Let’s talk school supplies, fantasy football drafts, and a perfect storm where everything gets dumped on your shoulders because every other parent is too busy for the mundane responsibilities of having children.
Ok. To be fair, that may have been a bit dramatic. But it felt like it at the time. Let me set the story for you. My husband shares custody of his children with his ex-wife. Our switch day is Friday thru Friday. Two weeks before school was to begin, I took the kids shopping for back-to-school clothes and tennis shoes. We give them a set amount to spend and from that, they must budget their money to buy what they need. It’s something I did with my own kids. It worked great teaching them about value. If they chose $150 Air Jordans, they were getting less shirts and jeans. Our kids are still growing at a decent clip, so purchasing new clothes for the fall is a necessity. School supply lists were not out at this time, and their open houses and orietations were scheduled the following Monday on moms parenting time.
My oldest step-son was home on leave from Wyoming where he serves in the Air Force. When it was time for the kids to return for our parenting time, mom asked if she could keep the kids two extra days and take them, along with their oldest sibling, to an amusement park. This meant the kids would not be returning to our home until the day before school was to begin. Of course we said yes to the request. Our other plans with the kids had fallen thru, and we would never want them to miss out on a fun experience or family time, even if that family time isn’t with our family.
The day the kids were returning, my husband coincidentally had two fantasy football drafts scheduled. These are leagues he’s been in for years, and they draft live in person. He would be leaving the house at 2pm and not returning until 8ish, around the time the kids would be getting ready for school the next day. I knew ahead of time and thru discussion with him that I would be making sure they were all set and ready for a successful first day of the new school year.
The kids come home at 11am, we have a large brunch with as many of our other kids as we can gather, and over the course of conversing with everyone, we find out that school supplies had not been purchased the prior week by the parents in the other household. Forms and emergency cards that had been dispersed at open houses and orientations had not been filled out by the parents at the other house.
My husband, their father, is preparing to leave for his drafts, and I am left to rearrange my day to get last minute supplies the kids swear they need for the first day.
Can I be frank?
I was pretty livid. I felt taken advantage of. I felt unappreciated, and I felt like the other house wasn’t respecting our time. I voiced my displeasure and frustration to my husband in private, and was met with what I felt were, dismissals. How did we know the kids told their mom about the lists? Was it really that big of a deal to head to Target?
Here’s the truth. When it comes to perspective, we see things as we are, not necessarily as they actually are. For me, yes it was a big deal to take them shopping again. It was a big deal for our household budget to take on more financial burden. I did feel like even if they didn’t outright tell their mom about the lists, she should have known enough to ask. This isn’t her first rodeo, so to speak.
But people can only take advantage of you if you allow them to. We only control two things in life. Our attitude and our effort. I can’t control what happens at moms house, and the reality truly may have been that she didn’t know the kids needed anything. If I step back and extend Grace, I can see how it could have happened. She recently changed jobs and I know she’s been working alot thru the kids. Additionally, her oldest son, her firstborn baby boy, was also home on leave from the military. She’s had a lot on her plate.
Even so, the courtesy of acknowledgement would have been appropriate; a Thank You, perhaps would have softened the resentment. I wouldn’t even have minded my husband agreeing with me that she sucked and acknowledging my superiority in all things motherly.
My own biological kids are no longer living in our house. While certainly I knew I was marrying a man with four of his own children, three of which were younger than my own, I did not anticipate that often times, the bulk of the responsibility would fall on me. I guess I kind of thought that with my own kids our of high school and off at college or leading their own lives, I’d have more time to pursue my hobbies and passions. Just tonight, after volleyball practice for the eighth grader, on the eve of her first match, I had to rush to the mall for a pair of plain black spandex shorts because as her story goes, she didn’t know she needed plain ones.
I am the go-to parent. I am the adult they know will get whatever it is that needs getting done, done. There’s a bit of satisfaction in that. While it took a few days for some appreciation from my husband, and I’m not holding my breath for a thank you from mom, I always get a Thank You from the kids and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I’m a pretty freaking amazing stepmomma.