It’s all true, the zipper, the shoes, all of it. I will reference this for part 2.
Enjoy and stay tuned.
When H1 had her gifted school tour, her mom was on her honeymoon, so her dad and I took her on the tour. I am very partial to achievement and was extremely excited about the school, so much so that I really wanted to be a part of the school, maybe even volunteer (that’s huge. I’m not one to participate in school events). However, I knew her mom would be all over their school and I would have to step back.
A month after she enrolled, we received an email invitation from one of the parents at this new school. It would be an opportunity for kids and parents to mingle. The party was a stone’s throw from our house luckily the kids were scheduled to be with us that weekend. Excited at the chance to meet new people when my partner asked me if I wanted to go, I said a resounding YES. Since the kids spend more time at their mom’s (new arrangement), to keep us abreast of their lives, she has created four calendars to share with us: one for each girl’s activity and one for both girls’ shared activities, and if you can believe it, one for girls’ dad time. I still hadn’t figured out how to turn off the notification alert when one day one of the numerous buzzes said H1’s Reach (gifted) party. My blood pressure went up and naturally I attacked the first person around, my partner. I threw words and body parts around. I cursed the world and probably her because I assumed that she planned to go. She was planning to interject on this one event that was happening when they were with us.
I got mad at her, then at myself for forgetting they are not my kids, then again at her because I could. I threaten to adopt my own child, who would also be gifted, so I could go be a part of this freaking school. And I started to remember all the things the woman has done wrong, like the time she asked me to go to H1’s school Xmas party when she couldn’t go (incidentally I was sick and couldn’t go either). But in January I set up a meeting with H1’s teacher to introduce myself in case another party came up. Their mom freaked out and texted and called because she wanted to know why I went to the school?
I’ll sit this out. No, screw it. I’ll go.
This went on for a while. The party weekend came. Not surprisingly, H1, the introvert, decided she didn’t want to go to the party.
All that precious anger went to waste.
“Come sit with me BB,” she says. We tried many names, “bonus mom,” “b-mom,” “other mom,” but only “BB” (short for Bahar) made me, a member of the auntie-squad, feel comfortable. So it stuck.
I sit with her.
She is restless.
Because of my own lack of confidence in this new role, I typically take his children’s other-than-perfect behavior personally. We sit on the first step of the carpeted staircase and start doing math homework together. When her younger sister asks me a question, she loses her cool. “Car-e-leigh!” she complains. The added “e” after the “r” indicates frustration.
We move to a….http://mothersalwayswrite.com/stay-with-me/
Many thanks to Ms. Julianne Palumbo for publishing my work in Mothers Always Write.
The girls spent the day before my birthday at our house. When I arrived home from my activity of the day, H1 ran to the garage and warned me not to look at what she was doing. She was hard at work on dad’s computer preparing my present. I walked to our bedroom with eyes closed-ish.
A few minutes later, she called out.
“Ok BB. It’s ready. Can I come in?”
She walked in with her computer. My partner followed.
A powerpoint slide show ensued. She had photos, appearing from the side, and sweet words, which splashed on. Then a two-dimensional column graph appeared.
The words, What Bahar Does, flew to the bottom of the page.
First category on the x line read: Get Mad at Children.
She pressed the space bar. The blue rectangle on the graph kept rising forever to indicate 100% of the time.
I froze. Remember, their father is present as this fiasco is transpiring.
Holy Mother of God! When was this? What did I do to them?
She went on. Next category: Sit on the Couch.
It’s sofa. I need to reinforce the word sofa.
The green rectangle rose to 75% of the time.
WTF? It’s a known fact that I can’t sit still for too long.
The following category, Play With Kids, represented by a yellow rectangle, was hardly visible. It stood at a millimeter to indicate I’m guessing 5%.
Oh my God. This is bad.
Loves Her Family. The orange rectangle rose about 2 millimeters to about 10%.
