may 18th, 2014
now do you know what today is? it’s interesting because even the people who are supposed to be recognized today most likely have no idea it exists. there actually is such a thing as National Stepmother’s Day. the third sunday in may. there are no advertisements for it, no spouses and stepchildren scrambling through stores searching for the perfect gift to say “thank you”. this day will go by as every day does for most stepmothers; with no recognition. no appreciation. in short; no one gives a shit. this is surprising to me given the growing number of stepfamilies in our country. divorce and remarriage are everywhere. stepmothers are spreading around the globe like cancer. and treated as such. you either are a stepparent, have a stepparent or know a stepparent. and yet still the world is trying to ignore our existence. we aren’t asking to be recognized on mother’s day anymore, we got the shit beat out of us over that one. now we have our very own holiday, one day out of 365 when the stepmother is to be, dare I say, honored. appreciated. loved? well now i’ve gone way too far.
perhaps we have walt disney to blame for the bitter taste in ones mouth when we say “stepmother”. but at least he gave us a role in the family. can’t say the same for the mothers. he killed those poor bitches off in the first scene. but not all stepmothers are wicked. most of us are pretty freakin fantastic. i choose to honor all the courageous souls who have been CHOSEN to take on this challenge. God is too smart to make mistakes. he elects only the strongest, most resilient, most empathic, and those with the greatest capacity to love for this gig. he knows how extrafreakinordinary you are. he made you this way on purpose. because even though they don’t know it, and you probably don’t either, those kids need you. and so does your spouse.
think of what goes into the decision to marry someone who doesn’t have kids. there’s a helluva lot of contemplating, probably years of auditioning for one another (unless you’re one of those vegas brides). a whole lot of pros and cons and that’s just to decide whether to share your life with ONE person. now think of what goes into the decision to marry a person with kids. all the above times the amount of children he has plus there’s your ability and willingness to deal with the kids mom to factor in. you’ll have to agree to give up the honeymoon period, the newlywed year when you’re supposed to have sex all over the kitchen 8 times a day without having to worry about children around to get grossed out and traumatized. you’ll have to give up your social life and weekend date nights because you’ll have the kids on weekends even when you two have worked so hard all week that you barely got to speak to one another. you will always be married with kids, there will never be a time when it will just be the two of you. the exciting milestones in your life that you have waited for FOREVER that will make you so freaking happy you’ll want to explode -your wedding, the birth of your own children, etc. you’ll celebrate quietly because they’ll bring pain and mixed emotions to his children which will bring stress and worry to your husband. the child in you will resent them for that. the adult in you will try hard not to. the marital challenges you two will have he never had to face the first time around because there wasn’t a divorce, or hurt children. and even after ALL that thinking and determining, after you’ve made the decision to love everyone he comes with, to sacrifice, to open your home, life and heart to all of them, you STILL had no freaking idea what you were getting into and you’ll want to punch the people who insist you must have.
your marriage begins when everyone else in the family has reached their wit’s end. so basically your marriage has all the makings for a nuclear disaster and you’d be lying if you said you didn’t want to bolt out of it at least once a week. and yet you stay. we stay. because there will never be anything we do that is more challenging therefore nothing could ever be as rewarding. even when no one acknowledges the things you have given up, changed, done YOU know how far you’ve come. how much you’ve grown. how great you feel during a bonding moment with your stepchild. YOU are proud of yourself. and you damn well should be.
i always say the ingredients to make a stepmom are:
1. marry a man with kids
2. have 1000 layers of skin
3. possess the ability to bite a hole through your tongue.
the ingredients to survive being one:
1. expect NOTHING. then instead of being disappointed, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
2. keep on doing the next right thing.
the ingredients to make a successful stepmom:
i have no fucking idea. i’m not that good a cook.
