Blending families


By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007. Lambda rep...

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Of late I have been more immersed in my family of origin than not. Number One Nephew’s situation resulted in a bit of “scheming” with my brother which resulted in N1, as of last evening, being safely in CB’s custody out in California. N1 sounded brighter and more hopeful than he has in a long time, and I know that my brother is tickled to have the boy out there.

We also have Mother for the week and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. She’s preparing to semi-retire and wants to use up holiday time before she plunges into the lap of leisure. Since we visited over the summer, I suggested fall for her visit and she agreed.

The interesting thing about all this is that for the first time in a long while, I feel connected to my own roots. Most of the time, family is Rob and the girls. His family and his in-laws. Physical distance keeps my side of the relations a strictly virtual experience although sometimes that’s more than enough. But having Mom here plus the hours spent on the phone with my brother in the last couple of weeks has brought up opportunities to talk about myself and my history. That’s not something that happens much anymore.

Monday evening while Rob was out fetching Dee from Girl Guides for me (he noted that I was exhausted and offered to go in my stead), Mom and I sat on the sofa in the living (I cannot tell you how long it’s been in days since I had a sofa or a living room) and talked. The discussion meandered but it centered finally on Will. Nothing earth shattering, but when I thought about it later, I realized that I don’t really talk about him. Because I don’t really have anyone with whom to talk about him.

Dee is uninterested in her late father. I doubt she will ever care much about him at all aside from the passing curious inquiry, if that. That’s as it should be. He was never her dad in an active sense, and she doesn’t need to be burdened with obligation to a memory. Will’s own mother bludgeoned him with his late father’s memory, and he resented it, and her, all his adult life.

Rob listens here and there, as I do to his occasional references to his late wife, but they have nothing to do with our life, us or our future, and so have no place outside the incidental in our conversations.

No one ever brings Will up. Until this past summer, when my sister DNOS surprised me with an out of the blue reference to Will, my family ignores his existence and have readily transferred Dee’s “ownership” to Rob, which probably reflects heavily our backgrounds as adoptees because we don’t place the same odd premium on DNA that most people do.

But all of these things remind me that I am not moored to extended family that is “my own” or to history for that matter. I am like a transplanted tree.

Mick asked Rob recently what our plans for Christmas were this year. Her mother’s nephew and wife want to host the holiday at their home up in the Canadian Rockies. Last year, we moved Christmas Eve to the home of nephew’s auntie. A last-minute venue change to accommodate the older girls wanting to hang out with cousins on their mother’s side. It was a bit disruptive for Dee but she is used to rolling with it anymore. Christmas in a mountain hotel (shudder) would be a bit more than a “roll with it” thing, and add the unpredictable nature of nephew’s alcoholic mother* to the scenario, and a quiet Christmas in front of our own fireplace is infinitely preferable.

Rob just joked that maybe he, Dee and I would go to Arizona to spend Christmas with his mom and her husband then. Dee would like that, but she would be terribly lonely for her sisters either way. But their moving on to traditions of their own is inevitable and her being so much younger means she will have to put her ability to roll to more active use more frequently as time goes on.

This will be year five that I haven’t seen my family at Christmas. Not that it’s here or there. You grow up and away and begin traditions of your own as you date, mate and breed. It’s not the Disney theory of the “circle of life” but more accurate in terms of what life really is. My nearness to my family in the past coupled Will’s dislike of his own family lead us to spend the holidays with them more than anything. Had his mother’s family not been a drama infested Bedlam and his dad’s not an aloof bunch, it might have been different.

It’s proximity (which is totally relative) that dictates our current defaulting to Rob’s in-laws and his family recently. If we’d relocated to Texas or overseas as we’d thought once upon a time, everything would be different. But it’s not as if this happens all the time or that I am even aware of it often because most of the time, it’s just Rob, I and Dee. The older girls have their own lives and we have our routines as well.

Thanksgiving is at our house this weekend. A huge gathering with hopefully better weather than the wet gloom that plagues us right now. The new kitchen is operational minus the dishwasher thought that should be up and running by week’s end. The dining room will be rough, the living room isn’t painted and we’re still padding about on sub-floor, but the decor is the least of a feast.

