On #InternationalWomensDay – Be You, Because You ARE Strong

Happy International Women’s Day!

You might be surprised to know that history records the first International Women’s Day as far back as 1911! Women have been fighting a loooooonnnnnnnggggg time for equality, and will continue to do so. I hate this fact, but to avoid dwelling on the negative, I will take pleasure in seeing how far we’ve come! Keep up the fantastic work, my sisters!

I’m seeing so many quotes and memes on social media today about women, and I’ve observed many of these quotes and memes focus on the word STRONG. Why is that?

Even my personal favorite: “Strong women: May we know them, may we raise them, may we be them.” urges us that being strong is the ultimate goal. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if this battle-cry is being interpreted the same way across the board.

Naturally, the physical sense of the word is a positive goal. Being physically strong isn’t just about how many pounds you can bench-press, but about being healthy. Everyone wants health for themselves and those they care about, right?

But what about being strong in other ways? How do we define that? And what about the women who don’t exude the “traditional” traits of “strength”? I use quotation marks simply because these words are so open to interpretation.

I worry that International Women’s Day is moving towards a different meaning – a celebration of society’s perceived “best of the best” so to speak. That’s not what it’s about.

The woman who doesn’t run marathons for herself or charity can still be strong simply running after her toddler at the park. Or watching Netflix marathons on TV.

The woman who doesn’t own a financially successful business or have a high-powered career can still be strong owning the responsibility to feed her children by working hard at her minimum-wage job.

That woman who doesn’t prepare kale-qinoa-chia seed-avocado crust-less pie to feed her family can still be strong asking her kids to set the table and put the ketchup and plum sauce out for the frozen chicken fingers with tater-tots her family will devour with enthusiasm.

That woman who never declares loudly “Fuck that shit!” can still be strong when she sobs into her pillow because someone hurt her feelings.

That woman who can’t be Ms. Independent-I-Can-Do-It-All-Myself can still be strong when she asks friends or family for physical or emotional support.

That woman who doesn’t kick that asshole partner’s ass to the curb can still be strong when she stays in a seemingly unsatisfying relationship for complex reasons that nobody but her really understands.

That woman who doesn’t proudly don her swimsuit while ignoring her obesity can still be strong when she avoids pools and the beach.

Nobody defines “STRONG” for everybody.

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who opens their eyes and confronts the challenges of life each day is strong, and even those who open their eyes but then decides to close them, stay in bed and avoid the world are still strong in making the decision to do just that.

If you are human and trying to live your life as best you can – you are strong.

Should women be equal with men? Youbetcha.

Should women stop being human to try to fit into someone else’s definition of “strong”?

I think you know my answer to that question.

Be you. That’s strong enough.

 

The Journey

For my regular readers, just a warning that this post is a bit…darker and heavier than my usual posts.  Writing is therapy and I’ve needed to get this out for a long time.

For everyone else – there is cussing contained within.  Consider yourself warned.

The Journey

I don’t expect you to understand why I am who I am or why I am the kind of mother that I am.

I don’t expect you to know what it is like to spend ten years trying to become a mother, spanned over 2 different husbands and a marriage that fell apart partially because I couldn’t conceive, or to have not 1 but 2 boyfriends tell you that they weren’t sure they could marry you because you might not be able to make babies.

I don’t expect you to know the paralyzing fear of attempting to conceive in my own body, knowing that everything I did or didn’t do could potentially harm a baby growing inside of me because of my own medical conditions.  I don’t expect you to sympathize that I often wonder if that fear is the reason why I didn’t conceive.

I don’t expect you to comprehend the bewildered astonishment of a positive home pregnancy test after a “one last time” interlude with my estranged ex-husband.  I don’t expect you to feel the disbelief of that pink plus sign, after 1 failed IVF and 2 failed IUI treatments.  I don’t expect you to get that I had to race to my brother’s house with the pee stick in my hand to ask him if HE thought it said “Positive” and then even when he agreed that he too saw the pink plus,  I still had to go to the local E/R to get a blood test done,  because my own pee was not trustworthy enough.

I don’t expect you to understand the devastation one week later, when I saw those spots of blood, knowing what they meant but still having to return to that E/R to wait 6 hours to be told that the sac was no longer attached to my uncooperative uterus.  I don’t expect you to grasp the horror of feeling and then seeing that unattached sac exit my body.

