An Ode to my Kiddos

I have sat at my computer every day this week, pecking out my novel.  It has been the main focus of my life for the past 11 days, and nearly every thought I think when alone has been related to it.  So of course, I sit down to write my blog and all I want to do is go back to work on the book, or write about how I’m doing on it.  But, that’s for Thursdays, not Mondays, so now I am at a loss.

I ask E what I should write about, and she suggests a dozen topics that have already graced my fingertips.  I ask K and get more of the same.  They are clever little girls who have great ideas, but sadly they are ideas I have already had.  E suggests I write about the kiddos, but I don’t, really.  I mean, they appear in my blogs, but I like to keep a certain air of privacy around them (hence the initials.)  But I will bend that rule a little, today.

I remember the day I met them.  First, there was M, five years old and playing Transformers on his father’s PlayStation.  He explained the difference between autobots and decepticons, and then started talking about different kinds of dinosaurs, and I was confused but also impressed by his ability to retain knowledge.  L, who was three, was sitting at the kitchen table eating a hot dog.  I sat beside him and commented on the cartoon character on his shirt.  I taught him a secret handshake.  He told me a knock-knock joke that made no sense.

E was only two and very shy, clutching a small toy duck and peeking at me from behind the arm of the sofa.  Eventually she came forward, placed the duck in my lap, and ran off again.  She wasn’t very good at hiding though, so I always saw her peering around corners, watching my every move.  K was furious, screaming and crying and refusing her bottle, only 10 months old.  I picked her up and put her in the middle of Mark’s bed.  I sang her Too Ra Loo Ra, an Irish lullaby my mother always sang to me.  She fell asleep, and I fell in love…with these kiddos, before I even loved their father.

Now.

Now, we have all grown.  M can still be found on his electronics talking about Transformers or Godzilla, but not all the time.  When he comes here after school, he may retreat into the world of screens for a half an hour or so, but then he emerges and engages me in conversation or joins me in whatever activity I’m doing.  He is fourteen now, and becoming this amazing young man that makes me proud.

L is twelve going on twenty, and now all of his jokes make sense.  Sometimes he crosses a line, and I shoot him a look and receive a prompt apology in return, but for the most part he keeps us laughing.  And his heart…his heart is enormous.  Definitely the politest kids I’ve ever met, he has a well of compassion in him that I don’t think has a limit.  Everyday with him is a jovial surprise.

E just turned eleven, and is blowing my mind.  No longer shy and timid, she is a talkative and engaging girl who is maturing into this lovely young woman.  She’s clever and funny and helpful, and long gone are the days when she would tattle on her siblings or fib to me about nonsense I could prove.  Her smile brightens my day, and her actions make my heart swell with joy.  I am so looking forward to everything she will become.

K is ten now, no longer a crying baby.  She knows no life without me in it, no life where mom and dad were together, and sometimes I wonder if that’s why our connection is so strong.  To her, all of this is perfectly normal, not a careful configuration of parenting that took a decade to sort out.  Her personality has always been strong, but as she ages, she is finding herself, her cleverness and compassion being her strongest traits.  Saturday night, we celebrated her entry into the double-digits club.  No more babies in this house.

Being a step-parent is a peculiar thing.  We have a stereotype to battle, for one…everyone knows the story of the evil stepmother.  We are often looked at as “less than,” because we did not give birth to the child.  It’s frequently difficult for me because I feel like odd woman out a lot…I neither created the children (like their parents did) or live with them most of the time (like their stepfather does.)  Still, when I am with my kiddos, none of it matters.  I don’t think about anything except what’s best for them.  I love them more than I thought was possible, if I’m honest.  They have changed my life in a way that no one has, save perhaps their father.  Mark has even made me swear that should our relationship fail for whatever reason, I will not desert the kids.  He made me promise, when we got married, that I will always be their stepmother, even if I’m not his wife.  He, in turn, promised that should that tragedy ever happen, he would continue to encourage the kids to have a relationship with me.
It’s not many men that would put their kids feeling before their own like that.  Of course, I hope that never comes to pass, but it makes my heart happy to know that he would want me in the kids lives no matter what.  After all, like I said, I loved them first.

Being a step-parent can be hard, but there are blessings.  I see it when E surprises me with a fresh cup of coffee, or when K tells me to get in the office and start writing.  I see it when M takes an interest in what I’m doing, or L sneaks up and gives me an unexpected hug.  These kids were not always in my life, and I wasn’t always in theirs…but they don’t remember that.  They only remember how much I have loved them, and they return that love to me in spades.  