And I am not complaining. Just observing. Awareness is just that and nothing more.

 

*They are a hard-drinking lot when they gather. I stayed on the outermost bleeding edges at the few family things I’ve attended – and even factoring out that these were funeral oriented where people tend to drink a lot more (although getting hammered after a funeral is not a family tradition that I grew up with, I know that it exists) – I have distanced myself from some branches of my own family because of the tendency to equate copious amounts of libation with “fun”. Growing up with an alcoholic just makes me want to avoid anything that reminds me of it and shield Dee from the idea that drinking too much is ever a good idea for any reason. The main reason though is that people tend to dig deep into their past hurts/issues when the tipping point comes and though nothing has ever been directed toward me – I have heard things I wasn’t meant to hear. That wouldn’t be a Happy Christmas for me.

 


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Two things inspired this post. The first was a comment or two from the Widower Wednesday series referencing the ire of in-laws and adult children whose widower was daring to date without their permission. The second was a news item concerning Sir Paul McCartney’s recent engagement to his soon to be third wife.

All I can really say is, “Huh?”

When I hit adulthood, it never crossed my mind to seek my parents approval of anyone – friends or potential partners. I was an adult. Free to companion as suited me, my life-style and needs. My parents certainly never concerned themselves with my opinions of their friends or even of the relationship they had with each other – the latter of the two clearly being none of my business.

But it seems there is a segment of the adult world – both parent, grown kids and even extended family – who feel that getting judgey and expressing it in all manner just-plain-juvenile-and-wrong is completely fine and normal.

McCartney sought the approval of his grown children before deciding to marry again. Perhaps he felt the need to verify his choice after the particularly disastrous 2nd marriage to a gold-digger a few years ago, or maybe the big kids informed him that all future step-mothers must be vetted by them. Who knows. But why? Why?

If my mother were to date or even marry again (and I would start preparing for the Second Coming in either case because it would surely follow on the heels of something so mind-bogglingly unlikely – you’d just have to know Mom in person, trust me), I would smile and say nothing – to her anyway.  DNOS and I would have plenty to roll our eyes about in private to be sure, but we were raised better than to presume on our parents’ intimate relations.

Rob’s mother recently remarried and he kept his mouth shut throughout the process that led her online to a Catholic dating site and through a whirlwind courtship that made ours look downright puritan and leisurely by comparison. She’s an adult and sound of mind and it’s her life.

FIL shaped up to be a good match but even if he hadn’t, it wasn’t the place of her children to wade in – unasked – and jump up on the nearest high horse to pontificate about it.*

Back in my message board days of new motherhood, I belonged to a group of women who were all first time mothers. We’d met at BabyCenter and took our cadre off to a private group once our kids arrived. Through the course of several years, we shared our lives and a couple of the women lost their mothers and had fathers who dated and remarried. Oh, the angst. Some of it was grief driven and I understood that, and none of them got up to any antics because they were too well brought up for such trailer park drama, but it’s not uncommon for adult children to over-think and have a hard time letting go of the idea that parents aren’t just Mom and Dad trapped forever in the context of our childhoods. They were grown ups long before us and continue to be long after we’ve cultivated big girl and boy lives of our own.

The “being raised properly” thing is likely the culprit. The past couple of decades have seen parents being less the adults and more the friends and allowing children too much input into how a family is governed. Recipe for entitled-to-meddle-in-your-lives-adult-kids, in my opinion. Heavy emphasis on the word “kids”. Some people never let go of the selfish impulses and world view that drove their parents to distraction when they were physically children and is now quite the lodestone now that they are only physically adult.