I don’t expect you to know what it is like to fall in love with someone who tells you AFTER you’ve fallen that he’s had a vasectomy when the only thing you’ve ever wanted your whole life was to be a mother.  Or to wonder if your decision to stay with him and pursue a reversal is a decision that will forever prevent you from becoming a mother.  Or to know that the semi-failure of the reversal coupled with your own failed fertility equated to three more failed IVF’s.  I don’t expect you to understand what it’s like to deal with all of these fertility failures, while having the evidence of that man’s fertile-on-the-first-try first marriage living in your home half of the time.  I don’t expect you to sympathize with trying to hide the shame and fear and embarrassment and pain of your own union’s infertility from that evidence so his mother won’t be even more smug than she already is in her thinking that SHE is the only one who will EVER provide a genetic link to your husband, while telling that link that he is his father’s only “real” child when she found out about our plans to adopt.

I don’t expect you to know about the urge to scream with rage from the physical pain of the daily multiple injections of drugs and hoping upon hope that the reports you read are wrong about the fact that they can cause cancer.  I don’t expect you to get the disgust of waking up soaked in your own hot-flash sweat from those high-dose hormones or the daily blood tests from veins that never gave up blood easily before fertility treatments, never mind how they began to look like veins of a heroin addict after 3 months of almost-daily torture to them.  I don’t expect you to know the initial shame and embarrassment that soon turns to numb indifference after a different person probes my most private area on a daily basis. I don’t expect you to get how the cocktail of hormones made me cry at the slightest provocation, yet also created volcanic anger explosions for the most minimal of offenses.

I don’t expect you to know the disappointment of finding out that your eggs and your husband’s sperm, and then a strangers sperm, failed to create an embryo, and then failed to create an embryo that bothered to stay alive long enough to put back inside your uterus, yet have the doctor put 4 dead embryos inside of you anyway in case your uterus could magically awaken the dead and create a baby out of those useless microscopic dead cells.

I don’t expect you to comprehend the agony of the Two Week Wait between the transfer of embryos into my uterus and the morning 2 weeks later when the pregnancy blood test is done, all the while begging those microscopic assholes to please, please, please stick to my uterus and dig themselves a comfy little nest for the next nine months.

I don’t expect you to know what it feels like to wait that morning at home alone after the blood test is drawn, sitting with the phone in your hands, dying for it to ring, but terrified it will ring and wondering why the FUCK it hasn’t rang yet and trying to find something to occupy your mind while you wait out those hours when nothing on this earth could possibly do that.

I don’t expect you to understand what it’s like to get that phone call alone, yet at the same time be so glad that nobody is there to witness your ugly cry breakdown on your hands and knees on the floor after you throw the phone against the wall when you hang up.

I don’t expect you to feel the crushing, tidal-wave blow of hearing “Your blood test was negative” from the IVF nurse on the phone, not once, not twice, but SIX times over a 10 year eternity.

I don’t expect you to applaud the teeth marks in my tongue from not telling that same IVF nurse to fuck off with her sympathetic voice when she delivered that news each time.

I don’t expect you to feel bad for me about the wasted loss of all that money spent for NOTHING.

I don’t expect you to understand what it is like to grow up your whole life believing that one of the world’s expectations of you as a woman is to have a baby, to become a mother, and then to know that you are a failure as a woman when you fail to create and produce that baby for motherhood.

I don’t expect you to feel the fury towards Mother Nature for making you suffer through a period every single month for NOTHING if you can’t even have a baby, long after you’ve accepted that you’re not getting pregnant ever, and wishing your entire female reproductive system would just piss off.

I don’t expect you to appreciate actually looking forward to menopause just to finally feel like you really are like other women.

I don’t expect you to empathize with the bitter resentment felt for the man who expected me to plan HIS child’s birthday party one week after the news of our final failed IVF in Europe, because he HAD a kid and could never truly comprehend my pain.   I don’t expect you to get that I really wanted to fall to the floor kicking and screaming as we walked past the Baby section that day in Toys R Us while looking for a gift for HIS child.

I don’t expect you to comprehend that even now, even after my acceptance of our infertility and the absolute knowledge that my daughter was meant to be with me, even with my acceptance that I will NEVER feel a baby I helped create grow and move inside of me, never see that baby leave my womb and watch it take its first gulp of air, first scream, first look at the world – even NOW, I feel a tiny little stab in my soul when I see a pregnant woman or a baby or read about a pregnancy or see a newborn baby picture.  I don’t expect you to get that while I am at peace with my destiny, there are some wounds and scars that will never completely heal.

