I feed her once a day, clean the litter several times a week and return her occasional affection. I blame my maternal deficiencies in part on the fact that I was the family princess while growing up.Maybe I'm giving my parents purpose, or maybe I'm lazy and self—absorbed—not exactly qualities that make a person fit for taking on a child. He and his wife divorced when Noah was 1 year old, and we began dating shortly after. For a while, I could be just me, the same me I'd always been. Our relationship moved quickly; one minute, we were courting over meaningful conversation and too many glasses of wine, and the next, we were spending our Friday nights playing Chutes and Ladders and pleading with a 2-year-old to eat his green beans.
On the flip side, let's face it: No one wants a stepmother. Bob knew from the beginning that I wasn't sure about my own feelings about having children, but I think subconsciously he thought we'd be this instant family and that it would be easy for everyone to adapt. Daddy's house is the sort of place where no one thinks to lay a newspaper down on the vintage kitchen table before dyeing Easter eggs on it.
But in the meantime, Noah isn't going anywhere. That doesn't make me any less resentful whenever I attend a wedding by myself or forgo a week in Paris because Bob can't afford to go. Noah is not allowed to wipe his hands on the couch (yay! He is not the master of the in—car music selection (although we have lately found a nice middle ground in Michael Jackson's Bad). ) And, in the end, he's looking for his place in this family. "It's no wonder he questions who I am—especially when I'm still questioning who I am.
(He earns far more than I do but, with child support, takes home less.)I know that one of the many reasons I love Bob is precisely because of the qualities I see in him when he is with his son. (Then again, I never was an easy child.) Perhaps what bothers me the most is that I will never be the most important relationship in my boyfriend's life. But there are still days when I don't give in when he wants to go to Dunkin' Donuts and I want Starbucks. I insist I'm teaching a lesson in compromise, when really, I'm trying to reclaim my TV and my life, in what I hope is some small, harmless way. (Ditto.) The other day, I heard him ask Bob if I was his girlfriend. But like everyone in this world, Noah wants to feel safe and know that he's loved.
Mommy shows up in conversation whenever I try to do something nice for him.
The squeezable applesauce I picked up at Whole Foods? Bob and I have explained to Noah that I'm not Mommy, but I can still be his friend.