I've been trying. Really, I have! I have been sitting on my hands and biting my tongue for many, many months.
I have said nothing when I wanted to scream, typed nothing when I wanted to write a blog post or send an email or just put an effing message in a bottle. High road, people. That's the road I've been trying to take for a long time now.
"Put your blinders on, woman" I said to myself. "Don't let that stuff seep into your life."
But like one of those awful up-the-back diaper explosions, the mess that is called "stepmother" has seeped out of bounds.
When I first found out about her, way back when, when I was still convinced my husband left because he was "depressed"..I had two wishes: the first was that she not have any STD's (since he was double dipping back in those days. Ugh.). The second was that she not show up at our divorce court dates swollen with a secret love child.
Both of those wishes were granted, thank God.
When I found out they had tied the knot, I had only one wish: that she be kind to my children, and not make their already-scrambled lives any more convoluted.
And you know what? I'll admit it: I resented her being there. I couldn't stand the fact that there was another woman in their dad's life, let's not get into how my claws came out when I tried to grapple with the concept of that same woman playing Mommy with my kids.
I was definitely a traveler on the Low Road back then. I did ALL the wrong things, like backwards-text-book. I grilled the kids when they came home about what was said, what they ate, what they watched and how they were treated. I scoffed at their descriptions of what she cooked, what she wore, how she decorated. I worried when they told me stories about her smoking and drinking, tried hard to not vomit when they told me how they could hear moans and "Oh baby" through the thin walls of the house.
I saw red when I was told about Henry having his hair pulled. Just about blew my top when she shaved the boys' heads. And wept when she chose to call me a "fat bitch" when my son was in the hospital after trying to take his life.
But that was then. When Big Daddy became Big DeadBeat Daddy, I decided that I needed to knock it off. I had bigger fish to fry, after all. I forced myself to ignore whatever floated back from "that house" and focused instead on getting through what proved to be the toughest time in our lives, so far.
You know when I finally knew I was on course for the High Road? When the kids came home with the news that Big Daddy and Secretary were expecting Spawn. I had a brief gut-punch of sadness, and then it passed. I didn't want to know ANY details. I was finally getting to that golden milestone all of us who have been dumped aspire to reach: The fabulous "I Don't Give A Shit" phase. I was there, and it was awesome.
Oh sure, the kids would still try to raise my hackles now and then. There were always the "they didn't feed us" complaints, and it did make me upset when they would tell me about how Secretary and Big Daddy would have a nice meal just for themselves while the kids had ramen or hot dogs. I'm not stupid, I know there are kids in this country who would love to go to bed with ramen in their bellies, so I put that one aside. And if they were hungry, I fed them another dinner. No big whoop.
I almost detoured back to the Low Road this past Christmas, though. Not one, not two, but three of the kids came to me, separately, to tell me how hurt they were about the Christmas card that Big Daddy and Secretary sent out. Sent out, and displayed proudly on the fridge. It was a photo card, with a few pictures of Spawn and holiday greetings from "The Big Daddy Family: Big Daddy, Secretary, and Spawn". Yes, they sent that out. And yes, they let the other kids see it.
Who does that? Who sends out a card and signs it "our family" and leaves out four children? It made me sick. It made me sad. And it made me mad. Mad at her, for thinking it was ok to do that. Mad at Big Daddy, for not standing up for his four older kids. The kids felt, quite honestly, like crap. I said nothing to them except, "I'm sorry that happened." I wondered if people who got the cards, family members who love my kids, said anything to them? "Hey nice card, but aren't you missing a few people?" or "Maybe my eyes are going but I didn't see Charlie or Molly or Henry or William in that photo...what gives?" Do you think anyone would say anything? I have asked myself if I'd be the one to speak up, to point out the blatant disregard for Big Daddy's first four babies...and I honestly don't know what the answer would be.
But that too, passed. We had our hugs and our "whatevers" and like all the other bygones before it, we let this bygone go.
Cut to last night.
