It’s 9:00 am on a Saturday – the first Saturday morning in six months that my kids’ (bio)mom is in the same town that they live in. She is back for the first time since moving away due to so many easily foreseen circumstances (all wrapped up in a pretty basket of lies presented around the story of a perfectly timed ailing parent). The sadness here is that the ailing parent, one of my children’s grandmothers, is truly sick. The other sadness is that their (bio)mom was able to use the illness as a quick and convenient excuse to shirk responsibility (again) and grab an “I need to leave town” escape pod.
Instead of honesty, we were tasked with choosing our words carefully. Instead of worrying about treatment paths and recovery ratios, we were focused on what the fallout would look like when the real story emerged. Instead of a simple spring, we re-entered Ulcerville.
It’s 9:00 am on a Saturday – the first Saturday morning in six months that my kids’ (bio)mom is in the same town that they live in and I have started noting each minute as it passes, waiting until this woman texts, calls, sends a carrier pigeon, a drone…anything, really, that would indicate that there is a plan to come to see her children or meet them out or…anything, really. She has been here for just over twelve hours, tucked in at a hotel less than three miles away. comes to see her children.
I try not to think about it, but my mind seems always to be working on that ticker.
I think of my eldest, who hasn’t seen her (bio)mom since last November, spending those six months seething in anger as she knows, knows there is more to this story. I think of the many times my husband and I have looked at each other, thinking, “if my child were that angry with me, I’d be in the car and on my way back to explain immediately.” Instead, he dodges the questions from the (bio)mom asking, “why isn’t she talking to me this time?”
Why? I don’t know…I guess you’re fifty…you could ask?
This is why I cringe when people look at me with a suspicious eye roll when they hear I am a stepmom. Only a stepmom. It must be so easy to only be a stepmom.
Oh yes. Bonbons and fancy wines.
What I want to say is, “You think you have emotional fallout? Try life as a stepmom. So easy.”
11:15 am and still not a peep from (bio)mom. The local grandma has asked our eldest to come help hang up some pictures over lunch. Should we encourage her to stay home in case we have an appearance? A chance for an ice-breaking interaction? Why though? This “child” is nineteen and that adult is fifty. Old enough to make their own choices and quiet chaos and endure the repercussions of cutting people out of their lives. Cutting her (bio)mom out isn’t new, it is cyclical. Still, we always hop right in, debating back and forth on whether we should get involved (or not). Cutting anyone out of her life is not new, and that has always been concerning. Still, do we hop in?
I’m in the YES camp. As it turns out, my husband is as well. We just don’t realize we are on the same team until we are knee-deep into the first argument of the day. Yes, only the first. It will be a long day that will end with us wondering why other people can toss grenades into our lives and cause upheaval. When the smoke clears, we will make promises to do better next time, but, while we will remember the damage for some time, we will likely forget it instantly upon the next toss.
All because their (bio)mom decided to come for a visit after how six months and then ghost for…how many hours now? Questions to the kids on plans have been returned with awkward shrugs and mumbles about dinner later, so we don’t push.
4:00 pm: We pack up the car to take the younger child to his soccer game – including a chair for (bio)mom, whom we have to assume, at this point, will make an appearance. Right? Surely she wouldn’t go a full twenty-four hours IN THE SAME TOWN AS HER CHILDREN without eye contact. Right? We have discussed sideline seating arrangements with the same level of intensity as one would for a state dinner and it might have all gone great had local Grandma not canceled last minute and created a surprise gap on the sideline.
With the game well underway, (bio(mom) arrives, sprinkling forced glitter and rainbows as she joyously shows off her freshly coifed hair (ah!) and offers exaggerated greetings to most of the sideline gathering of family.
I mean, no, not me. I think she lost my number when she moved as if it were my fault that her life fell apart again. It’s fine. I’m just here raising these amazing children in a super lopsided co-momming sort of way where “co” means without the other half.
The only awkward hiccup occurs post-game when our defender emerges from the field full of dirt and sweat, reminding all of his intended plans to shower before dinner. This was not well- received by (bio)mom as there was a dinner reservation to celebrate her birthday that was approaching quickly. Things that had been lost in lost communication: how long soccer games were, what time dinner was, that her son would play the whole game, that he would need to shower after.
See, the whole point of this once-in-a-six-month visit was to celebrate (bio)mom’s birthday. She drove five hours (each way) to see her kids for (apparently) dinner. She did provide each child with links to the gifts she was hoping for. I felt like someone should have told her about the cost of gas versus the cost of just ordering something yourself, but then…I guess there would be no story to take back to her new home about how she finally got to see her little duck and shining star.
8:30 pm: My husband and I are no longer speaking as the tension has grown to and past the danger zone. Dinner out with friends (thank god they understand our situation) came to a near public meltdown end. The meltdown came later, in the privacy of our friends’ home) when the eldest sent a one-sentence stab to my heart: “Spending the night with Mom.”
Oh. Right. Just like that. Status quo.
Six months of anger were tossed to the side in five words.
I felt no relief as I knew I was the cost. This child, who has very little real state for relationships at all and certainly only room for one mother figure in her life, will have tossed me aside again. Again. I was in the YES camp and now my time has come to an abrupt and unexpected end.
I am crushed.
11:00 pm: I’m in bed alone, having driven my husband to the basement through a continuation of arguments and tears. We both know they are pointless as he really will never understand, having no “step” plastered to the start of his moniker. I will never understand why I can’t make him feel my feelings and we will just keep spinning out.
We will wonder, at some point, why we even (again) tried to talk this out while in the middle of this massive hurricane? Why didn’t we each just grab hold of one another like a life preserver until the waters calmed?
The following day, 2:00 pm: The slap got harder.
Another simple text (not an ask, a tell):
“Going over to Moms until Wednesday. Grandma will get me.”
Over to Moms is five hours away. Over to Moms is a place she has not gone since “Mom” was forced to move in November because she (once again) opted out of adulting. Over to Moms is where a whole new set of emotional baggage will be picked up and brought home and laid at my feet.
We will deal with what happens between now and until Wednesday for weeks or months or years.
This child, who crashed and burned through covid, whom we grabbed hold of to offer a life preserver, whom we brought back from the brink of things we don’t like to think about….whom we brought forward into the world of the living and the safe and the confident and the happy.
Not anyone “Over to Moms.”
And with one twelve-hour blow through town, Over to Moms has hit the FastPass to potential erasure. Why not? A temporary hero’s pass is better than none at all, right? A paper Mother-of-the-Day trophy is better than none at all, right? Something to throw on the mantel to remind you of that one time you stepped up!
Even if it meant tearing down the woman who has dedicated her life to raising your children as her own?
It must be so easy to only be a real mom.