I just Googled this term, and it’s not even a thing. It was at 510 Brodie when I was growing up. This term, apparently made up by my mother, embodies so many wonderful things about my upbringing and heritage, and so many things I can’t seem to give up.
Are all obsessions bad? I feel like this one is just one of my quirks (I think I’m justifying a lot of these post topics that way lately…) But it is an obsession nonetheless – one that causes undue stress almost every day. I’m not expecting – or even wanting – to turn this one completely off…just moderate my expectations.
If I was going to cast someone to play my mother in a movie about her life, I would have a hard time deciding between the proper Hyacinth (from the BBC) and the oh-so-southern Paula Dean (from the South). She’s the juxtaposition of keeping up appearances and lovin’ Jesus while cookin’ with bacon grease. Her mother (more like a mixture of characters from Dallas and The Beverly Hillbillies) wasn’t too much different in her appearances/housekeeping/presentation standards. On more than one occasion, I called to ask if I could drop by and see her while I was in her area, and she declined because her house wasn’t presentable.
Much like my grandmother, I don’t want people to see my home in any state other than “Magazine Perfect” – the term my mother used to distinguish whether she wanted me to merely clean my room – dust, vacuum, empty trash – or arrange it for the magazine photographers who were inevitably going to drop by unannounced to take pictures of our interior for Southern Living magazine – bed made, throw pillows and blankets strategically staged, frames placed on shelves by height and in odd numbered groupings, and stack of classic novels innocently gracing my desk…and of course I want it to appear effortless. (She never told me these were the things I had to do – I just created that as a definition.) As a kid, I preferred “magazine perfect” to cleaning. It involved throwing un-pretty things in my closet and desk drawers (’cause what kind of wackadoo photographer would take pictures of desk drawers???) and making things look pretty. Nowadays, I enjoy cleaning too, but I still – honest to God – have the thought in my head that a magazine photographer might show up on my doorstep, and By God I’d better be ready.
Like I said, this obsession isn’t ALL bad. I love living in a tidy house. I love the compliments from people who drop by. I love things looking nice. But most people really don’t care. I don’t get that, but they don’t. This probably goes back full circle to my Confidence post. I don’t feel like I judge other people if their houses are messy (I kinda do if they’re dirty), but I do find myself grateful that I live like I do, and I do expect to be judged.
Here’s what I need to focus on: Who do I feel like I need to make happy? The answer should be me and my family. It does take a regular cleaning and a regular picking-up to make me happy. It takes very little to make my family happy – I want them to care, but they just don’t. And I should see this as an opportunity for some freedom from stress…I’m going to try.
*voice in my head* I’m going to be SO mad if a magazine photographer really does show up on a day I’m practicing not caring. SO mad.
(in my head, that’s me below)
In 73 days, this family will make its annual pilgrimage back up to the holy land – known to others as Keuka Lake.
I hear all of the Finger Lakes are spectacular, but Keuka is the one where I’ve perched for two solid weeks of relaxation each of the past three years. My hott husband has been there almost every summer of his life. And last summer, it’s where we celebrated the 50th year of Maga’s Lake House and we were married on the dock in a perfect little gathering.
His family home there is warm and welcoming, its hosts are laid back and gracefully hospitable, the lake is cool and clear, and the people are friendly. But even if these things were not true, there’s something else extraordinary about this place…
They have a time-travel portal.
If you count their horses, the Amish might outnumber televisions, and they definitely outnumber air conditioners. You might find some of what you need at the little grocery store, but you still need to stop at the butcher’s, the Amish market, and the fruit stand. The summer days are long, the tables are large, and the windows are open.
But here’s my favorite part of the time travel there: kids get to be kids – without instructions or a plan or an itinerary or supervision, all day, all the while learning more than we could ever teach them. Our kids and the neighbor’s kids run all day – All. Day. – up and down from the lake to the woods and around again. They fish, build forts, make up games, swim, kayak, sail, paddle, run, run, run, did I mention they run? everywhere? When they’re hungry, they figure out how to eat while running. When someone gets hurt, they clean each other’s wounds. They celebrate the big catch together. They come up with creative things to make out of trash from the gully. At dinner, plates get clean, stories get relived, brothers don’t fight, and a good hard sleep comes easy. They strategize plans to most efficiently accomplish the assigned daily chores. You can’t make this stuff up! But they can. And they do. For four weeks straight. They learn more there without adult supervision than in all the time and money we adults (collectively) try to “invest” in their development. NOTHING is as important at their age as learning things for yourself. That is hard to find in the suburbs, my friends.
