Category Archives: parenting

I HATE YOU

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  I was warned.

The words were shouted from the shower, heard over the falling water,  where she assumed she would be safe.  If she had locked the bathroom door she would have avoided my pulling open of the shower curtain all “Psycho”-like, leading to her blood-curdling scream.

At that point I couldn’t even remember what she hated me FOR.  13-year old girls can hate their mothers for so many reasons.

I called her father, my ex-husband and said “I just got my first ‘I hate you.'”  He laughed, not unsympathetically and said, “Uh oh, what happened now?”

I know my daughter loves me, almost as fiercely as I love her.  I generally ruin her life by not letting her use my phone or laptop the second she needs it.  I sap her will to live when I tell her for the MILLIONTH TIME not to leave all of the lights on in the ENTIRE HOUSE when she goes to bed after us.  She is clearly destined to become a raging alcoholic because God forbid I should ask her to flush the toilet every once in a while.

I’ve become one of those people that when someone mentions to me that they have young daughters I’ll say, “Oh, good luck with that in a few years,” or “You’re so lucky you have boys.”   I’m that cliched mother of a teenage girl.

I’ll check in with my friends who have daughters the same age to make sure that I’m not being unreasonable to not buy her a $125 DRESS FOR AN 8TH GRADE DANCE.  I’ll double-check when she tells me that so-and-so’s mother is letting her bring $40 TO THE MOVIES FOR A TICKET AND SNACKS.

I remember the one time I actually physically tussled with my mother.  She was blocking the door to our apartment, not letting me out for some reason.  At 5’5 she was not exactly threatening to my 5’9.  I think I just tried to push her arm or something and we did everything in our power not to break a smile at the absurdity of the whole thing.

I can’t begin to count the number of times that I’ve yelled, “If you ask me that one more time….” and not come up with an actual thing that I would do if she asked me that one more time.  I have tried reasoning, the “look at me when I’m talking to you,” yanked her tablet out of her hands and not let her use it for a week, threatened that if she slammed her door “ONE MORE TIME WE’RE TAKING IT OFF THE HINGES.”

There will be two weeks of utter perfection where she’ll actually CLEAR THE TABLE WITHOUT ASKING or offer to…hmm…I’m actually not coming up with anything else, but suffice it to say, she’s not the devil child, what my husband has called “the succubus, (second definition–“any evil spirit or demon,” not the primary definition which has something to do with seduction of men in their sleep).

There is no logic to the flip-flop of devil/angel other than the obvious hormonal stuff.  She really is an amazing, compassionate and most importantly, confident young woman.  She has great friends, great judgement and gets me.  I’m sure the reasons she “hates” me will change over time.  Maybe I’ll discourage her from dating the “bad boy,” or not let her go to the biggest party of the year, but I do know that without question that we’re in it for the long haul, together, with that unbreakable bond that I never knew would be so overwhelmingly magnificent.

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You May Ask Yourself, Well, How Did I Get Here?

Tomorrow I have what is now my 6th annual parent-teacher conference. My ex-husband and I will sit at student desks with their attached chairs that barely accommodate my spreading thighs and his growing gut. We might feel ashamed of our sometimes lack of organizational skills when it comes to the shuttling back and forth of our daughter and the things that get lost in the shuffle. We’re not the Poster Parents for keeping the details together ( as I write this, she has a day off for a “teacher professional day,” something they seem to have a lot of, and, well, we didn’t know this until 3-days ago and had to scramble to find someplace for her to go.) The best part, though, is that he and I are in this together and both will admit, in this arena at least, we’re not exactly “Parents of the Year.”

I have never felt as old as I did when we had our first parent teacher conference back in kindergarten. It was a rite-of-passage that blind-sided me. How the hell was I old enough to be sitting talking about the future of my (very high verbal skills, not so great in math) 5- yr. old child? I was more caught up in that than the content of the meeting. I smirked while my ex-husband engaged in the conversation. I now do everything MY parents did—I sign permission slips, quiz her on her social studies homework and vocabulary words, while I have to fob off the math homework on my husband or stepsons because as my parents would say, “I don’t understand this “new math.” I still feel occasionally strange being called “Mom.” Aren’t I too YOUNG to be someone’s “Mom?”

For me, and I will never forget this, was the epiphany that I had in college, shopping at a local supermarket with a friend, that becoming an adult was the second it occurred to me that I could actually choose my own cereal. If Fruity Pebbles ended up in my cart it was because I wanted it to. I didn’t have to argue about it with anyone. My choice. I feel bad for my daughter having to hear an endless stream of “nos” every time she unleashes the “Can I have this? Can I get this?” but she will some day experience the joy of throwing that first box of cereal made of cookies into her own cart.

