets of relatives who all want time with the kids and us. Expectations have to be realistic, and not based on some fantasy. But with a little planning, patience, and a sense of humor we have made it through and created precious memories in the process.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Adding bioChildren

A reader recently asked me to share how my stepdaughter's bioMom reacted when hubby and I started having children of our own.

To be honest, I have no idea how she reacted. I suspect that she secretly hated it as her behavior over the last 7 years has indicated some jealously as to my husband's ability to move on with his life (and some resentment with regards to my existence in her daughter's life). It's quite possible that some comments were made to my husband -- but he tries very hard to shelter me from her verbal attacks, so nothing ever made its way to my ears and I never asked. I do not believe that any negative comments were made to my SD either, and if they were they haven't seemed to have any effect. My SD loves her little brother to pieces and is thrilled about the pending arrival of her new baby sister. [Just ask the staff and patients at our OBs office who all overheard her exclamations of "My prayers have been answered!" when we found out we were having a girl.]

What's of more interest to me is my own reaction to adding bio-children to our family. After my son was born, it was as if there was a sudden shift in the balance of the "relationship" between my husband, his ex, my stepdaughter and myself. I was no longer the self-proclaimed-odd-man-out, but a valuable player in this game of parenting because now I had a child of my own.

I felt enlightened. I now understood my husband's motives for all those years he was trying to keep the peace and bent over backwards to give in to his ex's demands, despite my repeated protests. He was doing what he thought was best for his daughter and ultimately us. I was now aware of the feelings a parent has for their child and the lengths one will go to ensure that child's safety and happiness. [We have since learned that our relationship must come first if we are to be a successful blended family.]

I felt empowered. Now I felt I had more of a
right to speak up with regards to what was happening in my own home: from issues concerning discipline, to visitation and how it impacted family plans, to creating our own family rituals and traditions. I was not just a member of this family, but now a bona-fide parent in this household who had a voice and deserved respect. I suddenly was willing to take more control over the parenting duties of the household as they applied to my SD where in the past I remained a quiet observer and let my husband handle things. This decision has apparently elevated me to the rank of the only stabilizing force in my SD's life right now (according to the psychologist involved in the custody case).

Yes, there has been a definite shift in our family dynamics since we began adding biochildren to the mix, and it's been all for the positive.

With bioBaby number two on the way, I can only hope that my husband's ex will not further infuse her negativity into our lives or my SD's feelings towards her new sibling. But, as I have said, we are in the middle of an ugly custody battle so there are no guarantees that attempts will not be made. As it stands, we are preparing for some resistance from bioMom with not allowing my SD to visit the hospital should I deliver on a non-custodial day. My husband has already placed a call to his lawyer and is prepared to handle any problems that might arise.

Quite honestly, we try not to get bogged down with worry over what bioMom might or might not do in response to us adding to our family or with regard any other decisions we might make. We will deal with what we have to deal with, when and if we have to deal with it. And we will deal with it together.

In the meantime, we are confident that we have created a firm and solid family foundation in which all of our children can thrive. And we look forward with anticipation, and not dread, over expanding our home by another 2 feet. :)

Monday, November 7, 2005

Little Boy Lost

Last week, The Boy reached yet another milestone in his short 3 year life... moving out of the "nursery" and into the big kids room upstairs which he will now share with his 9 y/o big sister.

My husband and I have been preparing The Boy for this move for a couple of months now, explaining all of the details involved--getting a new big boy bed, moving his toys upstairs, getting to pick out new dinosaur sheets, etc--all the while purposely leaving out the details as to why he was being moved... to make room for his new baby sister due later this month. . We I was expecting there to be some resistence as he made the transition from having a room next to Mommy & Daddy, to being alone upstairs at the opposite end of the house. So I had been playing up all the positives to make him excited about the move. And when his big boy furniture finally arrived, he helped Daddy to put it all together. We then made a family trip to Sears to pick up a mattress and his new sheets. The Boy thoroughly enjoyed this process of building his furniture and buying his dinosaur comforter and Hot Wheels sheets.

Unfortunately, as is usually the case in our household, time is a major issue. There is never enough of it. The Boy's room was not completely set up by bedtime that day and at 8pm it was nothing more than a bed among boxes that had once been stored in that space and were simply pushed against a wall to accomodate his bed. But we had promised The Boy that he could sleep in his new room that night and we were determined to keep that promise.

