I'm dating a guy with two sons. I'm dating a man who will never be comfortable in the same room as his ex-wife. Too much anger and betrayal there. Probably on both sides. The boys are both quiet, and undemonstrative. Plus, they have a mother. They aren't shopping for a replacement. My son is in a more unusual situation -- his father mostly isn't around. In my son's pantheon, father is still that guy I married, and he's got a pretty immovable place on the mythology of dadness. Serendipity fills a different spot, a place I'm glad he can take, of a role model, a moral compass, a friend to horse around with, a person from whom he will learn. There is genuine affection on both sides of that equation. My son's just that kind of kid, and he's affectionate and outgoing and loud and crazy. Serendipity tells me his kids like me, and since they do talk to me and don't give me attitude, I'll take it as true. The younger son, J, cracked me up Saturday night when he came out of his bathroom in a towel, with a request. I was sitting in their father's room talking to my kid, and the hamper was right next to me. "Hey, would you put my underwear in the hamper?" he asked me. "Sure!" I laughed. "Fling it on over here!"
Their father's birthday is next weekend. Serendipity has mentioned that he might go skiing with the boys. I am going to assume that means we are not coming. It's a strange sensation. On the one hand, I want him to enjoy his birthday, and if that means taking off with his kids, that's really ok with me. Part of me wonders when do we have to permenantly smash the two groups together and behave as a family? I'm sad we won't be able to celebrate his birthday, and I'll still make a cake. We just will have to eat it later, or I'll make two, one for him to take home to his boys.
My kid is five. He's also a very kinetic five. Always touching something, moving, making noise. It's annoying, and we're working on it. I'm such a hypocrite, though. I pride myself on having raised my son in a tribe, but the fact is, there are levels of tribe. My girlfriends, and by extention, their spouses, are authority figures for my son. They are allowed to discipline him if he's out of line. But when Serendipity reigns my son in, I have a panic attack. It's because of who I am, not who he is or even about my son. It's about being the adult child of an alcoholic whose fragile world crumbled with every mistake, every harsh word. Life has to be perfect or it falls apart, but life is never perfect. I've come so far in dealing with that. But I sat in Serendipity's house with small panic attack running amok in my chest. This is too hard. There might be criticism. He might think less of me or my son. I might be doing it wrong. Am I too indulgent? A million doubts running through my tharn brain because my kid can't sit up at the table. I'm too hard on myself. And this weekend I'm too tired to try to express what's going through my head, though I do tell Serendipity I'm having a panic attack because this is hard to do, this smashing together of families.
What I don't tell him is that I'm withdrawing. On the one hand, I love how happy my son is, how good the boys are together, how much easier my life is when we're all together. But it's hard. And I wonder how we'll make it all work. I worry that there will always be this invisible line down the middle of our lives, not quite together. I worry that my kid is too annoying, and that Serendipity will decide he doesn't want to be a blended family. Unfortunately, work has taken so much out of me, I can't ask any of the questions swirling around my head. I can just duck and cover, hang on, and wait. Eventually I won't be in crisis mode and I'll be able to see more clearly. Used to be, I'd go into crisis mode and start jettisoning anything that was threatening, or difficult, or less than perfect. Now? I just ride it out, because I know it's just the messed up brain chemistry talking, and eventually I'll be myself again.
But it's hard to be patient, with myself, with my son, with the process of letting other people into our small life. It's damned hard.