Edie and Mick were somewhere between taken aback and actively stunned when Rob announced our engagement to them. They knew about my existence, our dating and that was about it. They felt a little out of the loop, but that’s because technically they were. That’s what happens when you go out into the world and focus on your own life: you stop paying a lot of attention to what your parents are doing. In some ways it reminds me of my middle school students who were always incredulous when details of my life slipped into their line of vision. They couldn’t conceive of me outside the role of teacher. Kids have the same stilted vision of Mom and Dad. We are JUST Mom and Dad. So there was no reason for the older girls to know about Rob’s life and he was equally oblivious to their grown up lives too.

But Shelley and Rob raised their girls well and our new family formed and continues to evolve without any reality show drama.

The issue that extended family or friends may take with a new relationship or spouse though is different. Whereas children’s feelings should be taken into account – though not necessarily catered to because the idea that one’s children – especially those underage – have some mystical idiot savant ability to ferret out bad actors is one I wish would simply vanish. Children are not the equivalent of drug sniffing dogs when it comes to people’s character. They are far too self-interested for one and way too young and inexperienced for another.

One’s in-laws or friends, unless they are point-blank asked for an opinion, should just keep their opinions to themselves. And even when asked, they should remember that no one really wants opinions. When you are asked for an opinion what is really required is validation. So validate with a smile because no one gives even the tiniest fuck what you really think. Really.

I am continually astounded by people who put up with people who behave like the cast of Jersey Shore. I don’t have any tolerance for it. Neither my younger brother CB or my youngest sister Baby act out with impunity and when my older nephew got snotty with Rob on his first visit, he was squashed. It didn’t prevent further fires, but he knew I wasn’t putting up with it and I didn’t. We actually packed up and checked into a hotel during our 2008 visit when N1 unleashed one of his classic tantrums and I unceremoniously kicked CB out of the house the afternoon Dad died because he launched into his famous imitation of his substance addled teenaged self. Though I loathed Dr. Phil, the oaf got one thing right – you do teach people how to treat you. The choice to be a doormat in your own existence is entirely yours.

Rob has had to set both his SILs straight about what he will and will not indulge as far as their grief issues go, but by and large, our road has been baby butt smooth compared to the horror shows of some of the women I have encountered in the comment sections here and there.

Stalking, verbal harassment, poisoning the opinions of small grieving children. Not okay. If the party related to these people is not acting, that’s telling, and if you are not drawing hard lines in quick drying cement, telling as well.

We have this idea that drama and the “course of love never did run smooth” means that a relationship is meant to be because adversity is good for romance. That’s just sick twisted Hollywood garbage. As the credits roll, the actors are snug back in real lives and the people on the screen are make-believe.

*Rob’s youngest sister was a bit blistery when she first met him – after the engagement and slightly ahead of the wedding – but Rob didn’t back her up. We all sat, rather uncomfortably, around the table while she had her say. Gee handled the episode with more grace than I would have.


The High School Sweethearts

From time to time  the oldest daughter would shyly announce that she’d “met a boy”.  Sometimes that’d be it. But occasionally a date or two-ish followed only for said “boy” to be quickly banished for his clinging ways or over-enthusiastic interest in her.

One thing about both of my step-daughters that struck me early is that neither one has a clear picture of themselves in relationship to how others see them.  Attention and enthusiasm seem to puzzle them.

That young men notice them is no surprise to me.  Each in her own way is a bright light that naturally draws the eye and incites interest.

The “boy” in question turned out to be the older brother of a friend.  I can’t recall if they’d met previously, but they collided with some force at a party, which found them sitting on the roof, deep in conversation for five hours.

“He thinks I’m funny,” she chirped bemusedly.

He probably thinks you are quite beautiful too, I thought but knew better than to say aloud.

“Anyway,” she continued, “we have a date.”

And we didn’t hear about “the boy” again for some weeks.

Edie will be 28 on Thanksgiving (the Canadian one) this year. Her age and singleness have been a growing concern – to her. Rob was unconcerned. His ambivalence about the girls and “boys” is amusing and reminds me a lot of my own father, who had little visible interest in his children’s marital status*.

I tried to be encouraging without being nosy. I am not her mother. Although we have a good relationship, it is not a deep one. She has her confidants, and I am unlikely to be added to the list. That’s okay. I don’t have expectations of being a mother-like figure for her. I came into her life late, and we simply haven’t had, and most probably won’t have, opportunities to bond in that way.