The Boy seemed totally unaffected by the fact that there was nothing familiar of his own in this room... with the exception of his "red bear" which he sleeps with every night. He happily explored his new digs, bounced on the mattress, checked out the drawers under his bed and helped put some books away in his bookcase headboard. As I sat on his bed and looked around, I was completely convinced that he would be freaked out once being left alone in this foreign space amongst looming towers of boxes and want to be back in the comforts of his room next to Mommy & Daddy. But we trudged along with our normal bedtime routine, kisses, snuggles, donk heads, ice water, music, etc. I said goodnight to my Little Man and walked down the stairs.
10 minutes later, beneath the soft drone of his lullaby CD, I could hear his gentle snores.


He slept.

I was relieved, until...

I emerged from my own bedroom to find the door to his old room open, and inside nothing but a silent darkness and an empty toddler bed. Something was wrong. The Boy was home and in bed, but he wasn't where he should be. He wasn't where I was used to seeing him and hearing him. Not in the safe place next to my room where I could check on him whenever I wanted... as often as I wanted. I instantly felt an overwhelming sense of loss. He was gone. My baby was gone. My little boy was growing up and truly becoming a big boy. And as any self-respecting mother would do, I cried sobbed over this loss. I cried as I walked past the empty room, I cried as I watched him sleep from the top of his bedroom steps, and I cried as I listened to his breaths over the monitor from the privacy of my office.

The Boy has now officially been in his new room for a full week and is as content as ever. He loves his new bed, and being close to his big sister. I've been feeling very nostalgic this week, and have been viewing old home movies taken of him over the last 3 years. I don't know if it's helped or not. My only comfort now is knowing that in a few short days/weeks, I would have another baby to fill that void... and hopefully the loss of my first baby won't feel so tragic.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Toddlerism: Ball Breaker

The Boy, after bringing out a collection of various toy balls (baseball, bouncy, squishy and plastic) with which to entice me into a game of catch, gives me this last bit of advice before throwing out the first pitch:

"Mommy, don't break my balls!"

Thursday, October 27, 2005

My Life's Witness

Why do people get married?

By far, the best answer that I have ever heard to this question came from the recent movie Shall We Dance?:

"We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."

Today is my 4th wedding anniversary.

My life's witness is an amazing man with seemingly unending patience and an uncanny knack for finding the humor in every situation (well, he tries to at least). He gives me his friendhsip unconditionally, no matter how much of a bitch I may be. He's the yin to my yang; my court jester; my unknowing (yet accepting) target when my hormones get the better of me; my reluctant confidant when I am feeling catty; and most recently, my advocate during a recent time of crisis. He indulges my rants, my cravings for Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream and my occasional superficial need for a little bling-bling now and then. He's a devoted father, hard worker (sometimes to a fault) and a man of intense moral integrity.

There's an old gaelic phrase -- which I had engraved on the inside of his wedding ring -- "anam cara" which translates into "soul friend." This is my husband.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Friday, October 21, 2005

Stepmother's Rights REDUX

As the fate of my stepdaughter's custody still hangs in the balance (thanks to delay tactics on the part of bioMom resulting in an adjournment until next year), I have to continue to live with the facts, as they have recently been pointed out to me, that stepmothers have NO rights when it comes to their stepchildren. Sure, I can care for her, feed her, clothe her, help her with homework, help her make little crafty things for her bioMom on holidays/birthdays/Mother's Day, pick her up from school when she is sick (or when she has an early dismissal and bioMom FORGETS) or take her to the doctor because of an infected earlobe that swelled around a newly pierced ear and the earring had to be cut in order to remove it ... however ... I-have-no-rights.

Many of the aforementioned duties have become expected of me and, as a SAHM, I have willingly accepted them as part of my over-all parental responsibilities. Still, I can't help but to feel conflicted when I am advised not to claim her on the witness stand as one of "our" collective children or refer to my husband's custodial time with her as "our time." I have no right to do so, apparently. Nor do I have a right to contact the school, or her therapist or sign permission slips for school trips all on my husband's behalf because it implies that I think of myself as her parent/guardian. Well, duh! I may not be her mother, but I am THE mother of the house in which she lives and I do consider myself to be a co-parent along with my husband (and yes bioMom to a certain degree).

