How my family has multiplied since Motherhood Part 1! I have gained two stepdaughters and another son. Between us my husband and I have four, which is more than I ever thought I’d have. Right now they are 15, 12, 10 and 1. We haven’t entirely convinced ourselves not to have another if the next few years go well. Maybe after Big Sis goes to college.
He even asked me the other day if I would consider adopting a child someday.
Being a stepparent is so weird sometimes. They take shit out on you that has nothing to do with you. You misunderstand each other a lot. I don’t have a strong opposing parent to clash with, but she has left a legacy with her daughters. The competition is relentless and sometimes I just have to get away. But they try to drag me in. They want me to play a role that I don’t really understand except to say I don’t like it.
They will announce their needs instead of asking for things. “I need a pencil!” That’s nice, I reply. Very interesting.
“Will you please hand me a pencil?” By now they know what I’m waiting for.
Of course I will, no problem.
And it’s weird to go from having a boy to being dumped into the middle of Girl World. They fight over razors and nail polish. They follow some beauty regimens I would never have taught them. I have to insist 12 carries a purse because the pockets in her pants are too small to hold anything. She loves tight jeans but hates handbags.
I work hard to make mental space for each of my children but this Summer has made that especially challenging. The girls are high-maintenance and want an ear for just about every thought in their heads. The baby is, well, a baby, and this one doesn’t even like me to leave the room. My older son has always been stoic and I have to make an effort to draw him out.
All this can get exhausting on a good day, and lately my good days are few and far between. As an introvert I need time and space to process things and recharge my batteries. Unending questions and arguments get to feeling stifling. Guilt pangs every time I say no, every time I ask to be alone, every time I find myself nodding but not really listening. You can’t pour from an empty cup, as they say, and too often I’m scraping the bottom hoping to hit a spring.
Because they need a mom. The girls both look older than they are and, no matter how Feminist I am or how many people deny the existence of Patriarchy, the fear of predatory males is real. We all know that young girls in tight clothes may get more than they bargained for.
And Mr. 10 is getting big and is friends with some boys in the neighborhood. I’m looking ahead and hoping to head off the worst of what boys go through too, although for me it’s mostly academic. It’s important to me that my son see women as people rather than sexy golems. I’m not sure how exactly to accomplish this. I have done my best to teach him empathy and take opportunities to show him that women have their own thoughts and feelings.
I take comfort in my understanding that I am his unconscious model of what a woman is, and work to maintain communication with him. And having two sisters is probably very good for this, too.
We’ve started gearing up for going back to school. It starts at the beginning of August and means a busier schedule for everyone. And the year marches forward whether we’re ready or not, stubbornly hassling us to keep up. I’m almost certainly going to miss the first day of school. I’m not sure when Mom is getting out of the hospital but at this point I will surely be there through the end of the month.
With the age split we are dealing with driving and jobs and diapers and teething. And lots of stuff in between. Sometimes I really don’t know what to do and it’s all kind of overwhelming. Going to Cleveland is going to be both a vacation and an exile. I’m not looking forward to a lot of it but, strangely enough, I am going to be glad to see my mother. It will be good to absorb that we have a reprieve from the next phase of life.
And when exactly, you may be asking, do I find time to write all these blog posts? Thank goodness for the WordPress phone app, that’s all I can say. It allows me to take advantage of a few idle moments waiting for water to boil, waiting in line, or even on the toilet. And I pretty much always have it with me so I can grab inspiration when it flies by. Many posts have grown from just a few sentences that came to me in the middle of doing something else.
These are the busiest times of my life (I hope!) I run the house schedule and buy the groceries and handle most of the educational and disciplinary stuff, too. For four people who are all completely different. Who expect me to do stuff for them and know what’s going on, to arbitrate disagreements and protect them from bad things. Except of course I’m also just a person. The hardest thing and also the most revolutionary thing about parenting is the selflessness of it. You really do give most of your time to other people and don’t get a lot of thanks for it.
But doing this is a soul-expanding experience. The trick is to balance it with finding a space for yourself. I don’t understand people who say they lose themselves to parenting. I have developed a much clearer picture of who I am through having to focus on just the things I really need. My space has become defined and organized (well, kinda….) I am no longer the somewhat nebulous, timid person I was in my early 20s. I’m learning what’s important to me and finding ways to focus my energy there. I actually end up getting about as much done as when I used to spend all night screwing around with one song.
And it’s temporary. A few years teaching them and then you have people you share history with and an understanding. To be known, to have family to visit, a shared experience instead of what I grew up with. A sense of connection and a fuller experience of life. These are the motivations that get me through the grittier moments.