There is a fine line.
Between battles against words like "real-mom" and being the mediator between bio-dad and bio-mom, I parent the shit outta these kids.
I am a step-mom. And I parent Monday through Friday, with some help from the kids' dad and mom. I am a negotiator, a carnival host, a tutor, a library guide and a problem-solver. All this with the patience of fucking Mother Theresa.
Peering forward, my own personal time is growing dimmer and flickering like a spent candle. Peering backward, I see myself waving good-bye; the only-child self, the never-been-married self, the one who prided herself on being able to survive without anyone's help at all, thank you very much.
Self... I knew her once. She was lovely and serene, and who'm I kidding, she was perfectly fine as she was. And now, I once in a while find her huddled in the corner, playing solitary thumb war against her own hands, wishing for someone to notice her. "Hi there, little one! Why are you so small?"
I'll tell you: it's about selflessness. That wicked, horrid, tasteless word which, every time it is spoken, kills a fairy princess. Or else it kills me. Either way. It's about giving until there is not a single drop more of myself to give. It's about neglecting to change the cat box because each day is filled with a new homework adventure, a new emotional need thermometer and thermostat. And I'm so fucking tired.
Also, have I mentioned that children bring home germs? Yeah, I am gifted with those presents, too.
But I am superwoman. I've known this since I was a wee bit. Something about Type-A-ed-ness, perfectionista anorexic nonsense: age twelve, and simply cannot, will not fail.
So to find myself unwrapping elegantly decorated tinsel-laden presents of child diagnoses like "ADHD" or "conduct disorder," after having earned my bachelor's in psychology, having done my own research and adamantly discredited any suggestion that maybe he's just a little more amped up than he should be... I have free fallen a hundred stories into the sea of denial, relief, and I-totally-fucked-that-one-up, didn't I!
Now bio-mom is shouting, hands cupping her mouth, from the vast megaphone at the tops of city buildings, "Medication is the answer!"
And I, eating my words, picking up those labels, those diagnonsenses, shoving them in my pants pockets, praying no one hears her and swallowing every bitter bite have to convince her that, "Okay, maybe I was wrong about that, but hear me out here, he doesn't need drugs, he needs love..."
All this "work" I've put into myself to conquer my perfectionist disease tumbles down on top of me. I done fucked up, didn't I? I done told everyone I knew that MY kid doesn't have a stinkin diagnosis, and MY kid is struggling with homework, but I'm helping him to recover and dedicating every single minute I'm home to making sure that both kids are getting the attention they need and there's just no way that he's anything but stubborn...
Crow pie, or some colloquialism. Whatever. I'm fighting a losing battle here, and still have to play the role of mediator between two households, knowing that somehow the show must continue, and homework is still piling up, and really-- okay, maybe he does have ADD or ADHD or flying spaghetti monster madness and quite possibly he's a vampire, and yes he IS failing third grade right this moment, but I've been putting so much time and energy into him that he has brought up two of his grades from Fs to Ds in just two weeks and... I know we can do this, we can fight this battle because we're ARMED, bitches!! We're armed with confidence and crazy organizational skills and lots of little ideas and tips and tricks and...
But I'm only a step-mom. In fact, I'm not married. I'm a not-step-mom. I'm the girlfriend. I'm the life partner, and even the kids' school thinks I'm not qualified to register for the email notification of the kids' grades-- but okay to sign if the kids need permission slips for field trips and progress reports and phone calls. Because I'm available, but the social dynamics of our situation is just not Lutheran enough, and technically I'm not really even a legal guardian.
All the bureaucratical bullshit through which I wade sucks my rain boots right off of my feet. But you know what? Those kids' lives have changed for the better because of me. Nothing and no one can deny me that simple fact.