It’s happened. I have turned evil and they know it. Shit, shit, shit.
“Keep looking. Are you still reading?” she giggled.
What is there to read? I think I have read it all.
The next slide read: What Bahar REALLY Does.
The graphs reversed, with loving her family at 100%, playing with kids at 75%, sitting on the couch at 10% and getting mad at children at about 5%.
I’m not sure what happened in those few minutes: a mini-stroke or a silent myocardial infarction.
I let out a big breath and tried to bring down my heart rate while she ended the presentation with a video of her singing a very energetic birthday song.
We are back in business then.
Her sister’s gift was a little gentler. She had made me origami rose, heart, and sunglasses, none of which induced an emergency condition.
It fascinates me that as a grown woman, who never gave a hoot about what others thought, how affected I am by what these two little girls think of me.
I was visiting my brother, excited to spend some time with my little niece, who is six. We have a special bond together. Plus, because of the girls I feel more confident taking care of T (ehem, I can actually cook for her). But there’s more. Having her in my life gives me a sense of emotional balance since my partner comes with two little ones who belong to him and someone else. With T, I feel like I have someone of my own.
A beautiful bowl of pomegranates sat on their table. When I learned that she is a picky eater, I decided to do a Jedi mind trick I play on H1 and H2 to make her try pomegranates. I usually eat a food they have never eaten in front of them and instead of forcing them to eat it, just show what a fabulous experience I’m having. Almost always it piques their interest enough to try one bit. With T, I decided to add the fact that our girls had enjoyed delicious fruit to my effort.
Me: “T. We were having pomegranate with H1 and H2 recently. Have you ever had pomegranates?”
Me: “Ah. It was amazing. Every seed was an explosion of taste in our mouths. Do you want to give it a try?”
She tried one, closed her eyes and nodded her head in bliss.
“Mmmmm. Daddy, daddy. This is wonderful. It tastes like explosion!”
We had just finished lunch. The kids were quietly playing in the TV room. Since we were scheduled to travel the next day, I started doing laundry. In general, I find housework, including its components, mundane and boring. As such, I decided to fold the clothes in front of a TV show, the British series called Doc Martin. It’s set in an idyllic village and according to one reviewer has: “no swearing, nudity, or lewdness.”
The first two seasons hardly had a kissing scene. I felt safe watching the next one with the gals in the room. Episode 2 of season three started with an underage girl asking the village doctor for a morning after pill. Their conversation ended with “you are too young to have sex.” I decided to stop it, skip over the next one just in case they were related and move to one after. In episode 4, the doc’s 70-year-old aunt is diagnosed with osteoporosis. The girls asked me about osteoporosis and I explained it. What an educational show. On her way out of the doctor’s office, the aunt sees a painter working on the windowpane and asks if he would come over and paint her kitchen.
By now, I finished folding the darks pile. Next, they showed the painter at the aunt’s house asking her to sit for him. Apparently he was an artist who painted houses for money. We are taken to a restaurant scene before being back at the aunt’s house with the old lady and the young painter going at it on the kitchen table, pants at ankles. She was sitting on the table while he stood facing her, thrusting his pelvis forward and back slowly, appropriate for a comedy show. What the… Beet red, I turned the TV off.
H2: “why did you turn it off? “
Me: Well the volume was too loud.” Even a two-year-old could have a comeback for a volume issue and H2 is six. Come on Bahar, pull it together.
H2: “What was he doing? When he said he wanted to paint her, did he mean paint her on a paper or paint HER?”
H1 looked at her from the corner of her eye. Their dad was Not taking this one on.
Me, still flummoxed: “Um. Paint her.”
What did I just say?
H2: “Yes but why was he going like this?” And while seated she proceeded to demonstrate by moving her upper body forward and back.
Me: Give her the first answer that comes to your mind. “He was fixing her table.”
Awesome. Fixing tables and painting now have completely new meanings for this poor child.
