Those of you familiar with Sig Other in worlds either virtual or real know that he is the true originator of the phrase, "What about me?" It is the name of his future auto-biography. And it is his daily credo. But the apple, it turns out, doesn't fall far from the tree. My return to the blogosphere after prolonged absence was greeted by a call from Child One who chided, "I saw you wrote on your blog today." "Yes," I said, "how did you know?" "I check it all the time," said she, and continued, "but I was surprised you didn't write about me. I mean, its been a big year, with me going to college and all the change." She paused then and continued, "Why didn't write about that?"
In truth, I've written a great deal about that - about how difficult her summer between highschool and college was, about the loss Sig Other and I feel with her absence, about the profound shift in all of our lives as she's transitioned, rather ungracefully, into adulthood. But none of it felt appropriate for publication. None of it, that is, except this short piece written at the request of my friend Nicola who created the 10Q (www.doyou10Q.com). So here it is (for you, my sweet Child One) - evidence that I really do think (and write) about you...
THINK ABOUT A MAJOR MILESTONE THAT AFFECTED YOUR FAMILY THIS YEAR…
It would be easiest, I suppose, to go straight to the obvious – the empty bedroom down the hall, the closet missing half its wardrobe, the usually messy bathroom now standing idle waiting to be made a mess again in a few months. The easiest thing – the most obvious thing to point to, when asked to think about a major milestone, would be the matriculation of our daughter to college. She is gone. The house is emptier, the world a little quieter, the days a little less full, because K is 3000 miles away experiencing a whole new life without us.
But in fact, that monumental event is NOT the thing that comes to mind when I think about a major milestone of this year. In fact, what I think about is the text I got from K one day this summer. It read: “…how glad I am to have a stepmother who yells at me for parking her car badly.” I am that stepmother. And for years I worked at NOT yelling at anybody for anything. For years I did what most steps do – I twisted myself into a pretzel to do the right thing, to cook the right thing, to say the right thing so the children would feel safe and comfortable and loved. And I kept my mouth shut about things I felt were wrong for fear of being disliked.
But as K neared college, I realized that her ability to cope in the adult world – in the world outside our home – was far more important than whether or not she liked me. And I started telling her what to do. I told her to pick up after herself, to knock before she entered rooms, to close the cabinets she left open and yes – to park her car straight in the driveway. We spent a lot of time alone together, she and I, in the months leading up to her departure. And those months were fraught for her – full of anxiety and fear and depression and angst. We talked about more than just parking straight and separating whites from darks when doing laundry. I said some tough things and had to hear some even tougher. And in that time, I felt a shift in myself. I felt as I stopped trying to win, stopped trying to be loved, stopped trying to be the coolest stepmom on the block. I felt as I stopped caring about me and started caring about her – what was best for her, what would serve her, what would help her cope in a world far less cozy than our home.
For the record, I have never yelled at either of my stepchildren. And in this particular case, I’m quite certain I didn’t even raise my voice. But I did give a sharp directive. And K has never parked sideways in the driveway again. And THAT may be the major milestone of our year.