But I wasn’t surprised that a “boy” would find her funny, want to take her out or discover a way to pursue her without sending her in search of her hidey-hole in the hills. That clever “boy” was bound to show up some day.

On Father’s Day, Edie brought him up again. She’d just gotten back from a long weekend in the States, and he surprised her with wine and flowers.

“He missed me,” she blushed a bit.

At the end of a Sunday supper visit later in the summer, I inquired about whether she would be bringing the “boy”, who now had a name which peppered her conversation, to visit.

“It’s too soon for that,” she said.

And I let it go, but I told Rob I expected we’d meet this “boy” by Thanksgiving.

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” he replied.

Christmas at the latest perhaps, but I am guessing sooner rather than later,” I said.

She brought him around for Rob’s birthday at the end of August. A bit sooner than I thought, and the significance of the occasion wasn’t lost, even on her father.

We knew a lot about him by then.

Edie had breathlessly updated Rob as he lay in the hospital the night of his heart attack. Worried perhaps that she wouldn’t have another chance?

At one point during her gushing, Mick leaned over to me and said, “I wish she’d just marry him and shut up about it.”

Silver is a paragon though this is no surprise as like as he is to Rob.

He is handy. Renovating his first house and flipping it for his current fixer-upper. He’s outdoorsy. Good with the romantic gestures and sweeping a girl off her feet moves in a way that cast me back to my early days knowing Rob.

The clincher, I think, was an extended weekend camping trip he planned for the two of them.

“He’s doing everything,” she said. “And I don’t even have to drive!”

So familiar. The keepers must all get the same playbook handed to them before they embark on a new existence.

His first Sunday dinner with us was enlightening as it was vindicating. He was, however, not what any of us had envisioned.

Rob feigned indifference to the potentially momentous occasion.

“I’ve met boyfriends before,” he said.

“But have they had good jobs, their own transportation and owned property?” I asked.

“Good point,” he said.

And upon first glance, he was handsome with pants that sat at his waist and a ball-cap that just about hid his Dermot Mulroney eyes.

During their first conversation, Silver explained to Rob that he liked to do all the renovation work himself because he was “too cheap to pay someone”, and I had to turn around and find something to do in the dining room to keep from laughing out loud where I found Mick snickering knowingly.

When I commented on that revelation later, Rob simply said,

“Don’t go there.”

Barely a week later, a Facebook message from Edie announced their intention to come to dinner again.

“Why so soon?” I asked. “What’s up?”

“Maybe they just want to spend time with us,” Rob said. “There doesn’t have to be something up.”

But of course there was. The children want to spend time with us only about every six weeks more or less.

I am not Edie’s mother but I did watch** them carefully that first supper. Silver had eyes or a hand on her at all times, and I have seen that look before. It’s the one that says everything in the world that will ever matter is right in front of you, and you still can’t quite believe it.

The second dinner was a family dinner. Teasing and stories and protests that nothing more can possibly be consumed even as hands move to refill plates.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

Until we were at the door, Mick, Silver and Edie saying their good nights. Edie suddenly threw her arms around her Dad’s neck and said,

“So …” Long pause and deep breath expelling a rush of words she’d clearly rehearsed. “I’m moving in with Silver at the end of October.”

Rob blinked but said nothing. This produced a slightly less breathless rush to fill the gap as Edie began to expound on the foolishness of renting a place she was never at anymore and that finding a sublet had been easy and that Rob wouldn’t have to move the couch again – in case he was worried about that.

“Well, I’m certainly not helping with that couch again,” Mick chimed in.

My heart sank a bit at the “rent saving” reason. I don’t think that money should ever be the motivating factor for couples to co-habitate. It should always be based on love, and the realization that a shared journey is the only option for them even if achieving this means scrapping one life, or both, to rebuild the new one together.  Expense, logistics, degree of difficulty are to be treated as details only. And then Silver broke into her monologue with

“And she likes me.”

