My boyfriendʼs twelve year old son asked me to put his hair in a ponytail last night. He thought it was hysterical that he looked like a girl, as he modeled it for the five friends he was talking to on ooVoo. For those not in the loop, itʼs like Skype. For those not in that loop either, itʼs video chatting. I didnʼt think anything of his request. I was just flattered that he saw me as someone who knew how to make a ponytail. My mother used to pull my ponytails so tight I got headaches and an unnecessary face-lift. Not so unnecessary now, Iʼll tell ya.
Iʼm calling myself, The Girlfriend Mom, because my boyfriend and I live together but weʼre not married (hence boyfriend) so Stepmom doesnʼt apply. However, I do step mommy things, I suppose, like his sonʼs laundry. Sidebar: I have to say that sometimes, when Iʼm folding his tiny pair of jeans, it feels weird, dare I say ʻunnaturalʼ. Iʼm convinced that it has to do with what I associate being a ʻmomʼ with (which sometimes I find unattractive) and laundry seems to be on the list.
I help him with his homework and I consistently nag him about the television volume. I swear, itʼs like living with the deaf (or my grandparents) How can you NOT hear that?! Well, this just smells of ʻmomʼ (girlfriend or step) doesnʼt it. I feel myself getting uglier by the minute.
So Iʼm not just a girlfriend, whoʼs boyfriend happens to have kids. There are expectations of me, some being easy and ʻnaturalʼ to pull off, like making up his bed, pouring him ice tea when heʼs parched, teaching him how to apply Orajel to a sore, or eating at Chiliʼs for a less than nutritious meal. Other times the expectations feel as ʻunnaturalʼ to me, as doing fractions, or wearing make-up to the grocery store. (Wearing make-up anywhere really) and like folding his tiny fruit of the loom tidy whiteyʼs.
I say ʻmomʼ things, but I canʼt be sure of my modus operandi. Sometimes itʼs because I think Iʼm supposed to say them, but how the hell do I know what to say. Other times, I think itʼs imbedded in my DNA. My boyfriendʼs son got a laptop over the weekend and he took it into our bedroom, which is one and a half flights up from where we were in the kitchen. Oh, no you donʼt. I watch “Dateline” and “Primetime Live.” I told him to get where we could see and hear what he was doing. It was a knee jerk reaction. Iʼve watched enough Lifetime Movies to know what can happen if youʼre not paying attention. My request sounded like it came right out of, “Mother, May I Sleep with Danger.”
I want my boyfriend to know (and Iʼm not sure if he truly can) what itʼs like to go from not wanting children and not sure that I even like children, to bringing a 12 and 17 year old into my life. Theyʼre his flesh and blood. He was there at the beginning. Heʼs watched them grow and journeyed with them. Iʼd imagine with each passing year, a parent adjusts to the plethora of changes, and then eventually, if youʼre lucky, you canʼt imagine your life without them. Me? It felt like two minutes in the microwave and BEEP. Instant kids. Ready! (no) Set! (no) Go! (no, wait!)
I used to hear stories about a great aunt of mine who was a lesbian. She used to be a dancer (loved her immediately) and she had been with her girlfriend since WWII. I think they invented Lesbianism. They traveled the world, had several homes, and no children. Their life was exotic to a kid from Yonkers and it had a profound affect on me. The effect in this case being the possibility of a fulfilling life without children… not the girl on girl part. Although… My point is, I got the message that I had choices, and it was okay not to want what others wanted.
Iʼm not sure I can directly attribute my ambivalence towards kids to my Great Lesbian Aunt (that sounds like a superhero) Iʼm sure that my own parents made a contribution, unbeknownst to them Iʼm sure. By the time my parents were 24 years old, they had two kids under the age of 2. My mother wanted to have children, at least thatʼs what she tells me, but she wasnʼt your typical mother. Personally, I think she was in way over her head. Kids raising kids people! She rarely made breakfast and by the time I was twelve, I was babysitting, taking the train into the city alone and doing my own laundry. (What is it with laundry?)
I can spend another lifetime researching and analyzing why I feel the way I do, or how can I feel the way I do, but I donʼt have that kind of time, and Iʼm not sure that it matters. What matters to me now is being honest about my feelings and not judging them. They are what they are, and since feelings change from one moment to the next, I think itʼs unwise to give them too much power.
Instead, Iʼve decided to forge a relationship with my boyfriendʼs kids, based on who I am now, and who they are, as individuals, with all of our unique personalities. Weʼre not going to be defined by shouldʼs, supposed toʼs or societal constraints. And I have to say, so far, so good.
“Can you PLEASE turn that television down?!”