Being a step-parent is hard.  But I wouldn’t change it.  I wouldn’t give it up.  I am grateful every day for my kiddos, and I love them more than they will ever know. Their ability to inspire and encourage is astronomical, and they are growing into amazing little humans.  I never wanted kids of my own, but I am eternally grateful for the little hearts that found their way to me and opened my life up in the process.

To mom or not to mom, that is the question.

I awoke today to the sounds of arguing coming from the front of the house.  Given that it’s Monday it took a minute to realize that these noises were not coming from the neighbors or outside but from the several tiny children who have taken up residence in my living room.  As I type, they are watching YouTube videos and eating breakfast, and I am unable to concentrate on blogging because I am in mom-mode.

I think about people who are full time mothers and that sort of thing blows my mind.  I love kids.  I have worked with kids my entire life, and my kiddos are the apples of my eye, but full time, every day parenting eludes me.  I’m 35, and still do not feel ready to have a child and honestly, I don’t think I ever will.  I have never had the desire to procreate, even when I was a kid playing with my dolls.  Barbie was always a jet-setting career girl to me, never barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen.  Maybe it was the way that motherhood was portrayed to me-why would one want to spend their days cooking and cleaning for ungrateful small humans who constantly need you to cook and clean for them?  No thank you.  I will be the first to admit that I am too selfish for all that.  Perhaps it was thirteen years as an only child.  I think about Bernie, who is probably as close as I will get to fully raising a human being.  In her case, mission accomplished.  However, she was a fairly easy-going tyke, and did not present the challenges that, say, the kiddos do.  Four kids are a lot, and for that alone their mother is a saint.

Of course, I adore them.  I often tell K that I fell in love with her before her father, which is true.  She was only one when I met her, and I knew I loved her months before I knew I loved Mark.  M is growing into this amazing young man, who surprises me whenever I see him with some new knowledge or story.  L is our resident comic, and probably the most genuine boy I’ve ever met.  E is tough as nails and always willing to lend a hand.  They are all so different and so alike and so wonderful, and I am sure that being a parent is rewarding, and this knowledge combined makes me think that maybe, someday…

No.

See, I start to imagine a world with a baby but that becomes a world with a toddler, then a child, then a teenager, and that’s a little different.  I’m still not sure that life is for me, and I’m not willing to give it a shot unless I’m sure.  I don’t stand alone in this.  Many women I know have chosen not to have kids, from reasons ranging from medical issues to concern for the planet’s population.  It really doesn’t matter why you don’t have kids, but people need to stop shaming those that don’t.  I recently told Mark that I am asked more if I have kids than any other question, and he was shocked.  He rarely gets asked about his kids, and when he does it’s usually by women who have them.  I am asked how many kids I have before I am asked what I do for a living.  It is assumed, since I am a woman in her 30s, that I have children.  I have seen people react with great surprise when they learn I do not.

What’s worse is asking why.  People ask WHY we don’t have kids.  Like it’s unheard of to decide you’re not suited to that lifestyle.  Or worse, what if you have a medical reason for not having children?  How dare strangers ask you about that?  I have actually had women tell me that as a female, it is our responsibility to procreate.  That is as offensive to the woman who can’t have a baby as it is to the woman who doesn’t want one.  Sometimes I wonder if the women who get all up in arms about me not being a mother really wanted to be one in the first place.  It all has a very “misery loves company” kind of vibe, and you don’t get to pull me down with your mistakes, lady.

In conclusion, parenthood isn’t for me.  Step-parenthood, I’m pretty good at.  I just never really wanted to create a child, I guess.  I like to take care of the kids I work with.  I like to take care of the kiddos.  I liked taking care of Bernie.  Still, I have no desire to procreate.  And as the years keep passing, I don’t think that desire will manifest itself.

So today I will make a cup of tea and clean the house, and it will be nice because for once I won’t be doing it alone, and I will appreciate the kiddos for their love and help and every way they brighten my day.  But I will also spend time by myself, because that’s how I recharge, and I will update my blog and go about my life, because I don’t have some small and helpless being to attend to.  I don’t really care if other women think I am less than them because of it, because they don’t know my life.  The decisions we make should be our own, and no one should tell us how to live our lives