Merry F-ing Christmas

I’m absolutely NOT in the mood for Christmas this year. Typically, I’m the one begging my husband to decorate in late October. I love the lights, the tree, the millions of random ornaments, all that holiday cheer and shit. This year? Fuck it. I put up my tree in early November in an effort to psych myself into wanting to celebrate. We were supposed to have the little blonde lunatic for the latter part of the holiday break…but custodial wars have eradicated any hope of seeing her before her birthday next September. Additionally, we acquired a kitten that made it his sole mission to de-ornament the fucking tree. Every morning for several weeks, I walked into the living room to discover Christmas carnage. He considers himself a champion for scaling to the very top and knocking off my prized Disney ornament AND chewing through the strand of lights so the damn tree looks like it belongs in Charlie Brown’s Christmas special. The cat should consider itself fortunate that it has nine lives.

As soon as we knew for sure that the kid wasn’t coming to visit for Christmas, I took down every single decoration and put them back in the boxes. Now the kitten has nowhere to hide. Take that, you little shit. There’s so much more to this I-Hate-Christmas diatribe that I can’t say here…because legal system. I admit, I’ve let this entire situation rob me of my holiday joy…but it’s difficult to be excited about a holiday that centers on family when part of my family isn’t here. If I didn’t have obligatory events for the next two days, I’d seriously consider being a hermit and binge watching episodes of the West Wing.

Relatives, friends, and random ass people tell me to stay positive and focus on the end goal, but I need to be allowed to wallow occasionally. I’m not laying in bed every damn day eating bon-bon’s (WTF is a bon-bon anyway?), refusing to shower or go to work. I’m still living and moving forward. But holidays feel like the clock has stopped ticking and I’m trapped in yuletide hell. I’m watching the world be festive and content, meanwhile I’m too pissed to paint or drink or do any measure of self-soothing activities. I’m angry and sad all the goddamn time.

Ironically, the only time I feel some semblance of peace is when I’m having a beer with friends…because most of them don’t know about the custodial nightmare my husband and I are enduring. And when people don’t know, they don’t ask questions and they don’t offer bullshit advice. They simply conjure up happier topics of conversation over good music and beverages and allow me to escape reality for a little while. I’d like to hope that next Christmas will be better but for now, I’ll just be satisfied to survive this Christmas with an ounce of grace. And maybe a pint of really great beer.

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Just to be with Her

I haven’t written in a while. There are many reasons why, but it boils down to being busy as hell. Honestly, I’d like to write something life-changing or poetic or remotely inspiring, but I don’t have it in me at the moment. I’m tired. I’m weary. My brain is clusterfucked with the monumental to-do lists and the triple checking and the living, breathing, enduring of every day life. Sometimes I think I have OCD but it manifests in sleepless nights, acid reflux, and irritability.

I spent half the summer with my 8 year old step-daughter. I don’t really like children, but I LOVE her. I love her more than I ever thought I could love another person beyond my husband and parents. I don’t even love my brother as much as I love this child. Blondie and I were very much in the establishing rapport phase of our relationship when she came to our home in early June; but by the end of the month, we were buddies, sleepover mates, and swimming partners. Her voice, her laugh, her soulful blue eyes, and her ridiculous tan…so many things to love and cherish about her. The shitty part is that I only get 8 weeks a year with her. Before long she’ll be too big for piggy back rides and bedtime stories. I just want to press pause on her development so that she stays this sweet little blonde tornado who loves to shower my home in Barbies and pink.

Parenting totally fucks with your selfishness…or at least it should. In one phone call last year, I went from knowing there was this tiny child 2,000 miles away to literally holding and laughing with her. She went from abstract concept to actual human in one conversation. One decision. Now, all my conversations somehow involve her, my calendar year revolves around her flights to and from our house, and my office is now her bedroom. Nothing is the same. And I could tell you that it’s the greatest decision I’ve ever made (it is…) but….parenting is difficult. Talking to and relating to her is as easy as breathing, but there’s all this extra shit that many people don’t take into account: Co-parenting with her mom, custody arrangements, court documents, and that constant worry for her safety. When will it stop???? Life was so much easier before all of this. But was it as rewarding? I have no idea. I was content before when it was just me and her dad; and now, I’m in this mental and emotional state of agitation and it just never fucking leaves me. It’s like a leach attached to my heart, sucking all of my ideas and thoughts and feelings and redirecting them from me to her. I don’t like it. Can’t I just go back? Parenting is a conscious choice every moment of every day. I’ll never be able to go back and start over without the knowledge of her existence.