so HAPPY STEPMOTHER’S DAY to all my soul sisters out there!!!! and if you have a stepmother in your life choose today to not be an asshole to her. she is not your mother which is all the more reason to thank her for what she does for you. just in case i’m the only person to appreciate you today you could always pretend you got these cards in the mail: and to the three gifts in my life i am eternally grateful i chose; Casey, Cameron and Christian- being your stepmother is my greatest challenge and greatest reward. you are free to hate me, like me, tolerate me or love me. i have and will continue to make many mistakes as your stepmom. i have done and will continue to do many good things as your stepmother as well. remember we are all navigating through unfamiliar, uncomfortable territory together as a stepfamily. trying to draw lines within boundaries and love is like creating a piece of artwork. it can be as beautiful or as disastrous as we choose to make it. i promise to try to be a grown up even though you know it goes against everything i am! and no matter how tumultuous things may get between us over the years ahead know that you will always be my Princess Buttercup, my Teeny and my Tiny. but don’t let things get too tumultuous cause karma’s a bitch and you never know, one day you may become a stepparent! lastly, to my husband who made me a stepmother-i’m getting you back one pet at a time…….
since we last met (forever and a month ago) there have been some changes. the twins are out of diapers (hallelujah) which briefly made me consider renaming this blog but then i figured before we know it my husband will be wearing them so it’ll make sense again soon enough. we are currently in a terrifying phase of parenting as we now have three full-fledged teenagers and two 3-year-old rock em sock em robots. by the time the youngest turn 18 i’ll feel like i earned a phd in psychology along with a black belt in jujitsu. having a teenager is
maddening challenging, having three at the same time is downright torture and having them be your step kids is well…. there are two necessary ingredients to be able to successfully parent teenagers. unfortunately this formula requires us stepmomsters be sacrificed. i’d like to share these secret ingredients with you as a way to thank you for still reading this blog after a hiatus longer than the ones the writers of “mad men” take. the two ingredients you need in order to survive raising teenagers with your sanity intact are: 1. a stepmother in the anastasi-peter-webster’s dictionary ‘stepmother’ by definition means SCAPEGOAT. teenagers need someone to blame. for their failed tests, their bad hair days, their breakups, their hangovers, why the world is round….their irrational blame and hormone driven rages are usually directed towards mom or dad unless they have a step parent. the step parent’s role is crucial because when is a scapegoat needed more in our lives than during adolescence? up until our kids turn 13 all the damage of our, just face it, piss poor parenting through the years has been hidden under the disguise of that adorable, precocious, funny, sweet, sensitive little love of our lives. brace yourself because d-day is quickly coming when it will be impossible to hide from the monsters we’ve built from scratch since the hormones have unleashed the beast within. ladies, TRUST ME on this. it matters not if any of you are still in love with your husbands, DIVORCE HIS ASS when your oldest kid turns 12. give him the cars, the house, and the family dog if he agrees to remarry immediately. enjoy single life, sow your wildest oats, comfort your preteen through the divorce adjustment period and then enjoy the get- out- of- hell- free card while you sit back and watch your kid unleash his teenanger on their stepmother for the next 6 years. feel free to add your two cents as often as possible, it will only help your cause. if you don’t want your teens turning on you, you’d better make damn sure they’re turning on her. remember, it’s much easier to hate a stepparent than it is to hate a parent so you really can’t lose. who cares if the poor woman feels like this at the end of each day: she’s serving a higher purpose and don’t all of us stepmoms “know what we’re getting into” before we marry a man with kids anyway? can you tell i’m trying not to scream? husbands, please don’t object to this plan. it works in your favor too. your teens will let you off the hook for every time you miss their school plays and baseball games as long as you remarry before they turn 13. use that adorable 12 year old you made to suck that unsuspecting victim right in. and let’s not leave out how fun it will be to get to boink somebody new for a few years (until she blows her brains out or divorces you). that reminds me, you should probably get a prenup before embarking on this experiment. oh, and make sure she doesn’t have kids of her own cause i shudder to think what happens to stepfathers…. 