Better a serpent than a stepmother!
I know there’s a few of you (about two really) who have noticed the relative quiet on my blog- just a poem and a brief life update in the last few weeks- and have begun to wonder. “What,” you are thinking by now, “aspect of life is she screwing up royally so that she can write confessional blog posts about it later?”
Wonder no more.
The answer to that, my loves, is step-parenting.
I’m over here making a giant mess of being a step-mom. I’m bursting into angry tears, losing hold of my tongue, and holding my step-daughters to a standard I can’t even meet.
Maybe you aren’t at all surprised but I assure you, I am. I have an impressive list of reasons why I should be a very good step-mother.
- I have the best role model you could possibly imagine in my mother. Her step-children adore her. They call her mom. They call her for advice. They rise up and call her blessed. Literally, ya’ll. ‘Round the dinner table even.
- I have witnessed the counter-example first hand. It’s no secret to those who know me that my relationship with my stepmother, Letty, over the years has been a strained one. She never got me. I never got her. We rubbed and rubbed and rubbed each other the wrong way so much when I was a teenager that we’re both still raw.
- I always wanted ten kids. Lots of kids. All the kids. Houses full of kids. Think Sound of Music status minus the play-clothes sewn out of old curtains.
- I like problem children. Bring on your defiant three-year olds, your ADHD riddled fourth grader, and your mouthy teenager. Shoot, drop ’em all off at my place for a little vacay with Auntie Kate. Give me three days, I’ll love the little snots into an attitude change. They’ll be washing the dishes and sweetly “yes ma’am”-ing by the time you pick them back up.
- My step-daughters are in desperate need of a gracious, loving, sweet motherly woman in their lives. One whose mouth drips pearly words of wisdom and encouragement. One who extends grace and loves unconditionally with arms wide open. One who is un-offendable. One who has her snot together.
I have not been that woman. My snot has been decidedly un-together.
In fact, if you heard it from my step-children’s points of view, you might even call me an evil step-mother.
I present, in their defense, a list of some of my crimes in the last 6-weeks (for an exhaustive account, consult the young ladies themselves) :
- I require a heavy level of chores. Laundry, dishes, vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing toilets. If the adults have full time jobs, the teenagers should do the majority of the housework, right? “Cinderelly, Cinderelly, night and day it’s Cinderelly….”
- I am the joy killer. I believe in productivity deep down in my soul. When I come home and four teenagers are engrossed in devices, oblivious to the world around them, I start shaking things up. Wash yourself, create something, clean something, do SOMETHING!
- I am the kitchen nazi. You want to eat what? Have you read the label on that? Twenty-seven grams of sugar and 13 ingredients I can’t pronounce! I don’t think so! Have some lightly salted butternut squash and some whole-wheat cous cous. Eat it with a smile on your face, young lady.
- I am difficult to satisfy. Yes, you did the dishes but did you forget to wipe down the counters? Thank you for picking up the bathroom but why did no one scrub the tub? Can’t you just picture me running a white gloved hand along the baseboards and sneering, “you’re not going out to play today, ladies, this place is filthy”?
- I expect emotional self-restraint. Don’t make that face at me. Don’t lose your snot at me. Don’t you dare slam that door. Hold your tongue. Mind your ‘tude. Fix your face.
- My hypocrisy has been running at record levels. Case in point, they must get the dishes done before going to bed at night. Last night, I left a sink full because I was too tired to deal with it. As for the emotional self-restraint I require of them? I don’t apparently possess an ounce of it myself. Yesterday I slammed a few doors and at one shining point shouted, “Now I’m an evil step-mom because I make tacos?!” Then I ran off the my room to pout and cry. Speaking of tacos, I expect teenagers to suck it up and eat whatever I cook with a smile on their faces, but when my husband cooks something I think will make me fat, we have to have three hour conversations about my displeasure and food insecurities. Hypocrite to the Nth degree.
Dear God, I have become the villain of every princess story every written. All of a sudden my heart goes out to evil step-moms everywhere. Cindy’s stepmom probably just needed her to pay a little more attention to details around the house than those in her wardrobe. Snow’s stepmom clearly just wanted her to take better care of herself- a little more fruit in her diet and some rest. And my own stepmom? She was probably just an overwhelmed woman who did not know how to deal with a messy, emotional, bitter teenager with a biting tongue and a chip on her shoulders. Ouch.
So today, I have some cleaning of my own to do. I need to have a couple of difficult conversations with two young ladies. I need to apologize for some things I’ve said and some things I’ve done and I need to ask my step-daughters to forgive me. No, it’s not the stuff of fairy tales. In real life, us step-mothers are more nuanced. Much like the children we care for, we’re messy and broken and imperfect and unsure. But hallelujah, His grace is STILL sufficient. Even for evil stepmothers.