I don’t expect you to understand that FINALLY becoming a mother completed me, despite those wounds and scars.  My daughter gave me peace.  And yes, she is MY daughter.  She has a father, but she is mine, and I don’t expect you to understand that, either.  She provided the balm for a 10 year quest that nearly destroyed me more than once because I had no comprehension during the journey that she was my destination.

I don’t expect you to comprehend that I wake, live, eat, breathe, exist for my daughter.  My love for my daughter consumes me.  She is the meaning of my life and the purpose of my existence.  I don’t expect you to understand that any harm to her, or Dear Sweet God above NO!, the loss of her, would destroy me.   That is not drama, it is fact.  I don’t expect you to comprehend why my thoughts would even go there because I don’t expect you to understand that I am too old, too emotionally spent and too financially drained to endure the journey of another adoption.  I don’t expect you to empathize with why I worry about harm coming to her, after everything I’ve been through to finally be her mother.  Nor do I expect you to get my fear of my own death before she becomes an adult, as she would also be destroyed.  No, that is not ego.  I simply understand that there are only so many hurts a young, beautiful heart can possibly survive, and hers is at capacity.

I  don’t expect you to understand that every person, place, thing, new environment, new experience is a potential threat to my daughter, in my mind.  Although it may not seem that way sometimes, I try my very hardest to not allow the world’s threats to stand in the way of allowing her to experience the world as a beautiful, educational, magical place without fear.   I don’t expect you to understand that if my choice is between keeping her safe or hurting someone else’s feelings, she will ALWAYS stay safe, and that I don’t really care if you don’t see the same risks to her safety that I see.

I don’t expect you to comprehend the unbelievable pressure I put on myself to be a perfect mom, all the while knowing that such a thing doesn’t even exist, because  I waited, I begged, I pleaded, I cried, I prayed, I suffered and I was finally rewarded with her, so I must demonstrate my gratitude and deservedness by being the best mother I can be at all times, even though I’m not and I can’t.

I don’t expect you to know or understand any of these things.  This is my journey…

A Rewarding Education

My stepson finished Grade 7 on the honour roll!  HOLY CRAP!

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He came home 2 nights ago and told us that a kid in his class saw the certificates being printed in the office and saw one with my stepson’s name on it.  He was totally excited.  We were speechless.

Not because we don’t think he’s capable.  He’s a very smart kid.  Sometimes too smart.

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But despite the fact that he is in a gifted program at school, attainment of grades that reflect his intelligence has been a struggle for him.  Some of the struggles are within his control, some are not.  Nonetheless, his mid-year report card this past year was disappointing, to say the least.

So when he told us he had made the honour roll, we had a hard time believing this was possible, based on his previous report card and the general lack of homework-doing and studying we saw around our house for the past 4 months.

But he did it!  His average just barely exceeded the 80% minimum required for Honour Roll status, but he did it.

And we are SO proud!  Incredibly surprised, but in a fantastic way.

He is finally performing academically at the level we know he is capable of!

Does that sound familiar to you?  I’m sure many parents feel their children are not performing up to their potential at school.

So now Huzbo wants to reward him.  And this is where I struggle.

I do want him to know how proud of him we are.  I told him a hundred times yesterday.  I hugged him, I kissed him.  I cried when I saw his certificate.

I want to give him some sort of token to remember his job well done.

So where do we draw the line?   Huzbo wanted to take him to a movie of his choice tonight.  Just the 2 of them.  I felt that excluded Baby Girl and I.  We are proud of him too!

Huzbo wanted to take him out for a fancy dinner.  Or give him a present.  Or give him cash.  Or all of the above.  Huzbo is pretty pumped about this, as Huzbo never made the honour roll.

I’ve read a number of blogs and comments to these blogs about each of these ideas.  I’m not sold.   I want him to feel that there IS a reward for working hard.  But isn’t feeling proud of your accomplishment a reward?  Isn’t getting the good grade the reward?

I also struggle with the concept of rewarding him for fulfilling our expectations of him.  Our job is to take care of him, to feed him, to clothe him, to nurture him, support him, love him.  HIS job is to go to school, study hard and do well.  Don’t worry, it isn’t an exchange program – we would still do our job even if he isn’t doing his.  He has chores in our home – making his bed, dusting, keeping his room tidy.  We don’t throw a party or reward him for doing those chores.  Why should we reward him for doing what we expect of him at school?