2. a spy. gone are the days the mother could open her daughters top drawer and snoop through her diary by opening the lock that never even locked. now, if kids journal they do it on their laptops protected by a special journal passcode as well as a computer passcode. they now have cell phones allowing them to sext, bully, snapchat their boobies, and there’s probably an app to buy weed. many of them have cars and tell you they are going here when really they are going there. in short, we have no fucking idea what our kids are doing. i was a high school drama teacher for a total of two years too many and i can’t tell you how many parents would brag about their kids to me and i didn’t even recognize who the hell they were talking about. “my daughter deserves the lead in the play because she’s worked so hard the last few years and i’ve never seen a 16-year-old with so much focus and discipline.” meanwhile on this planet i’d never seen her daughter NOT stoned and she hadn’t completed an assignment for me in a year and half. let me be super duper clear-i am judging no parent. i am blaming no parent. i am in the same sinking ship with the rest of you. so i’ve decided to do something about it. i became a detective. i am a private investigator which makes me a licensed bullshit detector. with 5 kids most of my cases will likely be within my own family so i’ve basically gone from a ‘stay at home’ mom to a ‘working from home’ one. the verdicts still out over whose more disturbed by my career- the kids or the husband…. i just can’t stand feeling powerless against what’s to come armed only with a stack of parenting books that all contradict each other. i hear there are people out there who have this parenting thing DOWN. who have a wonderful relationship with their teenagers, whose kids are happy, well-adjusted, and don’t have a single STD. so it made me wonder, are these families immune to dysfunction? are their teenagers missing the self-destructive gene? or could it be that while everybody else has been hoping against hope this “friend trend” approach to parenting works, these better parents quickly saw where that was heading and opted to give “creepy as hell” a shot instead? perhaps they adopted a drug sniffing german shepherd because whoever keeps electing labs as the most family friend dog clearly has never had a teenager. if you wanna be moms best friend you better be able to find the pot stashed throughout the house. think of how many crises, therapy bills and wrinkles we could prevent if we started TAPPING THEIR SHIT. put spyware on their phones. gps trackers on their cars, cameras in their rooms and all around the house. and as soon as it becomes legal, MICROCHIP the shit outta them. tag those limbs up. by 13 they’ve totally forgotten all the “good choices” we encouraged them to make as toddlers, so it’s our job to do the right thing to prevent them from doing the wrong one. protect our teens. spy on their asses. they deserve it. after all they really can’t help that nothing they say will be anywhere near true for 5-6 years….right? imagine these scenarios: the next time your son tells you he absolutely DID NOT shoot up in his room last night you could take the doubt, gut feeling and parental denial right out of it and rooooooollllllllll the tape! when your daughter tells you she’s working on a project at a girlfriends house and you check in with your trusty gps tracker to discover she’s at her parent-less boyfriends house, you waltz right in with your weapons of mass destruction rip her out by her hair and sleep peacefully that night knowing you’re another day farther away from being a grandparent. while your reading your sons deleted text messages (thanks to spyware) and see he hasn’t told you he has been threatened by a group of punks, you raise holy hell until the bastards are suspended or arrested. than bask in the parental high of knowing thanks to your super sleuthing instead of having to use your husband’s hard-earned money to pay the plastic surgeon to fix your boys mangled mug, you can use it to have your very own cosmetic surgery of choice. if you’re one of the parents whose offspring have made it to 18 without getting pregnant or arrested, sure that’s something you’ll have over all your friends, but don’t get too cocky, college is right around the corner…. the point is this, we gotta be 3 steps ahead of these teens, folks, or they’re going to destroy us all one wrinkle at a time. we’re not allowed to beat em anymore so if we can’t beat em, creep em. they are younger, better looking and better at technology than us. we are fucked if we don’t get creepy. be warned they’ll despise you for a decade for spying on them so in case you’re not comfortable with that get yourself in therapy until you realize that letting your children hate you is a gift, letting them lie to you is irresponsible parenting. then when they flip their shit and scream: “DID YOU REALLY BUG THE HOUSE AND TAP MY PHONE?!” you’ll feel perfectly justified in saying (click below): http://www.tubechop.com/watch/2255640 or you could just tell them their creepy stepmoms the one who’s been spying…… what do you think? leave me a comment and let me know. should teenagers have a right to privacy? to what extent? did you deserve the privacy you had when you were a teen? who’s out shopping for a stepmom right about now?