And yet, the same people who tell me of my lack of rights also look to me for feedback, input and advice where my stepdaughter is concerned. Such as:
  1. While sitting in my husband's lawyers office this week, I was asked to review a letter outlining a proposed alteration to the existing custody/visitation schedule. I, being a person of very little rights, yielded to my husband to which his lawyer replied jokinlgy "Get a backbone!" Get a backbone?
  2. And her own mother, not a week after complaining about my SD being left at home with "her stepmother" had no problems with dropping her daughter off at our home one day (unannounced) in an attempt to manipulate the custody/visitation schedule. Apparently, I have no rights except when it's convenient for her and her evil plot to destroy us.

How do I respond to being told that I have no rights, and yet still have all the responsibilities as any other parent? How do I do this without completely detaching from this child altogether?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Stepmother's Bill of Rights

I found this purely by accident one day, and wish I had known of it sooner. You see, most of the "rights' outlined below I have already come to decide (even demand at times) for myself but only after many tears, arguments and lots of hard feelings.

  1. I will be part of the decision-making process in my marriage and family at all times.
  2. People outside the immediate family - including ex-wives, in-laws and adult children - cannot make plans that affect my life without my consent.
  3. I will not be responsible for the welfare of children for whom I can set no limits.
  4. I must be consulted about which children will live with us, when they can visit and how long they will stay.
  5. I will not be solely responsible for housework; chores will be distributed fairly.
  6. I will be consulted regarding all family financial matters.
  7. Others may not violate my private space at home, nor take or use my possessions without my permission.
  8. I will never be treated as an "outsider" in my own home.
  9. My husband and stepchildren must treat me with respect.
  10. Our marriage is our first priority, and we will address all issues together.

I have to admit, that I have issue with item #4. As much as I appreciate knowing that some anonymous author thinks I have the right to tell my husband when/if his child is allowed to live with or visit us, I can't in good conscience apply this theory. If roles were reversed, I know that I certainly would not want my spouse to tell me that my son is not allowed to live with us.

Ironically, there is about to be a shift in the custody paradigm and we have every expectation that hubby will be awarded full custody of my stepdaughter within the week. Equally ironic, given the timing of this post, is that my husband expressed the need for us to sit down and decide TOGETHER the terms of the custody agreement and how many days my stepdaughter will actually be with us vs. her bioMom.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Staying in the Moment

"We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten."
~ Cesare Pavese (Italian Poet)

The below was recently sent to me in email. It's bittersweetness is tempered with provocative wisdom from an experienced Mom. As a young mother, I welcome this sage advice and will happily apply it to my life of details. After reading it for a second time, that application began yesterday during naptime/bedtime ritual with The Boy who, much to my delight, still enjoys snuggling with me in the rocking chair before going to bed. And while I am frequently not in the moment during this ritual - usually thinking about what chores I will do once The Boy is in bed -- yesterday I remembered to pause and take in these fleeting moments and commit as much to memory as I could: the smell of his velvety soft hair, the curve of his alabaster cheeks, the way he wraps his body around my expanding waistline with the expertise of the most limber of contortionists, the soft sigh that escapes his lips as he finds just the right spot to settle into. These are the moments I want to remember.
...

On Being Mom
by Anna Quindlen

If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the blackbutton eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin. ALL MY BABIES are gone now.

I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like.

Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete.

Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.

What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all. Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One boy is toilet trained at 3, his brother at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit- up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing.

Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow.

I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk,too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, What did you get wrong? (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons.

What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, andhow they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.

The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts.

It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were...

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Confessions of a Bad Mommy

Hansel, is 3 1/3 , and not potty trained. According to all "the experts" he is not ready to venture into this new frontier ; hubby and I are ok with this (sorta) and are trying not to force the issue... especially with the impending arrival of his new baby sister which will no doubt, as experts also say, send us backwards a couple of steps. So, no, the lack of potty training is not what makes me a bad Mommy.

Read on...

Rewind to earlier in the week and, in getting The Boy dressed for our 8:30am OB appointment, realizing that his Pull-Ups have remained completely dry overnight (WOOHOO! A sign of potty training readiness!). Casually, I ask him if he wants to use his potty. "No, thanks," is his reply. Even after pointing out that his bladder is no doubt bursting at the seams with pee and he would surely be able to go, he still refuses. Ok, I drop the subject for now and help him get dressed.

