Life at the moment is pretty good. The boys are, for the most part, relatively easy-going kids. Sure there’s the ‘two Fs’ to contend with on a daily basis (fighting and farting), but the general vibe in the house is a good one. But, dear reader, it wasn’t always this way….
When I met the boys bio parent, they were 5 & 8 years old (hereafter referred to as Mr 5 and Mr 8). Both were shy and both were, undoubtedly, confused about why their biological parents no longer lived in the same house. Mr 5, I suspect, was probably a bit too little to really remember life with mum and dad under the same roof. He’s always been able to roll with the punches. Mr 8, on the other hand, remembered life with mum and dad all too well. So my arrival on the scene, as stage-managed as it was, didn’t go down well.
Bio-parent (hereafter referred to as B) and I had been dating for six months when I met the boys. We had always been very careful to take things slowly, given the high stakes at hand. We were pretty careful to keep them in the dark about our blossoming relationship, ensuring their lives were as regular as they always were. That did involve a degree of creativity in planning clandestine meetings on our part. There were late night visits once both boys were well and truly asleep. Rendezvous during school hours. And not to mention the heavy utilisation of a grandparent. At the start, the cloak and dagger stuff was fun. Somehow we had energy, back in the day….
We had started to talk about my meeting the boys, and how it might work. Being somewhat of a compulsive planner (read ‘control freak’), I expressed a desire to map out the process of meeting them. Surely, I thought, if we do this right the rest will be smooth sailing….yes?
All my careful planning and certainty that it would all be happy families if we just got this one little thing right went right out the window one sunny autumn day. I was wandering around the local supermarket, doing my ‘single person’ shopping (i.e. no trolley, just a hand basket with some select goodies – how that has changed…). I strolled around a corner, lost in my happy little world of pointless concerns (‘should I try a different brand of blue cheese or stick with what I know?’), and found myself face to face with my beau. And the boys.
I froze. I didn’t know what to do. We hadn’t discussed this, this wasn’t part of the plan. Do I pretend I don’t know them? Keep walking, nothing to see here? Do I pretend to be a friend? How familiar can I be? Do I pretend I don’t know who these kids are? Act surprised to meet them? My God, how could this be so hard!?
After what seemed like several days of staring at one another, B enthusiastically introduced me to Mr 8 and Mr 5, telling them I was his friend (that was cool with me, for the record). Smiling and determined to seem ‘nice’, I said ‘Hi boys!’.
Cue awkward silence. They ignored me. A total burn. Mr 8 stared at the floor and Mr 5 decided that his shoe lace needed immediate attention.
Well, this is awkward….
Riiiiiiight… well, I guess I couldn’t expect them to be excited to meet me, could I? After all, they didn’t know me from a bar of soap. They were probably just really shy. Yeah, that’s probably all it was….
I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the beginning of a long reign of surprisingly sophisticated passive-aggressive manoeuvring by Mr 8. Now, I’m sure at this point you are thinking ‘come on, you’re a fully-fledged adult. Are you telling me you were regularly out-smarted by an 8 year old?’.
Yes. That’s what I’m telling you. Damn, that kid was good. I was unprepared, and he was unrelenting.
Till next time….
The reluctant step-parent.