when i was a little lauren i would twist the stems of apples to find out the letter of my future husband’s last name. i doodled my first name with the last of the boy i had a crush on all over my junior high notebooks. i remember being 12 years old fantasizing with my girlfriends about where our future husband’s were at that exact moment: did we already know them? did they live in a different state? would we know it was HIM the moment we first saw each other?
even with all the creativity my 12 year old self had, i’m pretty sure i never thought “i wonder if HE is 33 years old right now, married to someone else and will already have three children by the time we meet?”
shockingly, that scenario just wasn’t part of my girlish, or womanish, fantasies. but reality has a way of kicking the ass of those fantasies. a been-there-done-that husband was not at all what i was looking for, certainly not at 23 when we met. but by 25 i moved in with him anyway and, voila, got a ready-made family. casey was 10 when i met her and chris and cam were 6. i was certainly in no position to be anyone’s parental figure so i became their oversized playmate instead.
casey and i hit it off amazingly well from the first second i met her. i had an instant bff. it was kind of scary the amount of things i had in common with a ten year old. we drank a shirley temple at every restaurant, liked the same foods, even decided to be vegetarians together for about five minutes. we are both very emotional creatures stifled in a german family but we had each other to cry with over animal cruelty and movies. okay, i’m not naive, i realize that the only reason she accepted some young chick with her daddy this effortlessly was because she wasn’t a teenager when i met her. we got some precious years of bonding in before the hormone induced extraterrestrial years would start which no doubt would have made things a little harder to swallow.
the boys were a bit more challenging. i had taught preschool just before i moved to florida so i was used to conversing on a 3 year old level. i don’t think i’d ever met a 6 year old before them. and besides, they were BOYS. what the heck was i supposed to do with two boys who were too old for preschool games but too young to drink with?
they always seemed to find me entertaining and got some good laughs at my expense, but when it came down to who would sit by me in a restaurant, or who would drive with me if we had to take two cars, it was always casey. the boys were never rude when declining to be within 10 feet of me, it was just as if they were saying, “Look, you’re nice enough. We like that you make daddy happy. It’s okay you live in our house. But you are not our family. So we are gonna keep our distance for a while.” who knew you could get your feelings hurt by a 6 year old?
thankfully, it was not long before all three of them accepted me into their family. five years after meeting them I still really, truly, have no “My skids are SUCH assholes to me!” stories. even now that casey is 15 we still have yet to have a step-fight. oh, wait, that’s not true. we had one several months ago that i have chosen to chalk up to my severe sleep deprivation and her being part of a terrible species called ‘teenager’.
step parenting is a really weird freaking thing. and anyone who expects you to be able to do it well obviously has never been one. the role is too bizarre. i don’t even understand it. you are not the parent, and yet are expected to act like one sometimes but without stepping on the parent’s toes. it’s never even clear when those sometimes are until it’s too late and your spouse is yelling at you for failing to ‘step’ up. and how the hell do you parent someone’s kid without stepping on their parent’s toes? seems to me stepparent means: the child/rens friend with parental obligations without parental responsibility, authority, or any kind of say whatsoever.
more terrifying than being 25 in a house full of kids you weren’t sure were going to accept or love you, was being pregnant with their half siblings not sure whether they were going to accept or love them.
gil and i knew they were each going to go through about a zillion emotions before the babies were even born (join the club!). we encouraged communication always and i told them they were allowed to feel whatever they were feeling; good, bad, or criminal. we heard all of it from jealously that ” ‘these kids’ are gonna get to live with dad every day” “babies suck because they get all the attention” “we have to share our dad with two more people” “is another set of twin boys going to make us less special or less unique?” “you’re a selfish bitch for wanting your ‘own kids'”(okay they never said that but at times that was certainly the vibe i was getting!).