Fast-foward to 1 hour later and, while leaving the OB's office, The Boy protests sitting in his carseat because he has a "pee-pee diaper." ANOTHER SIGN! He had never had a problem with sitting in a wet Pull-Up so I see this as yet another positive step towards getting closer to using the potty. Once again I shall refer to the experts who stress that I need to change the offending undergarment immediately thereby reinforcing his preference to stay dry in the hopes it will translate into his wanting to use the potty. The problem? I don't have my diaper bag with me and, therefore, no dry Pull-Ups. So I negotiate with The Boy and promise him that I will change him when we get home. Satisfied by this he happily climbs into his carseat.

Fast-forward to 4 hours later and, while I am goofing off blogging, The Boy happily exclaims "Mommy, I am making pee-pee!" HALLELULIAH! I think. Three major potty-training milestones in one day... surely success is imminent! Immediately I start praising The Boy for letting me know the goings-on in his pants (knowledge that I am sure to be discouraging as he gets older) when I am suddenly stopped dead in my tracks as he proceeds to show me the urine trickling flowing down his legs. My jubilation quickly turns into panic as I am overcome with the horrific realization that I NEVER CHANGED HIS PULL-UP FROM THE MORNING/PREVIOUS NIGHT AND THE FLOOD OF URINE THAT HE HAS BEEN PEEING ALL DAY HAS FINALLY BREACHED THE LEVEE AND IS NOW SPILLING ALL OVER OUR BRAND NEW CARPET!

Shorts, t-shirt, couch slip-cover, legs and carpet all soaked with urine.
Bad Mommy.

BAD MOMMY!

Too wet to have him move anywhere lest we leave a trail of urine throughout the house that would no doubt provide hours of sniffing entertaintainment for our bloodhound with his highly-evolved-olfactory-senses (if we had one) but would at best trigger some territorial marking behavior in our two cats, I tell The Boy to STAND STILL! while I retrieve the necessary supplies to correct my glaring failure as a responsible Mommy committed to potty-training. Change of clothes, new Pull-Up, wipes (for The Boy), towels (for the carpet), Lysol & Febreze, slip-cover torn off couch and promptly thrown into washer.

Fast-forward 2 days later after I finally gathered up enough nerve to confess my crime to hubby and, in hearing me re-tell the story, The Boy looks at me and in the most reassuring of voices says "It's ok, Mommy."

::sigh::

Friday, October 7, 2005

Momoirs: To My First Born

Dear Twerp,

As I prepare for the birth of your baby sister, I want you to know how precious the memories of your birth are to me. It was only three years ago, but in some ways seems like a lifetime especially when I look back in awe over how far you've come in such a short time...

~ Your once intelligible babbles are now articulate expressions of self;
~ Your feet, no longer the object of an oral fixation, have now become your Everest as you strive to put on your own socks;
~ Flawless, alabaster baby skin now shows the battle scars and bruises of a healthy, active and curious BIG BOY;
~ "I can do it" is now your mantra as you learn demand your independence;
~ Your penis, once a fascinating plaything bobbing in the tub is now... well, ok some things never change.

I want you to know that as much as I look forward to adding to our family, I also look forward with equal anticipation as to what lies ahead for you and I. You remind me every day that each moment is meant to be cherished for children grow up far too quickly.

You are my shining light, my inspiration, my soul.

You're my guy.

Love,
Mommy

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Favoritism? Or Loving Differently?

It is my wish that the word "favoritism" never be used in a family ... especially a blended family of step and biological children. I personally find this term to be so offensive and guilt-producing that I cant bear to hear it. Just look at how it's defined:

1: an inclination to favor some person or group
2: unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice [syn: discrimination]


Prejudice?? Discrimination?!?

Ick.

When I married my husband, there was an expectation (both on his part as well as my own) that I would love my stepdaughter as much as any other child created from our union. And why would we not believe that to be the case? After all, my own stepmother has always told me that she loved my brother and I as if we were her own children. Loving us came naturally to her. She loved us both unconditionally. So, of course I would want to model myself after her and firmly believed that my love for my stepdaughter would come with the same ease as her love for me.

There is one flaw with this theory, however... my stepmom never had any children of her own. She had nothing else with which to compare the love she felt for us; it was the only parent/child love she ever knew.

