Saturday, January 9, 2016.
Today Kate moves into her college dorm.
It’s hard to know what I feel right now. I’m proud. I’m worried. I’m happy. I’m hopeful. I’m anxious.
It’s just for a semester, I remind myself.
It’s crazy. She’s not even my kid.
Five years ago I started dating Vicky. She’s the first woman I had dated who had children. Two, to be exactly — a boy and a girl. Both were teenagers, 13 and 15 respectively.
I was head over heals about Vicky. I was terrified of her children.
What the hell was I supposed to do with children? I could hardly take care of myself, how was I supposed to be responsible for a child. Much less two of them. And teenagers to boot.
I’ve always been afraid of children. Not children in and of themselves, but the responsibility of taking care of them. I suppose that fear is a perfectly normal reaction of all male, non-parents. Women, too. But the chest-constricting apprehension I experience is born from the one time I was almost a parent. I was 17, had recently dropped out of high school, and spent my time smoking dope and finding ingenious ways to get out of work. That is, on the rare occasions I actually had a job.
The only thing that could consistently get me out of bed was getting laid. No, the irony doesn’t escape me. It was on account of my insatiable raging hard-on my girlfriend at the time got pregnant. We were both fucked.
Where I was extremely adept at getting out of my responsibilities as a productive member of society, there was no getting out of this. For the first time in my life I faced the stark reality of my situation. What was I going to do? What were WE going to do? My girlfriend and I discussed it. We decided the only thing we could do was give our child up for adoption. It was the best thing we could do for him.
I can’t speak for my former girlfriend, but I still believe adoption was the best thing I could have done for him. Still, the guilt haunts me. And it’s that failure that feeds my feeling of inadequacy where parenting is concerned.
Despite my efforts, life got in the way of my plans. As I wrote, I was crazy for Vicky. To be with her meant I was going to become an insta-(step)dad. Christ on his throne! Madness. Here I was with NEGATIVE parenting experience about to jump into the game at the freshman-in-high-school level.
There was nothing for it. I took a deep breath, crossed my fingers, and stepped off the ledge. As I dropped I thrashed and shrieked. In my head. I mean, I had to keep up appearances.
Kids smell fear, right?
Saturday, January 9, 2016. It’s move in day. Confusion.
I am ready for Kate to go. Mom, not so much. Dad, is barely holding it together. Yes, all the adults are chummy and friendly, but that’s a story for another time. Just know that everyone, and then some, is here and everyone has their issues. Regardless of our personal preparedness for this eventuality, it’s time for baby bird to get the FUCK out of the nest. She’s an adult, and as such needs to wipe her heiny herself.
“Front to back. Front to back,” is my mantra of calm as I watch the scurry.
I should be empathetic with Mom and Dad’s sense of loss, of their life suddenly spiraling out of control. Mostly I want Kate to eat crow for all the God damn, arrogant, 19-year-old, know-it-all bullshit.
Sigh. That’s just my nerves talking.
She does drive me up the wall, on a regular basis, but at the same time, I want her “life lessons” to be as soft as mine have been as her stepdad.
So I have a curse, The Stepdad Curse, which I cast on her as we drive in silence up to the campus:
· I wish that her roommate dirty all the dishes and leave them in the sink to attract ants.
· I wish that her roommate give herself permission to use Kate’s stuff with abandon.
· I wish that her roommate throw terrific fits should her things are “violated” and blame Kate whether or not Kate is to blame.
· I wish that Kate’s small things disappear mysteriously or, better still, inexplicably end up in the garbage though still perfectly good.
· I wish that Kate’s space never be fully personal and private, while her roommate’s is, aggressively so.
In other words, I wish that her roommate be Kate’s mirror image. Yin & Yang. Ahriman & Ahura Mazda. Tomax & Xamot.
Then there’s… boys. This isn’t part of the curse. Here I switch tact to that of prayer. Prayer to the power(s) that be in her defense. Throughout her high school career there was only one boy, and only for a couple weeks, that ended with a shrug of her shoulders, an “Eh,” and a return to the trashy, teen-romance novel she was reading. She has yet to explore matters of the heart, and because of her innocence and naiveté, I sincerely hope that:
· There’s a boy who will excite her dormant heart.
· The boy will fill up her free-time thoughts with the clumsy, puppy dog things of young love.
· The boy she likes will be so consuming that she’s afraid to tell “the folks” about him, but bores her friends about him endlessly.
· The boy will, when the semester’s over, goes his way, she hers.
“Why the split?” you ask. “I thought this wasn’t a curse.”
It’s not. The split is because break-ups happen. Fuck the fairy tale lies. First love is not “happily ever after.” Because it’s not, I want hers to be, in the grand scheme of things, benign. I hope the ugly, hot tears will wash away the debris of her small world being crushed. In so doing it will open up the wider world of possibility waiting on the other side. Rite of passage passed without unnecessary damage.
At this point it’s probably completely obvious, but I write it anyway, in spite of my grumblings, I want the best for her, even if she does dance a jig on my last nerve. I know that underneath all her bluster she’s a shy girl who’s eager to please, and therefore easily cajoled. I hope that the seeds of who she is will start to show. In turn, next semester, and the next, and the one after, and on and on, she’ll gain the strength of character and confidence to do and say exactly what it is she wants. Underneath all of the disagreeable, teen-aged, angst-filled bullshit, she’s a wonderful young woman. Someone who amazes me at every turn. I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do when she finally gets out of her own way.
She’s all moved in. Time to unpack. Fiddle with where things will go, then twiddle some more.
The room is too small and there are too many of us in it.
It’s time to go.
One final wish. The most important of all. May all the horrible things life has to offer, of which she has her share coming, pass over her. For a little while longer. Let her ease her way into them.
For right now, I plead that the band-aid come off slowly, carefully. Normally I’m all for getting it over with quick, but in this case wait, just for a littlewhile longer. Let the pains of life remain boo-boos that we can still kiss and make better.
It’s time to go.