PREFACE: A brief note about this essay. This was entered in the 2012 Note & Words Essay Contest. I was not chosen, so I am plopping my essay up for all to read.
It would have been cool had I placed because the event celebrating this year’s contest is on April 28th, the first anniversary of my diagnosis. However, it was a ton of fun to enter!
I am a 47-year-old woman, who never had a child. As someone unable to bear children, as well as a recent breast cancer survivor who practically glowed in the dark after seven weeks of straight radiation, the U.S.S. Parenthood almost sailed. But fate stepped in, and it didn’t No, there was no immaculate conception to report, I am a stepmother in training.
It all started when I re-connected with someone from high school. We never dated way back when, he was just a pal. What we would have thought rather improbable (if not impossible) as teens happened: we fell in love.
He is a parent to a 12-year-old boy, making me a stepmother in training. Some days I am terrified. I say that mostly with humor, because I am playing life’s giant game of catch-up. I escaped dirty diapers, potty training, and teething to arrive on the scene just as puberty hits.
Oh boy. I was none too graceful myself at the onset of puberty, and now I am shaping a young mind? Or is he shaping me?
As far as children go I couldn’t order a better child. He is an amazing boy, truly his father’s son. He is bright, engaging, sweet, charming, and cute. I have been a little bit in love with this child since the first cup of hot chocolate.
Our mutual relationship has been a growth process, and I would really love it if I could just understand why teeth brushing and sometimes a shower is such a big deal. I am told that this is just typical boy, but to me, who only had a sister, it is just perplexing. Some days, I just don’t speak boy well and I dread the shower/teeth conversation.
Me: “A little bit later, I need you to take a shower and brush your teeth.”
Boy: “O.k.” (Goes back to iPad or whatever he is doing.)
Later occurs and I say brightly, (not like the menacing prison warden) “O.k. it’s time!”
“Time for what?” Boy replies genuinely puzzled.
“Shower and teeth brushing” I reply.
“Oh. That. Do I have to?” Boy replies hanging his head in dread.
Next a dance ensues, and it is often a match of wits. Sometimes there is humor, and other times we are both sent to our respective corners for a time out.
My friends are all amused. I think I have discovered a parallel universe, and they say, welcome to parenthood and boys. One of my best friends also has a son, and she too has tooth brushing drama. She’s threatened, cajoled, tried humor. She even told her son his teeth would fall out. His reply was “you can buy me new ones.”
Every day is a new adventure. I have never done this before. Some days I am just terrified I am going to screw it up. Lucky for me I can cook. Sometimes he wants to help.
Case in point, homemade applesauce.
“Can I help?” he asks.
“Sure,” I say, “We need to start by peeling all those apples.”
He peels about one apple and then it’s off to hang out on the sofa with a dog or two.
Sometimes when I am cooking, he is glued to my side. I am always afraid I will burn him or something. And then I have to breathe and remember he won’t break.
Setting the table is also amusing. Especially when he chooses his glass to drink out of. He holds it up to the light, spinning it around looking for spots. Spotted glasses are immediately rejected.
Then we have the game of not sitting with your feet up and under you on the seat. This is where I scare myself. I hear my mother’s voice coming out of my mouth:
“Please sit the right way in your chair. You will break the chair down otherwise.”
Oh. My. God. Did I really just say that?
But then in spite of the little back and forth over teeth, showers, sitting in chairs properly, and spotted glasses, there are all the awesome things I have never experienced before since I am late to the parent party. The little hugs, a whisper in my ear that he loves me, little gifts he picked out for me himself that I will treasure forever, and text messages just for me.
This is a brave new world for me. To many this is just ordinary, but to me, who never expected to ever have a child, this new time is magical (when I’m not ripping out my hair learning to speak boy.) But I expect we will learn together, and, in the end, I will help raise a boy and a boy will help raise me.
Carla, as the mother of 2 sons who once teetered on the edge of puberty, my stance toward the shower-dance was to always have Irish Spring soap in their bathroom. By that manner – remember, not even deer can tolerate the smell – I could SNIFF if the shower had been accomplished. Saved on conversations begginning, “Have you …” .