I became aware of this glaring difference when I was expecting my first child. While going over last minute details with my hubby, I expressed my desire for some alone time after the baby was born -- this meant discouraging visits from friends, extended family, and... my step-daughter (with whom he shares 50/50 custody). My request seemed innocent enough: if we were to come home from the hospital on one of his custodial days I wanted his ex to keep my stepdaughter for a few extra days allowing us some quiet time to get settled.

My husband was instantly hurt by my request. He had always suspected that I did not love his daughter the same as he did and that I would treat her differently than our own children, and BY GOLLY now here I was verifiying his suspicions by wanting some alone time with our soon-to-be newborn son. I, of course, felt incredibly guilty for having had the GAUL to suggest such a thing and tried to explain my way out of it and denied the offensive allegations entirely.

However, I soon discovered that there is absolutely no bond as strong as that between a parent and their bio-children. This is especially true for mothers... for, if we're lucky, we had an actual physical connection with our children for 9 incredible months. (This, I feel, may provide mothers with an even stronger bond than fathers for whom, without a uterus, could not possibly know what it's like to have another living creature growing inside of you -- no matter how many times they may have watched Alien. But I digress.)

The difference between being a
mis-guided vs. an effective stepparent is being honest about the "unique" feelings you have towards your stepchildren, instead of trying to deny them. I will not feel guilty having different feelings towards my stepdaughter than my own child(ren). A stepparent/stepchild bond is socially, not biologically, created. It is not automatic but it can grow over time.

The reality is, my feelings towards my stepdaughter were not the same as my husbands, and they are not the same as my feelings towards my own child(ren). But does this mean that I do NOT care about her? Noooo. I want what's best for her. I want her to be happy. I want her to feel safe and secure and loved and special. And I want to beat the living snot out of anyone who makes her feel less than that.

What matters most is that I love all my children in their own special way. I love each of them differently... but with the same intensity that only a mother can.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Curious Twerp and the Anatomy Lesson


This is the Twerp.

He was a good little boy and always very curious.


One day, the Twerp's Mom was changing his diaper.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Your penis," his Mom answered.

The Twerp was curious. "Can I touch it?"

"Sure."

"NO!"

"Why not?"

"It's yucky."
...

Indeed, it is.


This post inspired by the classic works of Curious George, a recent gift to the Twerp which has been read with great enthusiasm every day for the past 2 weeks.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Girl... Interrupted

Since becoming a blended family, with my husband sharing 50/50 custody of my stepdaughter, we have always made an effort not to plan special family outings when my stepdaughter is visiting her Mom. The reasons for this are obvious: we want her to feel as much an important part of the family as anyone else, we don’t want her to miss out on seeing members of her extended family, and we want to avoid any feelings of jealously on her part in thinking that we might have more fun when she is not home.

Maintaining this idea that life comes to a stand still when my stepdaughter is not with us has not been easy. I have a very large extended family (mainly due in part to my parents' divorce and re-marriages to my stepparents) so keeping up with everyone can pose a bit of a challenge… especially around the holidays. I will admit that there have been times when I felt as though I was making more of a sacrifice than I should have been expected to make. After all, my stepdaughter doesn’t sit around twiddling her thumbs when she is visiting her Mom; movies are still seen, playdates are scheduled, and parties are celebrated with enthusiasm. Why, then, should our life be interrupted every other weekend?

The answer? It doesn't, but my stepdaughter doesn't need to know that. First and foremost, I realize that you cannot instill grown-up logic on a 9 year old. In a way, life does stop when she is not at home... it stops for her. So, why ruin the illusion?

The compromise. We try our best to make sure my stepdaughter is a part of as many family events as possible. And when we can’t, we don't discuss what plans we might have when she is not at home. On the flip-side, we also don’t try to make every weekend at home filled with special outings to compensate for what she might have missed out on when she was visiting her Mom. As unrealistic as it is for our lives to come to a complete halt when she isn’t home, it’s equally unrealistic to create the expectation that family weekends need to be packed with activities in order to be special.