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I suggested to Huzbo that we offer him a choice of one reward.  Perhaps we could offer him the choice of a fancy dinner at a restaurant of his choice, a gift of his choice (within a pre-set budget), or cash payment for A’s and B’s.  The latter is my favorite, as I like to offer more money for A’s than B’s.  To me, this gives him the clear message that the reward for his BEST efforts is a bigger payoff.  Just like in real life.  If you do your best at your job, you generally are eligible for the highest rewards.  I know he is capable of straight A’s, he’s that brilliant, so why not try to encourage him to excel to his best possible efforts?

Now I have to go count up his A’s and B’s to see if we can afford to offer this reward…

What do you do for your children when they do well at school?  Would love to hear from you!

 

 

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My Mom, Da Bomb

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You didn’t REALLY think I’d let Mother’s Day go by without a post about MY maternal parental unit, did you?

What can I say?  She’s pretty damned awesome (and pretty pretty, too – God, I hope I have her aging-well genes).   She’ll probably give me shit for saying “damned” and “shit” because she doesn’t have much of a potty mouth like her daughter, but that’s ok.

My mum and I have had our differences over the years, and even last week.  Don’t even talk about the rock ‘em, sock ‘em take downs we’ve had in the shopping malls when I was a teenager.

But I gotta tell ya – she’s probably my best friend.

Holy shit – I NEVER thought I’d say that.   Because sometimes she just really does drive me bonkers.  But that’s ok, because after 3 years of being a mom myself – I’ve come to realize that that’s just what a mom is supposed to do.  You were right mom – I DO understand now that I’M a mom, just like you said I would all those times.

Now, lest you think this is some sort of backhanded-compliment-kinda tribute to her, I’m gonna run it down for you why my mom is freakin’ DA BOMB (that means totally awesome, mom):

  • She gave birth to me, and at almost 10 lbs (nevermind my brother, who was 11.5 lbs) that’s high on my list of awesomeness
  • She dealt with me being diagnosed with a lifelong medical condition and managed my health for me when I was a kid
  • She didn’t collapse and curl up and die of sadness and depression when I had to have a vital organ ripped out of me because of cancer, although she did cry quite a bit when I woke up one morning and all of my hair was still on my pillow from the chemo I was getting.   That’s ok, mom – crying was totally expected and I’ve accepted that you’re a bit of a cryer, anyway.
  • She didn’t kill that nurse that slapped me after a 2nd surgery as a child (yes, you read right – it was 1975) in front of her, when she was 10 months pregnant (yes, you read right – she was 1 month overdue with my brother when he was born.  Did I mention it was 1975?) only because I was not easily offering my arm for my 5,395th blood test.
  • She let me go to summer camp and sleepovers and to France on exchange when I was 16, even though she probably didn’t sleep the entire time with worry about me and my health.
  • She didn’t collapse and curl up and die of sadness from depression even when I was trying to.  She didn’t always understand why, but man, she sure did show up, and that counts.
  • She never kicked me out of the house as a teenager, even when I was a total yard sale of just about every nightmare you’d never want your teenager to be.  Somehow she just knew that I’d turn out ok, and she was right.
  • She let me live at home until I was 28 years old and let me come back home for a while when my 1st marriage went down the toilet.
  • She was there with me when I found out that the only pregnancy of my life (after 5 years of fertility treatments) I conceived with my ex-husband (you know sex is always the last thing to go) had ended in miscarriage.   She heard me tell her to F@#$ OFF that day, because I hated the world and even her at that moment for her fertility, and she forgave me and still loves me.   (Sorry, mom.)
  • She makes the best homemade bread and buns by HAND (no machine) and even though that is probably why I have thighs that provide more cushin’ for the pushin’ than I’d like, I still can’t resist that damned bread.
  • She likes sex jokes, although now that I’ve put that out there on my blog, she’ll probably be pissed at me for embarrassing her like that.  It’s ok mom – I always thought it was kinda cool that you were open about sex.
  • She’s nice to people that I think are total doofusses.   (Sorry if I spelled that wrong.)
  • She’s nice to everybody.
  • She has been known to try and clean my house when she is here babysitting.
  • She brings dinner with her to my house sometimes.
  • She calls me everyfreakinday, even though sometimes I really don’t wanna chat and I’m short with her on the phone.
  • She takes Captain Sassypants, age 5, every other week for a sleepover.  (If I were rating these points by importance and value, this might actually be Numero Uno.)
  • She has accepted my stepson as her grandson and treats him as such, without expecting him to treat her like a grandma.
  • She only likes movies with happy endings.
  • She has WAY more faith in God and her religion than I could ever have, but I’m thinkin that perhaps HER faith has covered it so far for both of us.  (Sorry God – no offense intended, I still think you’re cool, just not as much as my mom does.)
  • She has more patience with Baby Girl than I could ever have (most likely because she doesn’t have to deal with Baby Girl day in and day out) and that motivates me to at least TRY to be as patient as I can.
  • She tells me every day that she loves me.  Even though I haven’t said it back to her in years (barring last week when she was going to the hospital for a major surgery).

