It is 7:33 am, and I have already been awake for over three hours today. I have watched the street come awake, starting with the ubiquitous F150s and Sierra’s roaming around this ag-based city; quiet emergency vehicles seemingly headed nowhere. I watched the convenience store across the way open, wondering why they are there for 6 am when they don’t actually bake their pastries and open at seven. I have watched the gentle January sunrise etch into the sky, the muted colors feeling like a gentle nod to my dramatically frayed psyche. During this awakening, I have sat on my phone trying to slow my brain and emotions down, while my physical body adjusts to the discomfort of being awake. My hands are shaky and clammy; eyes bleary, the headache’s march resonating in the distance. Why do I want to share all this gloriousness with you, you ask? Because the impetus for this post has to do with a trait I struggle with often.
You see, I am working so hard right now on being open and soft and gentle, because my best friend, my step-son, is kneeling against the opposite couch, his back turned – our eyes not having met today. Studious avoidance on both our parts. This is because last night was a step-parent’s (and maybe parent’s, but not being one, I won’t weigh in) nightmare. Our reversion to regular schedule is going as planned – terribly. I feel like the ‘non-holiday schedule’ is where parents thrive; I don’t. I find his schedule hard and overwhelming, but: my issue, no one else’s. I’ve edited what I am about to say next five or six times now because while details are important, this is my kid and the appleof the love-of-my-life’s eye, right? Suffice to say, the importance of schedules, exactness, consistency and all the other OCD joys that make my life comprehensive to me have to kind of fly out the window for this kid. I will say if only my last ex could see me now; I am doing the doggy paddle in rapids, but my head is still above water (for the most part). So, skipping over the details of the disjointed reality of being elated and yet beyond frustrated to interact with someone, I’ll get to my issue: I can’t NOT, not talk about ‘The Big Stuff’. When it starts to happen, when I see or feel disrespect, or someone isn’t trying, a lack of consideration, and hear untruths, I shut off. And then it’s done. I don’t know how to come back, be here, connect, or even be normal for Christ’s sake. I want to be. I do; there is just something that closes so tight, I can’t budge it.
When I try and come at it clearly, I can literally see the road this started on. I can see my natural ineptitudes as a step-parent poking out from behind the rocks. I am a hyper-focused individual. So-much-so I have misled friends (thinking my interest romantic) but it is probably how duderonomy and I became friends in the first place. So, an ingrained worry wiggles out – if I am hyper-focused, but he’s not … then am I not worth it?
I am someone that would rather do every mundane task neededin the whole week so that we have time together, than burden the you with the tasks; when I visit my mum, I mow the lawn and am fawned over and thanked and my heart soars. I am ridiculous to see out in the world, practically tripping over myself to be extraordinarily kind to strangers. But gratitude and parenthood are interesting mates. I just googled ‘sarcastic quotes about parenthood and gratitude’, and while 223,000 is a surprisingly low number it is big enough to have made me close the tab. Because even I know that while maybe … thankless? There is an encyclopedia of things that inspire gratitude in being a part of a child’s life. Tragically, I have only just found my footing at the prow of my self-worth ship, masterfully emerging – only minorly ruffled – through the mist that we can sardonically use as the metaphor for my twenties and early thirties. So, step/parenting flaw numero dos. Having feelings. Just kidding, but not and for those that know, well, you know and for those of you that don’t I’m not trying to exclude you it is just LITERALLY not something you can know til’ you know. I thought you could; I tried to get my best friend who was a single mother (now happily married) to explain, my sister who is a step-parent operating within a unique blended family dynamic to Venn diagram for me, the previous mothers I have dated or been friends with, yup tried flushing it out with them too. They told me, but you just can’t know. It is the unmarked door between adult and adult-with-a-human-responsibility-but-you-aren’t-babysitting-anymore-and-they-just-somehow-constantly-and-honestly-matter-more. They don’t tell you to get a safety deposit box for the feelings unrelated to what’s behind the unmarked door. Bank ‘em but keep the good ones out for everyday usenewbie: exuberance, creativity, love, selfless pride, the desire to pass stuff on. BUT the reality is, the word ‘Alexithymia‘ exists for a reason and I’m pretty sure it came from a new parent who had to put their other million emotions in a prehistoric safety deposit box because you just can’t define them or share them with a child.