Sometimes, being together at home as a family is special enough.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Empathy for the Ex (a.k.a. Sympathy for the Devil)

About a year and a half ago, I decided that I was going to try to get along with my husband's ex. At the time, both of them were constantly bickering and nothing was being communicated with regards to their daughter -- my stepdaughter. So, I decided to take the higher ground for my stepdaughter's sake and figure out some way to communicate with her Mom. And for a short time, it worked. Whenever she would come to pick V. up at our house, I would greet her at the door, hand her V's school bag and let her know about all the stuff a Mommy should know: permission slips that needed to be signed, visits to the doctor's, etc. She seemed to appreciate my efforts even if the sharing of information was totally one-sided. There even came a time when we had to exchange a telephone conversation and I was not afraid to answer the phone.

My ally in this exercise? Empathy.

I learned to put myself in her shoes, imagined what she was feeling and what I would want to see happen if I were her. I put aside my own feelings of anger and resentment and focused on what was best for my stepdaughter. It worked for a while and I know that I was much more content with this way of living.

Unfortunately, my ability to empathize was ultimately undermined once this woman took out a restraining order against my husband after he tried to pick up my stepdaughter during his custodial day. The night the papers were issued, she called the house to speak with her daughter. I was so angry that I simply said "She is not home. She will call you later." And hung up.

I was angry and disappointed. I was quickly reminded that the desire for us all to get along was, at that point, mine and mine alone. If the three of us ever have any hope of co-parenting, then we all needed to change our attitudes and the way we approach one another. The power of one, in this case, was not powerful enough.

At present, emotions are still running high and my husband and his ex do not communicate at all, except through certified mail which often times goes unanswered and even uncollected at the post office (by her). They are embroiled in a bitter custody battle that is scheduled for court next month. In the meantime, we are under advice from lawyers not to communicate verbally with my husband's ex. ::sigh::

Still I try to remain empathetic, albeit from a distance. I understand, even though I don't agree with, what she is doing and why. She currently is not in a relationship, although she was supposed to get re-married almost 2 years ago. If I were in her shoes, I'd be a little bitter too to see my ex-husband and his new wife moving on with their life together and adding to my daughter's family. This woman has nothing right now except her daughter. And, right or wrong, she is doing everything she can to hold on to her. As a mother, I can't blame her.

Empathy has brought me this far, and I hope it will continue to see me through the battles that lie ahead.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Thoughts on Stepmothering: Some Lessons Learned

In the six years since becoming a blended family, I've learned some valuable lessons about what it takes to be a Second Wife and Stepmom. Living through my husband's bitter divorce, and now custody battle, have posed some of the greatest challenges I have ever known. Nothing could have prepared me for this life and I have to admit that accepting the reality of things and letting go of the fairytale has not been an easy task. Now since adding "Mommy" to my ever-growing list of titles, I know I still have a lot to learn, but here's some wisdom I have gathered along my journey:

- Be patient. As in my case, divorce and resulting custody battles can be time-consuming and downright ugly. Things may not always go as you want them to, but try to remember that your partner is trying to make the best decisions for everyone. Support your partner/spouse; criticism can be alienating. Don't be afraid to seek counseling for help getting through this.

- In the beginning, strive first to be a friend to your stepchild. They (as well as their bioMom, and maybe even your partner) may have a tough time figuring out and accepting your role in this child's life and may feel threatened. This is especially true if your interactions with bioMom are limited.

- Work with your partner to establish discipline guildelines, and let him handle most of this in the beginning. Otherwise, you are sure to become the
Wicked Stepmother.

- Try to see the good qualities in your stepchild's bioMom. Never speak negatively about her in front of them. Whatever crap is going on between your partner and her, it does not and should not involve the child. Yes, even a cold-hearted, manipulative shrew like my husband's ex- has a few redeeming qualities. Do your best to find them, as I did, and focus on it. Remember, above all else, that that child loves his/her Mommy and you should not do anything to undermine that love.

- Never send messages to your partner's ex- through your stepchild.

- Never make your stepchild feel guilty for loving his/her Mom or you could be contributing to what's called
Parental Alienation Syndrome.

- Develop your own family rituals and routines, not to replace old ones but to offer a sense of comfort and stability to your stepchild, and yourselves.

I will admit that, for me, being a Stepmom and Second Wife has downright sucked at times. I felt alienated in the beginning; like I was an outsider intruding on my husband's time with his daughter. I struggled to find my place in her life, and to find a place for her in mine. My husband and I made a lot of mistakes and I felt a lot of resentment towards her in the beginning. She represented this past life of his, and this other person who was wreaking havoc on our lives. But we've worked hard, together, to try to create a strong family unit in which my stepdaughter can thrive. and know that she is loved.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Toddler-isms

Where do they come up with this stuff?

