It had been more than three years since your separation and even longer since a man’s touch caused your nether-regions to hum. You are sitting across a table, in a bustling mid-level chain restaurant on a Wednesday night, looking at a man who seems to think that you are the one he is going to spend the rest of his life with.
The pace of the relationship moved quickly after that awkward night in the restaurant because you had both taken the time to really get to know one another online before the first face-to-face meeting. Now, six months later, you two feel as though you are ready to commit your lives to one another.
But wait! There’s more! For those of you, who never delved into the world of online dating, replace the above opening scene with:
It’s been four years of water cooler flirtation with Hal from accounting. He’s now gotten up the courage to ask you out instead of his usual gesture of sharpening your pencils at noon every Tuesday. Hal is a good man and there is something oh-so enticing about his yellow pocket protector. You realize that he’s the man of your dreams (and the free tax return preparation is just icing on the cake).
Now that I’ve covered more than one demographic, we may continue…
There’s just one thing… you aren’t only committing your respective lives to one another… you are also committing your respective children’s lives to your new-found love.
I’m not sure that many people take the time to slow things down to a crawl before thinking about the dynamics of merging two broken families together. I took that time. I spent endless hours thinking about the impact on our then, 14, 8 and 6 year old children. How would my daughter handle having a new father and no longer being an only child? How would his boys handle a woman who refuses to be treated with nothing but the utmost respect and courtesy?
We sat his boys down before our family merged and I explained to them that I am not their mother, nor would I ever try to be their mother; but that I am a mother. I then explained to them how I roll. I had high hopes that I would be able to fill the gap that their emotionally stunted mother could not. I spent hours nurturing them and loving them unconditionally. I even taught them both how to read and write.
I would lay awake at night envisioning each of them standing at a podium in a cap and gown at their high school graduation ceremonies thanking me and saying that they could have never reached their goals had I not been there for them. I dreamt of being “that” stepmom. “That” stepmom that was everything to an emotionally deprived young boy.
My dreams came to a screeching halt as the eldest boy threw daily temper tantrums that could have easily been listed in the Guinness World Book of Records. I was further slapped back into reality each time that I was told that I was ugly and hated. And let’s not forget how I was reminded that I was living in her house and that her husband was still in love with her. Yes, my husband’s ex would say that almost every time she called. (Who’s still in love with whom?)
I soon came to understand why some species eat their young.
Where was my Alice? Where was my Sam the butcher? Where was my Mike Brady? It became clear to me that the only way of living a Brady kind of life was if both ex-partners were dead.
If we were the Bradys, then we’d be building houses out of playing cards and the only stress we had was to console Marcia after said house of cards tumbled because of her dangling charm bracelet.
“Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!”
How I longed to hear those words and watch Jan storm off with her ponytail swinging as a result of her adolescent angst. If only Jan’s jealousy over Marcia’s natural beauty, or Cindy’s speech impediment, were the height of our challenges.
What did I learn from all of this? Not only does it take a village to raise a child, it also takes patience and understanding surrounding the upheaval that we cause these children who never asked (or expected) their biological parents to part ways.
What did I also learn? It’s illegal to eat someone else’s young. And spending my days hoping that the brakes on the express bus would fail as my husband’s ex crossed the street was just a waste of my energy.
“Through thick and thin.” Those were my vows. I’m in it for the long haul… Brady-style or not.