It seems like these days, if your kid turns out to be a self-sustaining adult, it almost has to be in spite of us, not because of us. My father-in-law dropped this wisdom on us a couple of years ago – “Don’t handicap your kids by making their lives easy.” But we do it every day.
My adult daughter is a walking reminder of this. It is abundantly apparent what aspects of her life I kept out of and gave her independence, and which aspects I stunted her growth by treating her like she couldn’t do it on her own (well, right, enough, etc.)
Challenge/Reminder: I am going to stop doing for the kids what they can do for themselves. Obviously, there are time constraints and bedtimes, but their ability-level is way higher than we give them credit for…and there’s a lot of things they should know how to do by this age, but they don’t – simply because we’ve never taught them.
So I might be the bad guy around here for a while, but in this whole step-parenting adventure, I’ve learned that my role is sometimes different than the parent – but just as important.
(Pretty sure it would be a big help if we do what we keep saying we’re going to do and cut off the cable…So many of these challenges are actually going to save us money – I’ve saved money on eating out, not drinking, not picking grout ((oops))…Feelin’ Pre-tee Good 🙂 )
My soon-to-be new boss and I shared a few mom-to-mom moments at the conclusion of my interview a few weeks ago. We found out we had both recently married the man of our dreams, both after raising kids and graduating them off to college, both gained young step-kids in the process – mine boys, which I had never done before, and hers a 12-year-old girl who they had permanent custody of, after she had raised only boys.
Early Friday morning, she got a call at work that I can’t even begin to imagine. The 44-year-old love-of-her-life had a heart attack on the treadmill at his gym and died instantly. Gone. There are no words. I can’t think straight when I try to describe how devastated (the English language is inadequate), completely world shattered, stopped, exploded, I don’t even know…can’t even finish the sentence.
How do you go on? How do you even move your body from one spot? My natural reaction to this was to cling to my husband. I felt, in the depths of my soul, the fear of losing him and I began to program my brain and my actions based on this fear. I realized that I was loving him even harder than ever, but it wasn’t fun. It was emotionally draining.
I’ve only had a few long-term relationships in my life (that seems like it should be a given), but in the first two or three – beginning in high school – there were major issues with fidelity and truthfulness. Since these were during my developmental years, I never learned what it’s like to trust – wholly, completely, without fear. Even as much as I know, like KNOW know, that my husband loves me and is committed to me and would never hurt me, I also know we are humans and humans make mistakes, hence there is always something to fear.
I have been working on this for a while now – like intentionally and intelligently, and it’s definitely gotten better. As time goes by, I have less “flare ups”. In fact, I feel like I can truthfully say that I’m not afraid right now. I have realized – finally, and due to the terrible news of a husband’s passing – that if it WERE to happen, it would have happened whether I was a blissfully oblivious wife or a paranoid untrusting one, and which way would I rather live?
With the news of my boss’s husband, I had to make myself make a quick U-turn from deciding to live like I might lose him tomorrow to living like we’ve got forever. I want the same to be true with my trust. I want to live this wonderful life with him and love him madly forever – but not from a place that’s founded in the very things I fear the most. There’s too much fun to be had. Challenge: Cherish and treasure, but relax and enjoy or it was all in vain.
I’ve known a lot of boys in my life. I’ve liked some, loved some, hated some, and been irritated by many. But you don’t know boys until you’ve lived with some.
Not just one – not just your dad. Dads are different – they can do all the boy things and you don’t notice because you’re a girl and it’s your world when you’re the kid.
I live in a house with three boys now, ages 10, 12, and 43. They are not like girls. And they have no interest in learning the ways of the girls. The big one has at least known enough girls to be adaptable, and my goal is for the younger two to learn to do the same.
I’ve raised a girl – seemed much easier to me. Critics will tell you otherwise, but they’re probably boys.