Toddler: [in the car] "Mommy, can you roll up my window? My hair is getting winded."

Toddler: [during our first ultrasound for baby #2] "That's not a baby, that's an alien baby!"

Both kids at age 3: [when being just plain argumentative over anything] "No I amn't!"

Toddler: Anything that begins with a "V" comes out with the "D" sound. "His sister's name is "Vicki", he just calls her "Dick" for short.

One day, in response to a moment of extreme obnoxiousness on his part, I turned around to my son and for lack of anything better to say exclaimed "You ... TODDLER!" to which he promptly replied: "You ... MOMMY!"

And my all time fave...

Toddler: [after spotting the little uvula/hangy-thing in the back of my throat] "Mommy! You have a nipple in your teeth!"

Monday, May 30, 2005

Bad Mommy!

No, this does not come the mouth of a toddler in the throws of a tantrum because I won't let him use the couch as a springboard. This is a self-proclaimed title. This isn't the 50s and I sure as hell am NOT June Cleaver - though some folks do like to call me Martha Stewart but given her recent escapades I'm not so sure that is much of a compliment, but I digress. My point is, what is this obsession with being the perfect Mom? Honey, there ain't no such thing.

OK, so I admit it, I have let my son eat Cheerios off the floor beyond the
5-second rule, and lick the cake frosting right out of the can before dinner. Sometimes my kids don't eat lunch until 3pm because they're having too much fun playing together. I do use the tv as a babysitter, and at 3 months pregnant and still suffering the ill-effects of progesterone poisoning morning sickness, I have that right dammit! I have been known to feed my toddler a bowl of cereal for dinner because I don't feel like cooking, or let my stepdaughter eat cheese and macaroni 5 nights in a row because that's what she wanted.

And despite this, my kids are as close to perfect as those little martians can get. My 9 y/o stepdaughter thanks me every night for dinner (even if it's spinach), believes in the magic of Christmas and in Santa, and still thinks that "stupid" is a bad word and won't think twice about scolding any family member whom she hears uttering it. My toddler says "excuse me" when he burps, has better manners than most adults I know, and enjoys baking the cake with me prior to eating the frosting out of the can.

I'm not the perfect Mommy, and I don't want to be. Good enough will do just fine thank-you-very-much. You won't hear me (or my kids) complaining.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

“But, She’s Not My Mother.”

It’s a phrase that can make any stepmother cringe... especially when applied to Mother’s Day celebrations.

It’s a phrase that I heard for the first time last year.

My husband was discussing Mother’s Day plans with my stepdaughter when I had accidentally walked in on their conversation. Their discussion came to an abrupt halt once they saw me standing in the doorway. I pretended I didn’t hear anything but for a moment, those five little words stopped me dead in my tracks. I was hurt. Partly for myself but mainly out of the crushing realization that I, too, had once been a 7 year old with a stepmother. And I, too, had once shared the exact same sentiment.

As a young girl I never celebrated Mother’s Day with my stepmom. No card. No phone call. No present. In my mind, this was not her holiday. Not that I was consciously denying her this day... it simply never occurred to me that Mother’s Day also includes stepmothers.

As both a mom and a stepmom I now understood the importance of being acknowledged by your children. In our daily struggle to carve out a place in the lives of our stepchildren it’s especially important for stepmoms to know that our efforts are appreciated. My stepmother gave of herself so selflessly when I was a child (and still does) – and got so little in return. I regret not showing her the appreciation she so rightly deserved back then. I don’t want my stepdaughter to grow up with these same regrets.

Luckily, Mother’s Day has fallen on our scheduled weekend with my stepdaughter the last two years. So I have had the opportunity to celebrate with her before she goes to spend the day with her bio-Mom. It seems as though the older she becomes, the easier it is for her to accept me as a "bonus" Mom in her life. This year, in fact, she remembered me all on her own and split a classroom Mother's Day project between her bio-Mom and myself. It's these little gestures that re-assure me that I am doing a good job after all.

As for my own stepmom, I no longer forget to show her how special she is to me, and how much I appreciate the endless love, support and guidance she has shown me through the years. After all, without her, what kind of step-Mom would I be?...