That’s right Bahar. How?
Me: Seeing the incredulous look on H1’s face and knowing she knew, I gave it another try: “Actually, he likes her so he’s getting really close to her,” change the subject. Quickly. “Ok girls. Here are your piles of clothes. Two piles. One for mom’s and one for here. Why don’t you take them to your rooms.”
Do you see why I hate housework? It is useless, repetitive, and leads to sex disasters when you want to numb your brain to complete it.
Some time ago, we had received an email from the kindergarten teacher about an in-class Mother’s/Father’s day celebration. The kids were putting on a show for them. It had asked if there were other parents/surrogates the kids should honor. I encouraged my partner to read the darn thing a few times to see if he “was available to attend.” That was my only reason of course. It’s not like I had a hidden agendas of knowing where I stand. He never did and soon I gave it up.
One fine day, H2 came up to me and said “BB. I want you to come to our Mother’s day. I have two moms and two dads, so I made a gift for everyone, but I can’t tell you what it is. It’s a surprise.”
My eyes sparkled, an ear-to-ear smile pasted on my face. Let me insert a little note here. Her invitation happened before the darn open house day (which didn’t go so well).
On the actual day of the event, having been through the open house, I felt uneasy. Did she say she had made me something? Shit. Are we going to have another smile through gritted teeth day?
Since the last time the nice in me had gotten hurt, I let the mean me go to the celebration and didn’t stop her snide remarks on the way there. “How long do we have to sit through a bunch of kids singing out of tune?“
A number of parents were there by the time we arrived. The only two seats left were behind her mom. We took our seats, exchanged pleasantries, and applauded as the children took their positions in two rows.
It started with a song for dad. No sooner than the little voices uttered the words daddy, the mean drained out of me. I’ve always had a soft spot for kids, especially girls, who have a close relationship to their dads. For the record, they sang in perfect harmony. After the performance, the teacher played a slideshow of each child’s drawing of his/her father while an audio clip of his/her voice told three reasons for loving dad. H2 had done two, one for her dad and one for bonus dad.
The mom part followed. As she sang, she made eye contact with her mom, then she turned to look me in the eyes. It felt uncomfortable. I wasn’t ready to open to her offering. My resistance had in part to do with her mom sitting just in front of me, one seat over. Shouldn’t H2 be looking at her only? I squirmed in my seat, feeling honored, yet unqualified.
Then came the slideshow. She had drawn a picture of both of us, including accurate skin tone. Mine was brown. Living in the dessert makes us olive skins turn brown. The audio said: “I love Bahar because she’s brave, she hugs me, and she kisses me.” I melted. Brave is one of my favorite adjectives. It’s one I want the girls to be. It’s one I strive to be. “Brave,” she said, “because you have done a lot of brave things.” Here, the children typically celebrated the most mundane tasks: hugging, cooking, turning the TV on, and so on. Yet, this little one saw me as the woman I most want to be. Disarmed by her kindness, I allowed the connection finally. I opened to the love she was offering. In that moment all the mean, the resistance, and the polite distance disappeared. She got me.
Finally, H2 proceeded to deliver the gifts she had made. She had worked hard creating several mom-themed art pieces. Most notable was that her mother, the one who spends all her time thinking about her and raising her, and yours truly who bitches about an open house day, got exactly the same things. I winced. It had to have been difficult, probably painful for her mother to share the glory. To her credit, she didn’t express an ounce of it. She held her ground, all smiles.
Let me put away my rants and do a rave for a change. I feel fortunate to be a part of an inclusive family, where children and adults spend more time welcoming each other than pushing each other away.
Wish all moms and mother figures a very happy Mother’s Day.
“I have something to tell you,” exclaimed H1.
“Me too. Me too. Can I go first? Can I? Pleaaaaase,” said H2.
Her sister conceded as usual.
H2 then handed me an invitation that read:
Dear family, please come to my open house and see our eggs.