As I’ve moved up in my field, I’ve also found myself in the unlikely role of being a supervisor. I EVALUATE people. I MENTOR people. When did I become any sort of expert that I am looked up to as a mentor and guide? When did I become the person that people who have reported to me are complaining about me to their friends saying what a bitch I am or telling them how great I am? Am I feared when I have to call someone into my office to confront them on something they’ve done? I still have to hold back tears in these situations because I hate confrontation of any kind.

I’m not going to like that day when I am offered a seat on the train simply because I look too old to be standing. I don’t want to be the old couple that is called “cute” by people in their 20s just because I’m holding hands with my husband. None of these are original thoughts, I know, but as I turn 47 in just two days, I find myself wanting to run and flee, in the opposite direction, down the timeline, from a big giant statue of a 5 and a 0. I ADORE my life. It is absolutely everything I want it to be (except for never having the money part) but there is something about mortality that doesn’t sit very well with me.

Stepmother Without A Script

Last month I found myself in the unlikely position of being a person that someone is nervous to meet. Me, the woman who would spend my life in my pajamas if I could, sprawled on the couch watching “What Not To Wear.”

My 16-yr old stepson was introducing his new girlfriend to my husband, my 10-yr old daughter and me over dinner. Her mother dropped her off at the restaurant and it struck me, as I sat in my jean jacket, toe ring and cheap gold hoops, that I was suddenly in the role of being “vetted” as a person responsible for making sure that my stepson was worthy of this woman’s daughter. As we shook hands there was an instant yet silent vow of promise that her daughter would be safe on my watch. At that moment, I realized more than I had before, that I was a parental figure to a 16-yr old boy.

Before my husband and I actually met face-to-face we e-mailed and spoke on the phone every chance we could. We met online and in our “profiles” we both emphasized the central role our children played in our lives as one would hope that most parents would. At the time we met, my daughter was a very sassy 8 (and ¾) and my husband’s boys, 15 and 19.

There was a very steep learning curve for all of us as we merged lives. I was becoming used to (although certainly not always successfully) navigating the moods and whims of a tween. She and I, in the three years between my first and second marriage, had created our own special dynamic, both combative and fiercely loving. Her father and I split her time straight down the middle, so when she was with me, we were intensely focused on each other. We had dance parties, put outfits together, snuggled on the couch and had sleepovers in my king-sized memory foam bed. We yelled, she slammed doors and went ballistic when I brushed the knots our of her hair, but this was us. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

My husband entered into our marriage with an entirely different set of circumstances. His divorce was bitter and due to all sorts of circumstances, his boys blamed him for the break up of their family. There was distance and anger and intense sadness on my husband’s part. I suppose the most undeniably unique aspect of this mix, is that his oldest son is transgender who transitioned from female-to-male at age 17. Now here’s the thing–those who have known me a long time would say that if anyone could handle this without missing a beat it would be me. My entire life has revolved around an incredible mix of people with issues of gender identity, socio-economic status and race. That being said, I certainly didn’t come armed with a script or have any idea how to explain this to my daughter (who, when I did, was so non-plussed she said “That’s so cool!”).

When my husband and I first started seeing each other the 16-yr old had no problem meeting me. We talked about the trials and tribulations of straightening our hair, I hipped him to an awesome flatiron, and I think he thought I was pretty damn cool. It took the 19-yr old a while to agree to meet me but when he finally did, I know I put him at ease. I know from what my husband tells me, and from what I sense, that at this point, while their mother seems to be on a bit of a hiatus from being a parent, that I’m doing a pretty decent job of paying attention to them and making them feel loved.

After over a year of knowing these magnificent young men, my life has been completely changed and enhanced in ways that were entirely unexpected. My heart swells when they smile and when they laugh with their father. I am moved beyond words when I watch them in private moments with my daughter. I know, having two big brothers of my own, that the relationships that are forming between them will be utterly priceless as the boys pave the way for her and counsel her as she follows along their trajectory.

It didn’t take us long to LOVE my stepson’s new girlfriend. She is adorable and delightful and makes him happy. As a mother, I’ve wanted to call hers to tell her this because every parent wants to know that they’ve done a really good job. I haven’t done this yet, because somehow, I still feel like I’m getting used to this role, but I will and in turn, I hope she tells me what a fine job my husband and I are doing to raise “our” son.