Freelance by Jen

Consider me the No More Tangles of your writing needs.

As I type this, full of fresh Monday resolve, I see my neighbor across the street mowing his yard for the second time in less than a week, whereas for us it’s been 11 days, and I want to just go back to bed.

But NO. I have spent way, way too much time in bed, and yesterday I had one of those little anxiety-ridden meltdowns because my stepsons are coming back tomorrow, and I finally admitted out loud that I’m a terrible stepmother.

It’s not only a terrible stepmother – I’m also not a good parent. I was fortunate to have had one child who was born completely able to raise himself, because I wasn’t great with it. I thought, and think, that he was, and is, incredible, as well as the one person who makes me light up more than anything, even donuts, but I didn’t handle anything difficult very well when it came to his upbringing. Specifically from the time he got his driver’s license to when he graduated.

I have two stepsons from my prior marriage, but they were both introverts, both preferred keeping to themselves a lot, and were three and a half years apart. I still didn’t handle it well.

What I had never had, at any point in my life or in my family, was twins. I also never had young stepchildren. I also never had extroverts.

With Cash and Cruz, I have a unique set of stepmother challenges, with an extremely limited skill set. That, coupled with my inability to handle being around anyone for longer than an hour, the stay-at-home orders, and the size of our house, has driven me into my bedroom most of the time (not a punishment) instead of communicating with them. Of parenting them.

I basically leave Josh to be a single parent while I only come out to tell them to PLEASE JUST PICK UP AFTER YOURSELVES, OH MY GOD PLEASE IT’S ONE RULE ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I’m an evil stepmother stereotype, in other words.

Each of us has something they don’t like to talk about. For me, I’m way open about most things, but there are a couple of things I don’t allow myself to discuss. One of those things is how much I don’t bond with children. But I need to talk about it. One, because I genuinely want to become better, and two, I need to know if there are any others out there struggling.

There is no question that I love my stepsons – all four of them. The older two are adults, and I have no contact information for the oldest one, but I follow his girlfriend’s social media for updates. The younger one is finishing up a four-year stint with the Marines, and I very much look forward to him (and his beautiful wife) returning to the area in late summer.

With the twins, I met them when they were freshly six years old and starting the first grade. They were adorable. Cruz embraced me immediately (he wears every emotion on his sleeve and one never, literally ever has to wonder how he feels about anything) and Cash posted a sign in their “boy cave” that said No Girls Aloud (I like to think he meant it in both spellings of the word).

Cash refused to hug me for three years and told me that if I died in my sleep, he did it. Cruz told me all about his life and held my hand in every parking lot.

So it is now that I try to remember those early days, as Cash has embraced me and Cruz sighs with the weight of every human’s oppression throughout history whenever I ask him to do something. Cash wants to tell me everything. Cruz wants me to shut up and leave him alone. Cash is an introvert. Cruz is a very extra extrovert. Together, they’re a mix of both – literally, as they spend a large portion of each day slam-wrestling in their room.

And I get mad. I get mad for a lot of reasons, but I can usually calm myself down quickly. With step-mothering, I have thoughts and feelings that are so wildly mean that I surprise myself. I resent the space they take up in the house, and the messes they make and leave behind. The rational researcher in me, the former pre-adolescent case manager, absolutely cherishes them. She knows that they’re amazingly good, polite, and well-adjusted kids, and recognizes that she got lucky as well with the mother they have.

See, I also get along with their mother. She has been kind and communicative and forgiving, far beyond what I think many stepmother/biological mother relationships are.

So that’s the mix. I love them, but the more I remove myself from them, the more I’m removed from them. And it’s entirely my fault. As I mentioned, they’re actually incredibly good kids. I was 10-going-on-11 once, and I remember being kind of awful. We lived in a very large house, or I imagine my mother might have actually murdered me and gotten away with it because it would have been justifiable.

Tomorrow, they’re coming back for another week of #togetherathome, and I’m determined to meet them at the door when they arrive, and this time not to have them change their clothes immediately (their mom is an ER nurse and very much on the front lines battling for everyone’s right to stay home), but to talk to them about what we’re going to do this week. We’re going to do a fun project that will also teach them something (videos to come), and learn some graphic design 101 together (it’s time I learned this shit too). We’re going to make something we’ve never made before and fill out our Little Debbie Snack Madness brackets and debate on why our choices are superior. And then probably eat them (the snacks, not the brackets).

And speaking of snacks, my friend Callie showed up today with one of her many jars of homemade jelly (she is my life goal as a person). She reached out yesterday asking me which kind I wanted, and since I couldn’t choose all of them, I chose redbud. It’s my tree of the day, plus today is 4/20…it made sense.

Callie is also a stepmother. She pulled in to do the jelly drop during the one time of the day I had planned to walk out of the house…happy coincidence. We stood about 15 feet apart and she listened, even though she absolutely had somewhere to be. She shared her own stories. She reminded me that we’re all dealing with struggles now anyway. And I love her.

Thank you, Callie. And thank you, fellow step-parents everywhere, who serve as inspiration as well as cautionary tales.

Enough of that, though. As I mentioned, today’s tree of the day is the redbud. We had numerous redbud trees in our yard when I was growing up, and it was the first tree I remember being able to spot and identify. Thank you for decades of happy memories, redbud. You’re rad, bud.

My movie of the day is American Hustle (Prime). I thought I had seen this, and it turns out I had not, so I was wrong. I really, really like Christian Bale and Amy Adams, both together and apart, but they’re a force together.

My television show of the day is Eastbound & Down (Prime). Kenny Powers is just a horrible train wreck, and I love baseball and miss it, and the point is I couldn’t look away.

I hope you’re all doing well with your own challenges, and staying safe! Happy Monday?

6 thoughts on “Doing Better: A Resolution

  1. Sue Ellen Novak says:

    Randomly comment on the Redbud. We actually had, at one time, 19 Redbud trees in our yard!

    Like

    1. I knew it was a whole bunch but that’s more than I thought!

      Like

  2. Sue Novak says:

    You are so open. Love it.

    >

    Like

  3. Hamedghasemi says:

    you are the best.I love you

    Like

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