 I love you mom.   Thank you for all of this, and the other shit I forgot or didn’t mention.  Sorry for the cussing.

Now you have it all in writing, ok?

Happy Mother’s Day and stop crying – it might irritate your incision.

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Mother of All Days

I don’t want to blindside anyone with this news, but Mother’s Day is this Sunday.

I read a tweet a few days ago from a woman who said that she was “taking heat” for tweeting that Mother’s Day was “a time to celebrate bio, birth, adoptive, step and all the other kinds of mothers in your life.”  WTF?   Ok, barring the slim possibility that her heat-throwers have a full team of only crazy women in their lives, none of whom provide ANY kind of loving, caring, nurturing support, these folks must be out to lunch.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:

GIVING BIRTH DOES NOT ALWAYS MAKE YOU A MOTHER, AND MOTHERS DON’T ALWAYS GIVE BIRTH.

Many women can and do give birth, but does that instantly qualify them as a mother?  Are women who have never given birth disqualified from the title?  Just how do we define “mother” anyway?

I answered that woman’s tweet with this:  “ANY motherly person who contributes something of value to someone else deserves recognition.”    In other words, the title of “mother” is not exclusively owned by those who give birth.

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I am a mother.  I adopted my daughter.  This does not make me less of a mother than if I had given birth to her and aside from not being able to participate in pregnancy/birth/labour conversations with my own experiences, I rarely feel as though society doesn’t think of me as a mother.

Not so with my stepmother role.  I am a damned good stepmother to my stepson, who lives with us 50% of the time.   I care for him when he is sick, I help him with homework.  I hug him every day and kiss him goodnight before bed.  I encourage and support him.  I rub his back when he is sad and talk it through with him.  I listen to his sometimes not-so-interesting stories and I laugh at his tween jokes.  I play games with him and teach him life skills and lessons.  Despite having NO acknowledgement EVER from his birth mother for my efforts, I am his mom-away-from-mom.  I’m sure birth mothers whose kids have stepmoms are cringing at this description, but you’ll have to suck it up, buttercup.   On his weeks with us, she’s not there, and I am.  And I AM the closest thing to mom he’s got right in front of him.

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Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want him to call me “mom” and I’m not trying to replace his mother (nor am I suggesting all stepmoms should behave like I do).  I’m not his mom, nor do I want to be, but what I am trying to say is that I provide ALL of the same essential services as “mom”, aside from the birthing part, yet get very little of the respect and recognition that “mom” gets for exactly the same efforts.   From him, his birth mother, her family or society in general.  Somehow, because there is duplication in the mothering I give him, I am seen as less of a mother to him because I didn’t deliver him to this earth.

This needs to change.  Our society loves to throw out the “It takes a village” mantra about child-rearing, but when are we going to start to respect and appreciate the efforts of the entire village, instead of just the mother?

As Mother’s Day approaches and I mentally prepare myself to be honoured by only one of the two children that I mother, I had an idea:

Change the name from “Mother’s Day” to “Motherly Day”.

See what I just did there?  With simple wordsmithing, I removed ALL of the possessive, territorial ownership from the “mothers only” name of a special day to make it sound  far more open and inclusive of ALL women who give good mothering.  These women should get some kind of recognition too, regardless of their birthing status.

We’re ALL supercalifragilisticexpialidocious moms.  But don’t think for one second that your kid would be as awesome as he or she is without the influence of other women in that kid’s life.  Stepmoms, teachers, stepgrandmoms, babysitters, stepaunts, school secretaries, coaches, mentors,  moms of friends – there are plenty of other motherly women in your child’s life that contribute to their awesomeness, and even yours.   How great of a mom would YOU be without the support of that village?