And she does more than that. She’s giving up the city, her beloved neighborhood of Whyte Ave to move to the suburbs. Her sensible speech was for Rob because all his daughters from oldest to smallest value his opinion and respect and want him to approve and be proud.

“Well, I told you so,” I said.

The next day Rob asked,

“How long have they been seeing each other again?”

“How long did we know each other before we were engaged and I was leaving the U.S. and everything I knew?” I said.

“We weren’t kids,” he countered, “but good point.”

“They aren’t kids. Twenty-eight and thirty-two are firmly in adult territory.”

“Good point again.”

“He’s good for her. She loves him,” I said, “and he fits.”

And now that I have officially blogged about him – he’s family.

*Save for that of my youngest sister. Her habit of breeding with men she either wasn’t interested in marrying or those who were not interested in marrying her drove him to distraction periodically.

**I watch because I care deeply about her happiness and because I have this inexplicable sense of obligation to Shelley to keep watch in her absence. It’s something only mothers would understand, I think.


I know it’s Tuesday and from a fresh news perspective Dee’s first day of school yesterday, the “growing” push for Texan succession and the latest Glenn Beck YouTube parody – except it’s really him and not terribly funny – will all pass the smell test and what I want to talk about won’t. And I’m sure at least half of you are tired of the blending and the widowy, but things come up. They run around the rooms in my mind before burrowing in and blossoming with the rapidity of qwack grass after a soaking rain.

Saturday was the hamlet wide garage sale and hockey swap meet. There is nothing like a dozen or so neighbors displaying their junk and the lure of hockey equipment to bring out the crowds from The Fort. Rob and I, being us, worked until after 10 on Friday night setting up. Other people toss their unwanted onto tables and are done. We treat it like it’s a real business or something. Consequently, other people get more sleep than we do.

By the time we’d cleaned up and were in bed it was after midnight and the plan was to be up by eight to finish the remaining pricing.  At 4:30 I woke. My right leg was stretched across Rob’s side of the bed and the toes were dangling off which is something that can only happen if Rob is not there.

The dimmest bit of light was straining to lift the blinds and I headed downstairs in search of my husband (and to use the toilet because I am old).  At this time of day the sky is bruised by the indirect light of a sun still too far east to do more than send word of its impending arrival. Such a difference from just a few weeks ago when the sun never seemed to set at all.

I found Rob wrapped in our old comforter on the couch.  He was grumpy from lack of sleep and the fact that the sadist train engineer had just crawled past the hamlet with the whistle at full throttle.

“I’d just managed to fall asleep too,” he said.

He’d been up since two. For reasons he didn’t explain until much later, he was up and couldn’t fall back to sleep. He hadn’t wanted to wake me tossing and turning, so he’d gone downstairs, fiddled about on the ‘Net until his eyes burned and tried to catch a few winks on the sofa.

I got him to come back to bed. He was so exhausted by this point that he fell asleep quickly, but I was awake. I got up at 5:30 and was out in the garage by 6:45 and that is mostly where I remained until 3P.M.

But I did come in a bit before 8 to wake Rob who thought perhaps I had a birthday present  for him despite the fact that he’d issued a no present edict earlier in the week. The next day he would say,

“It was probably one of the worst birthdays ever.”

So much for birthdays not being a big deal.

We’d planned dinner in the city with the older girls for seven that evening. It should go without saying that neither of us was energetic enough to really be looking forward to the 45 minute drive – each way – but the sitter had been booked. Last minute sitter cancellations can lead to difficulty finding willing sitters, so we headed into the city.

Let me digress a minute. Earlier in the week, Rob noted that I had been commenting a bit more on widow blogs. He wondered if I was okay. I was heavy into the memory mode with purging old things for the garage sale. On the surface I felt fine but after a bit of reflection, I realized I was a bit blue about Rob’s birthday. Not that it was his and not mine. I actually love planning parties for other people more than I like celebrating my own birthday. It came down to the fact that we were having two celebrations to accommodate the children. We took Dee out for dinner on Friday night and had cake upon returning home. Saturday was with the older girls because their adult schedules sometimes make it too difficult for them to always be traipsing out to the country.

