Dating the baby of the family
(For a brief but emotionally charged time, that's what Noah called me: the other one.
Before that, he called me "Joanie." Joanie is the cat.) When I started to realize how difficult the relationship might be to navigate, and that I was possibly facing a future as a stepmom, it was too late. If it wasn't going to come naturally—and I wasn't sure it would—it seemed the only thing to do was to learn to love Noah as well.
" he cried over and over—I took a spoonful of the stuff and hurled it at him. There are nights when I'll read Noah a book before bed or help Bob pack his schoolbag.
It barely grazed his cheek, but we both burst into tears. But there are also Saturdays when my primary urge is to take off for a day of yoga, shopping, a manicure and lunch with my girlfriends, or to lie in bed all day and read.
And then he'll sheepishly admit that he's loath to spend what little time he has with Noah in discipline mode. I don't want to impose on their relationship, and I don't want to be the evil stepmonster. His obsession with his father—and most men, in fact—is both unsurprising and kind of heartbreaking.
Already, I know that Noah sees me as competition for his father? He's just getting to the age where it's evident that he can feel the effects of his fractured family and is searching to understand his place? He talks about Mommy a lot, generally when we're all having fun.
This has seemed to satisfy any maternal instincts I might have. Even in adulthood, I still settle back into childhood whenever I'm so indulged.
I feed her once a day, clean the litter several times a week and return her occasional affection. I blame my maternal deficiencies in part on the fact that I was the family princess while growing up.
He talks nearly nonstop from the moment he gets up until the moment he succumbs to sleep.Maybe I'm giving my parents purpose, or maybe I'm lazy and self—absorbed—not exactly qualities that make a person fit for taking on a child. He and his wife divorced when Noah was 1 year old, and we began dating shortly after. For a while, I could be just me, the same me I'd always been. Our relationship moved quickly; one minute, we were courting over meaningful conversation and too many glasses of wine, and the next, we were spending our Friday nights playing Chutes and Ladders and pleading with a 2-year-old to eat his green beans.As far as I know, I never sent Bob the vibe that I was the slightest bit maternal. At some point, I emerged from the haze of falling in love to look up—generally as Noah was doing something like urinating on the bathroom cabinets—and wonder, How the hell did I get here? But Bob and I were infatuated and naive, and there was no way to predict how challenging my role as "the other one" would be.On the flip side, let's face it: No one wants a stepmother. Bob knew from the beginning that I wasn't sure about my own feelings about having children, but I think subconsciously he thought we'd be this instant family and that it would be easy for everyone to adapt. Daddy's house is the sort of place where no one thinks to lay a newspaper down on the vintage kitchen table before dyeing Easter eggs on it.
And yet most people, including the dad, expect the woman to accept her new identity with open arms. Together, he and Noah are sometimes a little uncivilized.In our house together, the family bed didn't seem appropriate (and neither did the couch). I don't have to pretend I gave birth to this child, but I don't need to disown him, either.