i’ll be honest and tell you that sometimes the selfish side of me took over and i would feel angry at all of the negative energy being thrown at my unborn. it’s difficult when the happiest time in your life is one of the hardest for people you love. you want everyone in your life to feel as peaceful, elated, and grateful as you do. it took everything in me to be understanding when the arrival of the two treasures i’d waited my whole life for was being tainted by fear.
just as it always does,the fear turned out to be far worse than the reality. the day the babies were born christian and cameron held them in the hospital and you could see the pride oozing out of their smiles. their very important role of BIG BROTHERS was now 100% into effect. they would forever be 24/7 ROCK STARS. that those little people in their arms would be looking up to them throughout their entire lives.
while casey accepted and loved me right from the start, it took a lot longer for the babies to win her approval. after all, how many 15 year olds want to deal with not one but two crying, puking, creatures demanding all of your stepmother’s time and much of your fathers? casey and i used to hang out together all of the time before the babies were born. as the only girls in the house we jumped at any opportunity to get out and do ‘girly stuff’. i think it wasn’t until colt and jett were 8 months old that she and i got to go out for an hour without them. so i’m the first one to admit it’s been a challenging adjustment.
as soon as they started morphing from their wretched alien looking early days into- even she had to admit- super duper adorable identicals, i think she started to get less embarrassed about having her friends over. she even started to hold them in public once in a while. i asked casey to be jett’s godmother, not to try to force a bond between them, but because i knew she’d grow into the role beautifully. i was right. her family has changed, it’s hard to find security in that until you notice that change doesn’t mean it’s for the worse. we’ve worked very hard to prove to all three kids that the babies aren’t more or less special than they are. that the babies could never, will never replace them. that they all have just as huge a chunk of their dad’s heart as they always have. and that we have not created a new family, we just expanded the one we had.
cameron and christian graduated 5th grade last week. when they went up to receive their diplomas, gil went rushing to the front row snapping pictures on his iphone. he was quite the picture himself, of a father glowing with pride. i felt proud of them and i have only known them since 1st grade. what a feeling of accomplishment it must have been for him. to see the babies he taught how to walk, walk onto a stage and receive a diploma.
nothing made us prouder that day though, then what happened following the graduation. we met the boys in the reception room. they immediately ran over to us, not to hug or acknowledge us, but to grab colt and jett from their stroller and bring them to meet their classmates. within seconds colt and jett were ambushed by 70 something 5th graders oohing and ahhing over chris and cam’s little brothers. every time we blinked someone else was holding the babies. i stood off to the side with gil watching this scene unfold. we couldn’t help smiling every time we heard chris and cam’s voices proudly say “These are our brothers!” “This is Colt, he’s my little brother.” “Can you believe we have two sets of twins?!”
although i was almost brought to tears over how beautiful this moment was, i was completely skeeved out and silently freaking over the 70 walking germs passing my babies off to one another awkwardly. casey, knowing me all to well, walked over to me and said “You’re having a heart attack right now aren’t you?”
through a clenched smile “Yeeep.”
she laughed and went into the mosh pit to rescue one little identical who looked like he’d just been ravaged.
so there they were. the three beautiful kids we were so worried would not accept a step mom, now showing off the babies we were so worried they wouldn’t want to love. if anything should, THIS should teach me what a waste of time worrying is and that these kiddos deserved a lot more credit than we gave them.
i laid in bed that night after sanitizing the hell out of the babies, thinking about all the names i doodled, all the apple stems i twisted, all the fairy tales i starred in inside my head, and how none of that worked out for me. but what i got works because we work at it. nothing comes easy and without diaper baggage when you have a blended family. but i’ll marry my been-there-done-that husband and his kids any day because i don’t think i could feel as proud of my family if i were in anybody else’s. and that’s why it doesn’t matter to me that we aren’t a conventional (aka boring) family, or that gil and i look like a walking stereotype. if you want to judge us, have at it cause not only was i absent the day they taught the ‘how to give a shit what anybody thinks’ course, but i’m a stepmother. i live with a teenage girl, a husband who has the sensitivity of a fork, and FOUR boys. my skins a helluva lot tougher than anything you’re gonna throw at it!