The thing was that Rob has three daughters, but I have one. As much as I love Edee and Mick, they are not my daughters. I am not their mother. My birthday doesn’t mean anything at all to them. Which is not to imply that I think it should or that they are not wonderful or that we have a contentious relationship. But where Dee becomes more Rob’s child than Will’s, they remain Rob’s daughters.

It’s not something I expected to bother me. I knew perfectly well that, with their being adults, we would not have the relationship that Rob and Dee have formed and will continue to form. And I get it. I really do. One of the reasons I have shied away from searching for my birth parents – my birth mother in particular – was that I didn’t want to feel bound to love her like I love my mom or to have expectations of any deep connection.

And though we get along quite well and the girls are genuine and warm, I know they struggle with just who I am in their lives.

The word “step-mother” is not used. I am introduced as “Ann” or sometimes “This is Ann, Dad’s wife.”

And to clarify further, no one uses the “step” prefix in our family aloud really. Dee doesn’t even know what a step-dad or step-sister is.

I am ever conscious of my actions and words. I don’t want to push or encroach or presume or give the impression. I walked into this with more knowledge than Rob, who at one point declared himself willing to be Dee’s father figure but that he could never be her father father.

We stopped by Edee’s to pick her up. She’d been home with her cat, one of Bouncy’s brood if you recall, who was at death’s door from a blood parasite she’d picked up. And I mean the literal door. Pandora was at a point where she was using her reserves to try and crawl away from wherever Edee put her – looking no doubt for a place to die. Even I know enough about animals to know that.

Dinner was back and forth between pleasant conversation and tearful worry. There was hugging and reassurance and I never know when I am doing too much or not enough.

We’d told the sitter we’d be home between 10 and 10:30 and it was 11 because after dinner at Edee’s poor Pandora was no better. We finally left after assuring Edee that whatever she decided to do concerning Pandora’s care  we would support. The naturopath vet had prescribed an antibiotic with herbal back up and instructions to bring the cat in on Monday if she was no better but still alive or a trip to the emergency vet clinic, an expensive affair that makes a jaunt to the human ER in the states look affordable by comparison.

Rob called me from the car after dropping off the sitter to let me know that Edee had texted him and needed him to go along to the ER with her and Pandora. He didn’t get home until about 2:30 where he found me still awake.

Why? The ghosts are back … but then he already knew that.


My not quite seven year old daughter refers to my husband by his first name for the most part. To her friends and teachers he is “daddy”, however, and though I went through a phase of referring to him as “daddy” for her benefit – as well as my own – I don’t anymore at the request of my husband. He felt that the relationship he has with Kat should progress as it progresses without undue influence from me.

The other day as I lay on my flu/death bed, Kat came into the bedroom to inform me I had spelled her last name incorrectly. She had just collected her “mail” and was holding up the little note I had written to welcome her home from school. Kat loves mail. She has attached a small box to her bedroom door and instructed Rob and I to leave all mail for her there. All mail that we are expected to write her on a regular basis that is. I have to admit, Rob is far more diligent a correspondent than I am.
“I spelled it the way I always have,” I said as she held the paper out for me to see.
“But that’s not right,” she told me.
It took me a moment, but then the light went off. She expected to see Rob’s last name.

Early on in our relationship Rob and I discussed him adopting Kat though we have yet to begin the paperwork. Kat was consulted then too and assented without any fuss except for one thing – she wanted her last name to stay the same. That was fine with Rob. He believes she shouldn’t have to change her name and that she is too young to make the choice even if she expressed an interest in taking his name. 

Until the other day, Kat hasn’t had any interest in Rob’s last name.

The experts say that it takes three to five years to successfully “blend” families in second marriages. My husband thinks that families don’t blend as much as they simply get used to and grow accustomed to each other. Or not. I think that the idea of blending applies to all families regardless of their formation.