In the last few months, I’ve learned that contrary to popular opinion, your children don’t have to love you back. They don’t even have to like you. Just like building any relationship, love and respect and trust are cultivated over time. I’d like to think I’ve earned all three in the months I’ve spent getting to know my step-daughter. We have a good relationship and I’m thankful. I just wish the entire situation was…easier. Not the fatigue or the other selfish bits, but the process of parenting a child when there’s 2,000 miles of distance separating us. I wish it was out of sight, out of mind but I’m not that great at compartmentalizing anymore. And Blondie needs to know that someone out there loves her, makes wishes on stars for her, and would cross oceans and planetary systems, just to be with her.

The Alternative Mom

Mother’s Day is a difficult holiday for many people. I share in the discomfort of those who live on the edge of parenthood. If you’ve followed my blog, you’ve read my rants about not wanting children, apart from my seven year old step-daughter who lives 2,000 miles away; but that wasn’t always my perspective. A decade ago, I was newly married (to someone else) and daydreaming about becoming a mother. I spent pretty much my entire early adolescence¬†babysitting and helping parents with their children, so much so that even my friends in middle school told me I’d be a good mom. My dad called me “mother hen”…because mothering was an instinctual behavior. But when the time came to actually try to conceive, it took me four years, only to miscarry in the first ten weeks. It was disappointing to say the least.

But in the years since my divorce and remarriage, parenting has taken on a new meaning. I’m more keenly aware that it’s a lifelong commitment…which I don’t think everyone realizes. Some people approach procreation like it’s as trivial and temporary as purchasing a new car. But now I realize how much work goes into raising children. No breaks, no vacations, no fucking sleep, even less money. Until either you or the child passes to the next life. Parenting=investment.

Needless to say, it shocked a lot of people when I wasn’t jumping the gun to get pregnant after I remarried. Even the conversations my husband and I have had about adding to our family have been more to please others’ expectations, because isn’t it written somewhere that as soon as you get married, you’re supposed to have tons of fat children (even more so if you’re over 30, which we basically are)? Thanks, but I think I’d like to have tons of uninterrupted sex first.

When I met my husband, he wasn’t connected to his daughter due to the substantial distance and the fact that she was being parented by her mother and her soon-to-be stepfather. Her paternal needs were being met. Last year, his daughter’s needs changed and it became vital that we step in to help build a permanent relationship with her, despite the distance and difficulties. Since then, we’ve visited her and she’s visited us, and we’re planning for her to stay with us for a month this summer. I went from wife to parent in one phone call. There’s a bedroom full of Little Mermaid toys and a closet full of tiny human clothes in our apartment. I’ve been organizing day camps and social outings and making schedules. It’s surreal. If you saw her face, you’d know why it’s all worth it.

Some people don’t understand though. They wonder why my husband and I have chosen to be airport parents, why we’ve given up passports and husband/wife-only dreams and even the idea of bearing more children. I have an easy answer—because each one of those activities takes away from the possibility of affording airfare for her visits or doing fun things while she’s here. It cuts in on her provisions and I’ve been told kids like to eat, at least twice a day…or maybe I’m getting them confused with pets.¬†

I do a lot of work for a child that isn’t even mine. (That’s another long story.) She’ll never be mine. Even her mom thanks me for “mothering her baby.” It’s sort of an awkward place to be…in that limbo between not wanting more children but also wanting the ONE child that will never truly be mine. On Mother’s Day, I feel trapped in the space in between. Mother’s Day is typically celebrated for moms parenting children they bore from their bodies or children they adopted. But what about the step-moms…the alternative moms who only see their kids for a few days every three months? Those for whom the “mother” label feels like a misnomer? If my husband and I never have children together, he’ll still always be a father, but I’ll always be on the edge of motherhood. I’ll still be parenting someone else’s baby, mothering someone else’s daughter. I’ll still be the alternative mom.