Last night was a night just like any other here at Chez Hausfrau. It 'twas a Tuesday, so the kids were supposed to go with Big Daddy for their twice-weekly "dinner hour" visit. A term I use loosely, because dinner in my world apparently means something completely different in World of Big Daddies And Secretaries (can you imagine such a world? It makes my eyes water.). Anyhoo. So the two younger boys went, the two older kids stayed (why? you may ask. why? Because they didn't want to go. And I'm beyond tired of pushing them to go without any support and/or reinforcements from You-Know-Who).
So the two younger kids come home later, starving as usual. Bickery as usual. I started making Second Dinner for them and World War Three erupted in the living room. Kids screaming at kids, kids screaming at me, shoes thrown outside (seriously...this has somehow become the epic throw down at our house..once your shoe has been thrown outside, IT'S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG, beotch). Havoc.
Tears were shed, a Family Meeting was called to order, etc. etc. Hugs all around and then finally, peace.
And so...after that, Molly was in the kitchen with me, hanging out...I could tell she wanted to talk. She started slowly, and then the words were rushing out of her. More words than I've heard out of her in AGES (her laptop has fallen ill so she's been forced to interact with us). She told me about how Big Daddy and Secretary have been asking her to babysit.
(FOR THE RECORD: I'm ok with this. I think it's great. That baby, despite being made from two morally questionable, vapid beings, is just a baby. And half of it is half of my kids, so by proxy it must be sort of ok. )
She told me of a talk that Secretary had with her, just the other night. She started out by telling Molly that Big Daddy really, really wants to be closer to her, but doesn't know how (really? Really???). Then she sidled up to my daughter, and began asking her things.
"Do you think you'll ever have kids?" and
"Do you think you'll ever get married?" and then.....
"So when you get married, do you want to marry a boy, or marry a girl?".
Molly is 16. Molly is a shy, introverted, quiet, bookish girl who tries desperately to NOT stand out from the crowd. She's not boy crazy, she doesn't spend hours on the phone talking about Taylor Lautner and Selena Gomez and OMG the half-nekkid boys standing outside Abercrombie.
Molly gets lost in books. She has a WICKED sense of humor. She loves deeply and she is fiercely loyal. She stays home on weekends more often than not. She loves That 70's Show and she's a great (and busy) babysitter.
She is 16. And when I heard that last question, the question that a woman who cannot possibly "get" my daughter the way I do, a woman who is barely old enough to be Molly's big sister asked my girl, I lost my cool.
But I did it quietly. I did it while stirring something on the stove, and I controlled myself. I asked Molly, "And what did you say?". Molly blushed. She said she laughed and then said, "Whatever."
Whatever. Whatever is, a line was crossed. I don't care how young you are, how stupid you are, or how hopelessly clueless you are...the questions that Secretary asked my daughter were inappropriate. MOLLY IS 16. She's just trying to navigate high school, figure out being a teenager. Here are some things you ask a 16 year old girl:
What classes do you like? Which ones do you not like? Which ones are you REALLY good at?
Who's your favorite author? What's your favorite book?
What's on your iPod?
Have you seen any good movies, or did you watch the MTV music awards or the Oscars or whatever was on t.v. recently?
You don't ask a 16 year old about getting married, or having babies. Or what gender their partner will be. That's a conversation that is brought to you, by them.
Raising teenagers is tough, and I can only imagine what it's like to have three of them who aren't yours in your house. Three teenagers who have a pretty good idea about what your role was in their parent's divorce. It must be hard. It must be kind of scary. God knows I'm scared some of the time and I know these kids inside and out.
But no matter how difficult it is, you have to learn about boundaries and lines and personal space. All three of these things were breached when Molly's stepmom decided it was a good idea to sit down and gab.
I was surprised by my reaction, and then I decided that it was justified. Would Big Daddy sit down and have that conversation with Molly? Or with one of the boys? Would Secretary sit down with Charlie and ask those same questions?
I think she crossed a line. Or maybe I'm overreacting? Maybe those old hurt feelings aren't gone, like I thought...maybe they're still there, below the surface, just waiting for a crack in the armor to appear.
Or maybe...maybe I'm just trying to protect my babies still, after all these years.