Date: April 23rd.
Eggs? What the heck are eggs? Did she misspell something? Well, we will learn soon.
Her sister had verbally invited us a few days before.
I must admit by now for pure self-protection, I have lowered my expectations of them. If you have no expectations, you won’t be disappointed. But you can be pleasantly surprised when they invite you to events of their own volition.
I hugged and thanked her. “Of course I’ll be there.”
What did the book say about stepmoms being excluded? Pshaw. What’s up with these therapists making blanket statements. Each family is different. I’m referring to the book, Stepmonster. It has some good information, but as you can see obviously not all of it applies in every case.
Open house day came. We started with the little one’s class. She excitedly took us around her class, surprising the teacher at the detailed tour she was giving us. They had incubated eggs, which would hatch in three days. By the egg table they had a table with little books made by the kiddos.
“Read my story book.” We picked it up and started going through it.
Title: My Trip to Disneyland.
Ooh let’s see what parts of our trip she remembered.
Page 1: “I went to Disney land with my dad and my sister.”
WTF?! You ungrateful tyke!
Who took you on the rides you wanted to go on and your sister didn’t?
Who carried you from one side of the park to the other because your feet hurt?
Whose lap did you sit on at the theater?
Who didn’t go to her Persian New year’s celebration with her family during the trip (which she was dying to go to), because you wished she would stay with you all?
Who carried your bags and whatever else you didn’t want to carry?
Who answered to all the BB do this, BB brush my hair, I want BB to do it?
Who helped you decide what doll to buy?
I didn’t even want to go to Disney, but went because I had promised the two of you that I would.
What am I? A ghost?
I’m not sure what’s a better threat: I will NEVER go on family vacations with you all. Or I’ll be sure to attend every flipping event. I’ll be in your face all. the. time.
Ok. I stand corrected. I meant low expectations not no expectations.
Damn you, book.
Dear Stepmoms and stepdads. This is dedicated to you. Keep up the good work.
“Although the divorce rate for remarriages with children is dramatically higher than that for remarriages without children in the first three year, such marriages, having passed the three-year- mark, are actually more likely to survive than first marriages.
In fact, after about five years, researchers have found, a remarriage with children is more likely to succeed than any other type of marriage. The extraordinary effort of coping with the ordinary struggles of stepfamily life, it seems, cements couples who do not succumb to the pressures early on.”
From “>Stepmonster by Wednesday Martin
When her sister was in the hospital (for her appendectomy), the 6 year-old stayed with me while dad spent the night at the hospital. She was extremely understanding and well-behaved. So, in a moment of weakness I decided to be Julia Roberts in the movie Step mom, except that instead of “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough,” I would play “I say a Little Prayer,” and we’d have a deep connection through the joy of that song. The right time happened after dinner. I showed her a youtube video, figuring she won’t be able to tell the dinner table in the video is from a wedding scene (the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding). She started bopping and said:
“Aw are you going to have a wedding some day? Really BB. When are you going to marry dad?”
Never child. Have you seen the divorce stats lately?
Then I had a profound thought that only a child psychologist could ever come up with. There must be a reason she keeps asking this question. She must want a semblance of family and stability. I just needed to ask my why safely enough for her to tell me what I already knew. See what I mean? Deep, man.
Me: “Why sweetie?”
Child: “Well because you can dance and dad will give you a long kiss, like Todd and mom.” Her mom was getting married in ten days.
All the more reason for my not wanting to get married, child. I refuse to be like your mom.
Me: “We dance and kiss anyway.”
Child: “Well, so you can get a ring.”
Me: “I can get a ring without being married.”
Child: “Actually, because I want you to wear a poofy gown and I want to wear high heels.”
Just a dress, a ring, some shoes, and a kiss will do. Sometimes it’s as simple as a Disney fantasy. There’s no damage, no lacking, no profound issues so prevalent in the adult imagination.