Thursday, August 25, 2005


I think I made a majority of my important life decisions by the time I was about 16. One of them was about having kids: I didn't think I had the temperament to be a stay-at-home mom, and I was sure that I didn't want to be a de facto single parent--one of those people who has to tell the spouse where to find the cleaning solution, or the diapers, or the number for the doctor's office, or whatever, EVERY SINGLE TIME. (I feel the same way about housework: If you're capable of holding down a job, if you can drive to work and back every single day, then surely you are capable of cleaning a bathroom or a kitchen without major coaching. If you're not, then I don't want to marry you; it's as simple as that.) Basically, I decided that I'd be willing to have kids if I met someone who (a) really wanted them and (b) was going to participate fully in raising them without me having to be a nag about it. (Reading Arlie Hochschild's "the Second Shift" in graduate school pretty much confirmed all of that, too.) That didn't happen--but I'm nevertheless a parent, at least part of the time, thanks to The Kid.

Stepparenting is an interesting exercise. I'm luckier than many people, I think, for several reasons. First, I met C when the Kid was less than 18 months old, so the Kid doesn't remember me not being in his life. This is useful in a number of ways, not the least of which is that he doesn't think of me as the bitch who broke up his parents' marriage. It's also true that he's just plain used to me being around, and I try to be consistent (even if it's consistently being a pain about some things), and kids really, really like consistency. I'd read that, and heard about it, but still wasn't prepared for just how true it is. They also like to know what's going to happen next. Luckily, I'm something of a planner and list-maker, and The Kid is totally into that. We don't do it all the time, every time, but the organization appeals to him. The other thing I think I see is that including him in the planning and list-making makes him feel like he knows what's happening and helps him feel like part of the process rather than a puzzle piece that's being shuttled around from one place to another.

A second way I'm lucky is that The Kid's mother means well. She has gone out of her way to include me in a couple of things--the first holy communion, for one--and she does seem to appreciate what I contribute to The Kid's life. Luckily, it's very different from her contributions (she's not much of a cook or baker, for example, and she doesn't play any sports), so there's no sense of competition, at least not from my end, and I don't think from hers, either.


You knew that was coming, didn't you?

Sometimes I wonder whether it really is a good idea to take The Kid to a theatrical production--even one he really wants to see--the night before the first day of a new school year. And simultaneously call C a couple of times because maybe The Kid doesn't have his multiplication flash cards just yet (like he's going to need them the first day of school?). We were asleep, however, and didn't hear the phone ring. It's symptomatic, really, of someone who loves The Kid very much (no doubt about that), and tries to provide Good Stuff for him, but doesn't always seem clued into what he really needs (sleep, exercise, healthy food, active engagement for his mind). The sleep and exercise often seem deficient, so C and I try to make up for it as best we can.


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