Did you think we'd fallen off the earth? Been stabbed to death by Mama Ex? Buried in dirty clothes from our stepkids?
No...we just got lazy and forgot to write for three months. It happens.
But yesterday something snapped me (Ruby) back to the land of reality. As I stood there, unsure what to do, I realized that I cannot possibly be the only stepmom (or mom for that matter) dealing with this crisis. Surely all the other stepmom bloggies out there are experiencing the same things as me.
Because it's winter. And winter means coats. And coats are like Kryptonite laced with heroin dipped in hummus for children.
It all started Monday morning, when I saw the temperature was going to be 28 degrees as the kids headed off to the bus. For those of you who flunked Science (like me), 28 degrees means BELOW freezing. As in, "Oh, I think I'll have a glass of water outside, but I can't because it turned into an ICE CUBE."
Hubs and I are usually pretty lenient when it comes to what the kids wear to school in winter. It was this side of 15 years ago that we were the ones schlepping off to school in whatever concoction our parents forced us into. Myself? I can clearly remember going to my 7th grade locker in slush-covered purple moon boots. That's right. Purple. Moon snow boots. And this was way before "Napoleon Dynamite" made them trendy. It didn't really matter to the other kids that I had Doc Martens in my book bag because I had to change out of my PURPLE MOON BOOTS before I could put the Docs on. I was ridiculed and laughed at, and I swore I'd never let my children feel that humiliation.
So, do I force my stepkids into galoshes, hats, scarves, thermal underwear and ski goggles? No. Do I hem and haw all over them, checking for any piece of skin that might be exposed to the deathly elements outside? Hardly. Do I insist that when it's below freezing they at least wear a light jacket?
Effing right, I do.
You would think I asked my 13-year-old step daughter to please cut off her right hand and place it in the donation bucked for underprivileged countries to use.
It went a little something like this:
Me: Hey honey, the temp is 28 degrees right now.You need a coat today.
M: But Ruby! You said I didn't have to because you're picking me up from school today!!!!!
Me: (chuckles) Um, no, what I said was, you don't have to wear your heavy, fur-lined winter coat today. But you at least have to wear your heavy sweatshirt or your light puffy coat.
M: (lip quivering) But...but...but, I DON'T HAVE ANYWHERE TO PUT IT!!!!! WAHHHHHH!!!!!
Me: That's why the school gave you that metal box called a locker, silly.
M: (throws hands in air) NOBOBDY GOES TO THEIR LOCKER!!!!! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THIS STUPID COAT AT SCHOOOOOOOOOLLLLL!????
Me: (speaking softly) Okay, M, here's the deal. When I tell you to wear your glasses at school, and you don't do it, I don't say anything. When I ask you to please not wear the same shirt three days in a row and you do it anyway, I don't say anything. When I beg you to make sure all the shampoo gets washed out of your hair, and then I see you walking around with chunks of Tresseme on your scalp, I don't. say. anything. But this is your health. This is so I don't have to visit you in the hospital while you lose a finger to frost bite. You are going to wear a coat. I don't care what you do with it once you get to school. Hide it behind a trash can for all I care, but you are going to wear a coat, and that's the end.
M: (crosses arms and glares) Mommy doesn't care if I wear a coat or not!!!
Oh no she didn't.
For most stepchildren, this is a textbook bluff. It's easy to say "Mommy let's me do this" or "Mommy doesn't make me do that" because kids figure there's no way for their parent to verify the truth. After all, Mom and Dad want to speak to each other about as much as cats want to take a hot, steamy bath. But in this case, M wasn't bluffing. Mama Ex truly does not care if her children wear a coat in sub-zero weather. Or if they wear their glasses. Or if they brush their teeth. Or change their underwear. (We've talked about this before.)
So how are Hubs and I supposed to respond to this? I know it's not healthy to begin a verbal diatribe on Mama Ex's life choices that have left her broke, miserable and all together unhappy. But it's so damn tempting.
In the end, I took a deep breath and said, "What Mommy chooses to let you do is her business. But Daddy and I want you to be healthy, and that means wearing a coat. This is not negotiable."
And I walked away.
And felt guilty. How is that possible? How can I possibly feel guilty for making my stepchild do something that is right? And will I forever be battling this woman whom I hardly ever see but am constantly being compared to? When she grows up someday, will M look back and remember that her mother would rather be her friend and appease her than to have a confrontation and actually be a parent?
The worst part of all of this is what hit me yesterday. Hubs and I only have the kids two mornings a week for school. This means that the other three days, Mama Ex is sending them out into the cold with no coats. And when they get sick (and they will), WE PAY FOR THE INSURANCE THAT MAKES THEM BETTER.
How's that for irony?
What battles do you fight with Mama Ex that seem to never end? Do you make your stepkids wear coats in freezing temps?