My goal as step-mom has evolved from wanting to be one of the boys to being one of the girls they get to learn about early. I no longer feel bad asking them to do “boy” things, in fact I delight in it. I no longer make apologies for wanting things to be clean, for curtains to be straightened out after rough-housing, for the certain reward for “hmmmm!s” and “ahhhhh!”s at the dinner table, and for the proper arrangement of throw pillows on every couch and bed in the house.
They will remember me when they meet girls that expect the same. They may not remember me fondly, but they will not be shocked or dismayed by this behavior – and for that ONE day, they will be thankful.
Boys are great, and I love these with everything in me – the big one more than anyone I’ve loved in my entire life. But I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t make a boy into a girl, and you shouldn’t want to.
Being a step-mom is weird. It’s nothing you can learn about from anybody else. And I hate the term “Step-Mom” for all the reasons one would expect – including the only two adjectives I’ve ever heard preceding it…evil and wicked. There are no (or if there are, I can’t think of them) popular examples of step-moms who are loved, appreciated, or revered. There’s even a show devoted to stepmothers who murder their families. As if.
I blame Disney.
For the first year playing this role, I felt like a new mom – The boys’ bio-mom was scarce at best…I was Mom #1, and unmarried, so without the “Step-Mother” label. It was great.
This past year, the ex-wife has re-emerged as Mom #1.5, and I have had to learn to play the role of Mom #1.5, and be introduced and known as Step-Mom. It’s much harder. They say “Step-mom” but it feels like “Step aside…we’ve got this”.
I started dating my dream guy when my daughter was 16. Small-child-parenting days were over. When she and I were on speaking terms, it was about jobs, colleges, ACTs, careers. My dream guy had eight and six year-old boys. It was never a decision – I never contemplated NOT being with him. I would have taken him von Trapp style if that’s how he showed up.
But any of you who have been here know that it’s nothing like raising the first, biological one. Older, wiser, less self-absorbed, and much MUCH more worried about screwing someone else’s kids up than your own.
So many things are different/harder with steps, boys, siblings.
Weekend before last, we had two events Friday night, two lacrosse practices, two lacrosse games, a birthday party, junior high solo and ensemble, and a high school musical on Saturday. Then another birthday party, team photos, a grown-up painting party, and Scouts on Sunday. I was joking with my hott husband (and the ex) that We Did It!…relieved that we hadn’t left any kids behind, hadn’t missed or forgotten anything (that we know of ;-/), and that was all with my parents and her sister in town. Then I realized that I did nothing of logistical value. I was merely the calendar keeper…I made sure everybody knew where everybody was supposed to be. My hot husband did all of the transporting or arranging of transportation for everything. He physically drove everyone everywhere they were supposed to be, and was the parent of record for both kids at each and every event. I felt like I needed to take my “WE Did It!” back and apologize for not pitching in.
I felt bad – until I remembered these seemingly small but critical things (to which few people give/get credit):
Everyone had home-cooked meals, the little athletes and big coach had chilled water bottles, the birthday friends had wrapped gifts, everyone sported clean uniforms and nicely pressed band gear, we had reserved seating at the musical, and everyone slept on clean sheets. I finally know what the home fires are and what it means to keep them burning.
Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband who praises every little thing I do to contribute, but I’m sure there are many who don’t, and THAT makes me understand why second marriages run an even higher risk of divorce than firsts. I work harder raising your two kids than I did my own but I’ll never earn the endearing title that implies unconditional appreciation – “Just Plain Mom”.
It’s his turn to be the actor on the stage who everyone knows his name, and it’s my time to work backstage to make sure he has his props and sets and zipper up to deliver the thrills without a hitch. It’s a role I’ve not only made peace with but become fond of, and it’s a love language I didn’t even know I had until I became Step-Mom.
P.S. – As I’m writing this, I’m picturing my hott husband driving around in an eighteen-wheeler (which he does not), with dark glasses and Ronnie Milsap hair singing,
“She keeps the home fires burning, While I’m out earning a living in a world that’s known for its pouring rain…
She keeps the home fires burning, Ooh and it’s her warm loving that keeps me returning again and again.”