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If you have a woman in your life or your child’s life that gives something of value – love, support, affection, encouragement – recognize her on Motherly Day.  Recognize her EVERY day.  If your child has a woman in their life that adds to your mothering , set down your ego and acknowledge that there is room for more than one person in a child’s heart.  A child will always know the difference between the mom that gave birth to them or adopted them, and the village moms who enrich their lives.   Set a good example for your child and teach him or her to appreciate people who appreciate them.

Going forward on Motherly Day (and every day) let’s all think outside of the vajayjay in terms of what defines a mother, ok?  Show your respect and appreciation for the fact that somebody cares enough about you and/or your child to want to contribute something meaningful to you both.  Respecting another woman’s efforts doesn’t minimize your own mothering, it expands it.

We’re all in this Momiverse together.

Thank you and Happy Motherly Day to my mom and the birth mothers of my children.  Without you, Motherly Day would be meaningless to me.   Thank you and Happy Motherly Day also to my BFF’s without whom my Momiverse would be empty and boring and just hard to deal with.  Thank you and Happy Motherly Day to my and my children’s support networks and to certain family members – you know who you are – who genuinely care about my children and teach them so much.   Love to you all.   xoxo 

Step Right Up…

I have a stepson.   Our relationship is overall a good one, always has been.   In the 7 years since I met him, our relationship has shifted, grown, shrunk, expanded, pushed, pulled and is a constantly moving entity.   He is beyond intelligent (stepmom brag moment:  he attends a gifted program at his school) and can be quite funny.  He’s a good kid, obedient, generally respectful (even with the creeping frequency of puberty rearing its sassy tones and comments lately).   I love him, but I won’t lie and deny that his presence in my life doesn’t add complications.  I couldn’t imagine life without him, and those complications are not his fault – they are the nature of the beast when it comes to being a stepparent.     Blogging about him or anything to do with him is hard – he knows how to read and he knows I have a blog.   But I pride myself on being open and honest with him, so I don’t have anything to hide.    I’ve always been a straight shooter with him and have always been consistent, which I believe is a key component to ANY kind of parenting, step or otherwise.

So, today my husband and I had to apologize to my stepson because we got mixed up in our understanding of what his schedule with us was over the upcoming few months.    Generally, at the start of every season, we hash it out with my husband’s ex regarding upcoming holidays, vacations, PA days at school, etc and who will get what days/times with my stepson.    The first few years of this were root canal-ish, but we seem to have fallen into a pattern the last year or two, depending on what we have done over the past 8 years since my husband and she split up.

Recently, my husband and I booked an upcoming Caribbean vacation for a week.   With our daughter.   But not my stepson.    This wasn’t a decision made lightly, but we had a number of very good reasons for deciding this.   Our primary concern was that he would have to be away from school for 7 days.   His school program is intense and a large majority of his work is hands-on, interactive and in-class.   He rarely brings home homework and when he does, much of it requires an internet connection, and there is no wi-fi available at the resort we are going to.

However, the other ugly truth about this situation and one I hope other stepparents can identify with, is our ongoing belief that we (my husband and I) should only be responsible for half of my stepson’s holidays.    If his parents were still married, he would be going on a holiday once per year, if funds were available in the middle-class family that would exist.   Millions of kids on this earth don’t understand what the word “holiday” means, let alone have one every year, or MORE than one, as has been the case for my stepson in some previous years.    We have no say in how often he is taken on holiday with his mother, and nor should we.   We only have control over how often we take him on vacation, and because we are only half of his parental team, we feel that we are only responsible to provide him with a holiday every other year.    Unfortunately, the holidays he’s had outside of our family have not generally been as exciting, glamorous or fun.    So every holiday my husband and I take becomes a difficult decision and a difficult discussion with my stepson, if it is not “his year” to be joining us.     This year was even worse than previous ones.   There were tears and anger.   Sadly, a sense of entitlement has developed because like some children of divorce, my stepson receives TWO complete birthdays, TWO Christmases, TWO Easters, all complete with TWO separate celebrations and TWO separate rounds of gifts that represent what he would normally get from ONE whole family (times two!), if it was still together.    He is not a spoiled brat, but he most certainly is spoiled.   Divorce does not always lead to rational thought regarding what is in the best interests of the child, nor does it prevent parents from trying to win over or make it up to the kid in material gifts.    This is not an admission of guilt from our side of the fence, however I’d be delusional if I didn’t admit that we are guilty of forgetting sometimes at Christmas and birthdays that he will be getting just as much (or usually more) at his other home as well, and we could have probably scaled back a bit.