As far as family goes, our three girls – his two adult daughters and my wee one – have folded into our new unit with far less trauma than I have observed in other situations. Rob attributes it to our presenting ourselves as a united front that comes first but more so to the fact that our girls have been raised properly. I think we deserve a little credit too. We have tried to listen and accommodate and give the kids the space they needed to adjust and acknowledge that there is still adjusting to do. In any event, they have grown used to our situation much more gracefully than than some of their elders in the extended family have.

It has not always been as easy as it might appear to anyone simply peering in. All five of us came to this new family as a result of the death of a loved one and that grieving is ongoing and, with the kids especially, it will manifest over and over as they encounter the normal milestones in their lives. But we are no different from any other family in that we are five individuals with needs and wants that will not always match up perfectly.

Kat’s declaration caught me a bit off guard. I never really expected her to want to try out Rob’s last name at such a young age. As a middle school teacher, I encountered many children who used their step-father’s last name even though all their official paperwork had the name they were born with on it. Teens, and pre-teens even, are prone to identifying closely – or completely shunning – a step-parent in my experience. I didn’t think the name issue would come up before Kat was in junior high.

I know there is a sizable majority who would counsel against allowing Kat to change her last name. They would cite her age, but most would insist that her late father’s last name is something she owes him. Fortunately, this is not a decision for today. It’s not one we have to have for a long time to come. And ultimately it isn’t a “we” decision. It’s Kat’s decision. And I will honor that decision, no matter what it is.

She and I talked about it a bit and then I let the matter drop. She hasn’t brought it up again. Rob raised an eyebrow when I told him but hasn’t said anything one way or another. I don’t have to wonder what Kat’s late father would have thought. He would have hated the idea. And I wonder just how much I have to take this into account because, frankly, he’s dead. This isn’t his life; it’s his daughter’s. At this point, Rob has been her father in the active sense longer than my late husband was. Rob is the one she consciously imitates and seeks to impress. It’s his world view she will absorb before utterly rejecting it as a teenager and then re-embracing the parts of it that mesh with her own as a young adult. Being a parent is more than DNA and being someone’s daughter is more than sharing a last name, or not.

 

 

This is an original 50 Something Moms post.


"Under the horse chestnut tree", 1 p...

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I have never pretended that I ever wanted to parent on my own. As a matter of fact when I turned 31, I actually spent a few months comtemplating  single parenthood. Not because it was becoming a trendy thing, but because I really couldn’t imagine not having a child of my own. I came to the conclusion though that it was too daunting a task and much too unfair to a child to go it alone. 

 

Imagine my surprise when the fates went ahead and made a single mom of me anyway.

 

It isn’t that I am not good at it. I am commended right and left for what a wonderful child I have, but I often wonder if they are merely saying that and the unspoken part of the sentence is “for not having a father..” Because the truth is that my little girl is headstrong and spoiled. I have been too distracted and too tired and just too grief-stricken to hold the lines that needed holding as often as they should have been held.

 

Case in point is that she still sleeps with me. She has slept with me almost from the beginning. I am assured by other two parent families that children do sleep with their parents. It is more common than the majority let on and that eventually they all sleep on their own.

 

I feel like a failure nonetheless.

 

Neither I nor any of my siblings ever slept with our parents in their bed. Their bedroom as a matter of fact was strictly off-limits. I have memories of hovering in the doorway to their room and asking to be allowed in. Even in the middle of the night. Even if I was ill. I never even tried to broach the door if I had a bad dream. I would just pull the covers over my head and grip them tightly to prevent whatever monster I had dreamt of from gaining entry.

 

I bring this up only because I worry that this bad habit I have left to its own devices will become more of an issue once the summer comes and we are in Canada with Rob. He is patient when it comes to my parenting skills, but he is far and away the expert. It must take quite a toll on his inner Virgo to tactfully approach subjects concerning my daughter. 

 

We had a semi-conversation about sleeping arrangements tonight on the phone, and although he brought up nothing I hadn’t already thought about, I still felt bad afterwards because I know firsthand that no one was ever meant to do this by themselves.

 

I wonder more often than not who she would be if there had been two of us raising her.