As a child, the expectations my parents had of me seemed normal and incredibly easy to reach. Then there were a few … disruptive years of which I have only a foggy awareness. And even when things were desperate, I still convinced myself it seemed easy to play out each day. As an adult, looking back and having the fortune of rehashing with an honest older sibling, what comes into focus is the astronomical expectations in our family that are still so unrealized by my remaining parent. Expectations not only of my character and actions but of the readiness for big conversations. If I messed up, there was going to be A CONVERSATION. I was spanked once, grounded once, but have had probably a million awkward, terrible and extremely uncomfortable conversations with both of my parents (good ones too). I am proud of the person it has shaped, but I can also recognize that it was maybe a bit much. So, in this house for a million reasons, we do it differently. Trajectories, consistencies, and conversations have been preestablished, grooved and set. Being aware of this when you have the “So, step-parenting, you ready?” talk is one thing, but another when you get lost in your semi-unguided and attempted ‘laid-back’ self-written-how-to-family-how-to-guide. All I know is to sit down, have hard conversations and make him work through this with us; all the while my heart is screaming “Go get his stuffy, scoop him up and swing him around!!!!!!”.
Alas, there is hurdle number three, clocking in at an unmeasurable height: my zero tolerance for bullshit, lazinessand disrespect. Even when these perceived traits are being viewed from a peak I hate standing on, because usually the view is exaggerated, distorted and potentially wrong; and this has cost me a lot.
Naming three terrible traits has been exhausting, so I’ll be gentle with myself and acknowledge one I am so proud of: my ability to go from a low, more base perspective and settle into a growing moment. I’m still trying to figure out how Aisha smooths all that shit out so flawlessly, but she’s been a breakwallthis morning like she has been the multiple times duderonomy and I have done this dance. She smooths out every.single.ruffle.pain.itch.remark.cuteye.want.word.selfishneed
and instead proffers hugs, laughs, breakfast, time, her ear for me her grouchy person who can’t seem to stop PROCESSING today. I spent some time being pretty ‘mind-huffy’ with her this morning. Though less than usual because today I wanted to be gentle. But my rough gentle is not very gentle; Jo, in this quadrant, is the huffing bull. So, I finally found the love I try and hold as my beacon and offered it to her. Told her that no matter what my face is doing, I support her one hundred percent. That her decision is my decision, even if I don’t agree. Because there are a lot of people privileged to be a part of duderroo’s life, who have way more weight than I do. And she considers my feelings and needs, probably before her own. I’m here because I just happened to fall completely and irrevocably in love with his mother. He’s an amazing ‘perk’ (please withhold feelings here about how I am referring to him. I will discuss ideologies I have been influenced by re: step-parenting and you’ll see what I mean. This perk was at the forefront of the ‘should we do this’ conversation we had the moment we realized we were completely fires-ablazin-smitten with each other, he is one of the reasons I even opened my heart again, he is what gets me up a lot of the time, and is the greatest joy I’ll know). But his life is for Aisha, his father and the added adults they have mutually decided together to bring into his life, to influence and mold. I’m here for her.
Through this journey, I must work past these moments. I have to sit here and write and spend six hours getting through this. Which is why I guess my love so subtly suggested this in the first place.
I don’t know what 3 pm looks like today, or this evening. But it is one of two weekday nights we get, which is why I really want to get over the terrible-trait-trifecta – my T³ – I have exposed here. That is why, as vague as it is, the heading for this is, “Beat swords into plowshares”. It means that we must turn to peaceful pursuits and away from war. I am a pacifist. I hate violence in almost all forms, but the emotional war me and myself wage inside me daily affect things too precious nowadays to not tryand quiet us. I know my bff will come home, without the baggage, will have found peace in his heart for both his and my mistakes. I know he will probably be gentle and boyish if not exhausted from catching maybe three and a half hours of sleep. I know I will want to hug him and blissfully ignore the wall that seems to be building. Because I think that’s how parents do it. So long as he doesn’t pack my bricks with the mud of his own hurt while I’m blundering along and gives me time to get my shit together before he is aware that he is affected by my T³. Because I would rather do him the courtesy of being a bigger person, of waiting until he is old enough to have a BIG CONVERSATION about my really convoluted, black and white brain.
And on that note, I think I’ve hit a high note of gratitude. For those who love me. For me, and the gentleness I’ve found for myself.
“whatever you do be gentle with yourself.
you don’t just live in this world
or your home
or your skin.
you also live in someone’s eyes.”
― Sanober Khan