The eight year old is the boy. The eleven year old is the girl. They like my dogs. That’s about the only thing they like of mine.
The girl is a little bit of a challenge, but I get the attitude. I am dating her father. At least she’s not outright rude aside from the occasional eye roll coupled with a hushed, “whatever.” She’s a pre-teen dealing with another non-family related alpha female in her life. And she’s handling it better that I would if I were eleven. I would have hated me. I would have put dog crap in the woman's shoes who was dating my father.
And the boy, what a sponge. I have to be careful what I say around him or it will be regurgitated either to his classmates or more dicey, his mother. Using the profanity laden speech to express my inner self has to be curbed. I also can’t leave my clothes lying around. That will conjure up a sit down at the dining room table about why my tank top or bathing suit is hanging from the shower curtain. Oh, and teaching him to pump my gas is not a life lesson every eight year old should know. It’s child labor and it’s wrong.
I also have to be strategic in what I cook. Nothing too “vegetable-y”. Nothing too wholesome or organic. Nothing too healthy or high in fiber or low in fat. And dinner conversation has to be engaging, but not too personal. Discussing our funniest moment of the week is acceptable, discussing who we have the hots for is not. I must always go first. Must break the ice. Make it lively, set the tone. But be careful not to over share.
I have to watch my alcohol intake. No more than a glass or two of wine. Can’t let these kids thinking I am a lush. And I should probably let them slide a little on dishes, but not on cleaning their rooms and making their beds before they leave to go back home. I can’t let them treat me as though I am a pushover maid type.
I can’t play favorites even though hanging out with the boy is less stressful. I mustn’t over compensate because hanging out with the girl is a mild struggle. Tears may ensue. Doors may slam.
When teaching something new, like snowboarding, I must provide enough guidance and pedagogical feedback, but not so much that they want to throw their boots at my head.
I must be generous in gift giving, but not blatantly over the top so I don’t appear as though I am sucking up.
I have to be aware of their body language if I go in for a hug or a kiss, especially in public. I can’t discipline them for sneaking out of the house or lying or fighting with each other. The punishment comes from their parents. I should feel free to offer up my keen observations to their father as to the type of discipline that should be administered seeing as though I have parenting skills and all.
I shall express my love for them on a gradual scale, knowing their love for me is not unconditional, nor mine for them.
I must provide the right amount of sunlight, carbon dioxide, soil, water and oxygen to enable our budding relationships to flourish..
Lastly, I must sit back, keep my pie hole shut and hope for the best.
The balance beam which was my life 10 years ago has turned into an effervescent, buoyant trampoline. My love for those two is unwavering. My actions, not so strategic. There’s nothing to prove. They are my step children, my family, and I beam with pride.
The girl is turning 21 next month. She just ventured out of her comfort zone and took a solo trip to Chicago for six days to “see if it’s a place I want to live after college.” Anxious, trepidatious and full of excitement, she hopped on the plane to a city of art museums, theater productions and deep dish pizza. She got stuck in a thunderstorm, her plane was struck with lightening. She stayed with a stranger in Colorado after being stranded overnight. She came back ready to take a head dive into her next big adventure. She’s changed – a bit more confident, a lot more hopeful. I put a new rug in her old room, hoping it would make her want to come home every once in awhile and visit her toads.
The boy turned 18 back in December. He’s leaving for Wake Forest University in North Carolina in approximately 14 days, 8 hours, 25 minutes. Despite his step mother’s undo influence, he managed a 4.4 GPA, an 1900 on his SAT, was a varsity basketball, soccer and track and field player. To boot, he enjoyed a robust social life outside of normal business hours. He is his own worst critic. I don’t see him having any academic challenges in NC, nor challenges in other areas of traditional college life. Toga, Toga, Toga..
I have committed to working until I am 85 to help pay for his and his sister's college education without any complaining or apprehension. It’s non negotiable. It’s all a part of the plan.
And now as they become acquainted with adulthood, I must sit back, keep my pie hole shut and hope they know their evil step monster loves them unconditionally.