So, instead of having the building anticipation of a fun and relaxing holiday, we must carefully control our comments and enthusiasm about our impending trip when my stepson is around, so as not to rub his nose in the fact that he is not coming.    This is not a matter of us not wanting him there.   In fact, we have already taken him on two very nice Caribbean holidays with us, and two very nice Canadian holidays as well.   However, from his perspective, his sister gets to go, and he doesn’t.   Which in some ways, despite his age and intelligence, translates into him thinking we don’t want him with us on vacation.    Nothing could be further from the truth, but this is an emotional reality we have been dealing with since we decided to adopt a child.   One of my stepson’s biggest concerns and fears regarding us adopting was his huge fear that the adopted child would be loved more than him, simply because the adopted child would be spending 100% of its time with his dad, whereas my stepson only gets to spend 50% of his time with his dad.   Sad, but in the mind of a then-8 year old, a very real fear and understandable based on his 8 year old logic and emotional maturity.

From the moment he expressed that fear, my husband and I have continuously strived to attempt to ensure everything we do and say regarding our kids is equally balanced.   Do we always succeed?  Nope.   Our first year with our daughter at home was hell.   Having an 8 year old boy who was used to being the centre of attention for the full week he spent with us, and in fact, all of his time spent anywhere, suddenly have to share (and by share I mean completely relinquish 100% of) the attention he was used to getting all to himself with a very inquisitive, active, safety-ignorant, learning-to-speak 2 year old was an emotional tonne of bricks for him.   He expressed his hurt and frustration often and we tried to work through it together, not always successfully and not always to my stepson’s satisfaction.    Things are different now.   Our daughter doesn’t require constant safety monitoring, but she certainly holds her own at the supper table when the two of them are vying for air time in conversation.    My stepson seems to have accepted that he will never get 100% of our attention again and I have no doubt that this was a challenging transition for him.    He has even become a very good, caring and helpful big brother, albeit with moments of normal sibling rivalry,teasing and provocation.

So, back to today’s apology.   As part of the marketing package we put together to promote our decision to go on holiday without him, we decided we would host yet another fireworks party for Victoria Day, despite swearing last year that we would no longer be doing big fireworks parties (after 50 neighbours that we did not know or recognize, repeatedly rang our doorbell and handed us money to contribute to our fireworks display and showed up on our front lawn to watch them.  I swear other neighbours that didn’t know about the fireworks must have thought that we had taken up the sale of drugs there were that many folks stopping by and handing over twenty or forty dollars).   Unfortunately, the way that our holiday negotiations have gone with his mother, my stepson has not been with us for the past few years to attend these fireworks parties and has always been quite put out by that, so we decided to do one more party with him present to attempt to allay his disappointment about not joining us for the trip south.   Well, not sure how we did this, but we mistakenly assumed that after a few years spending the Victoria Day weekend with his mother, this year he would be with us.   Wrong.   He is yet again scheduled to be with her, and we aren’t sure why, but the schedule is done and agreed upon and we didn’t twig that he wasn’t with us again this year for Victoria Day, so that is that.    Hence, today’s apology to him for not realizing this sooner and committing to a party that he wouldn’t even be here to enjoy.    We are obviously not having the party now, but the entire situation leaves me feeling unsettled.   I feel bad for him that he feels excluded, but resent the fact that all the other amazing things we do for him don’t assure him of our love and committment to him as part of our family.    I feel annoyed that we have to offer up a condolence prize, but then stop myself to consider that it was not him that asked for that, but us that felt we should offer it.   It is us that have contributed to this overriding sense of entitlement and us that worry so much about his response to the decisions we make.     Are we too kid-centred?   Some experts would say not at all, some would even suggest not enough, considering we are leaving one of our children “behind” to go on holiday, but to be honest, if our daughter were a little older and a little further along in her attachment/bonding process after her adoption, we would probably be considering 2 holidays every year – one as a family, and one as a couple only.  Does that make us bad parents?  Or, simply parents who are seriously concerned about sanity preservation?

Stepparenting is a tough, often thankless job (as is any kind of parenting at times).   I hope when he is older, my stepson will look back and realize that the sum of our actions, and not individual incidents, are a testament to how loved and wanted he really is, was and always will be.