Okay, so I’ve written a love letter to my new wife and her kids and everyone fawned all over it. I get it, supposed wonderful man falls for beautiful woman…and in the process wonderful man falls in love with her kids…aren’t I a great fucking guy. Give me an award…I’m still waiting on the “World’s Best Stepdad” coffee mug…better yet, the “World’s Best Stepdad” whiskey tumbler would be better. Every word in this blog post is completely fucking true…and my new life indeed. Now let’s get to the nuts and bolts of what I have learned after 2 years of courting and then wedding a mother of three. Basically, I should have written the following in that love letter: “Baby, please forgive me…but I don’t know jack shit about kids or parenting.”
Prior to sharing my insights (…which will be totally useless to you unless you are a mid-40s childless man (who owns two cats) about to marry a mother of kids…but what the hell, read this for a laugh…or read this to pass judgement on me and justify your own self worth…anyway you want to take this is your business…) let me explain to you what “parenting skills” I have brought to my marriage. I was in the Army for nearly a decade…yep, I’m comparing parenting to leading soldiers…so yeah you know where this is going. I am the son of a retired Army sergeant…oh shit, right…this train wreck is just one curve away. I am the grandson of a sharecropper and a coal miner. So really the only things I know about parenting is that I was once a kid with parents and I have dealt with 17 year-old soldiers…oh and I have two cats. This can all be summed into a simple word “discipline”…okay, two words…”discipline and work.”
Notice I didn’t say “compromise” or “consideration of feelings” or “self-esteem.” This where I fuck things up. Growing up in my parents’ house compromise wasn’t something that was directly addressed…I imagine my parents compromised, but to my infantile and teenage mind…I never saw compromise. What I thought I experienced was “do this or this will happen”…the whole “this will happen” was a leather belt across the ass. Now as an adult, I realize that my parents did compromise…they compromised on what they thought was best and allowed me to drive my 1972 MG Midget TWICE into my dad’s parked truck so I could learn the lesson of paying the fuck attention.
Consideration of feelings must have been part of my childhood…but I also know that my family was (and still is) extremely sarcastic. Slip up, make an ass of yourself and everyone else in the family immediately piled on. Chum and blood in the water…sharks attacked. In my childhood home you learned to watch your back and not expose any stupidity. Though, this is an exaggeration…of course my parents considered my feelings…but that never overrode what they felt was right…basically, I was raised to “suck it up.”
Self-esteem is a word that I truly never understood until I had left home, went to college…got kicked out of college and then I suddenly realized that I was a dumbass. I didn’t have self-esteem. I wasn’t raised to be a dumbass, my parents had taught me how to achieve self-esteem…I just hadn’t recognized it. I spent my teens living on a farm…and no I didn’t walk uphill to school both ways in the snow…but I did haul hay, cut firewood, and deworm and de-ball calves. I even once had a bull calf shit in the pocket of my winter coveralls…long story, but trust me…it is completely feasible for a small bull calf to dump about ten pounds of shit in your pocket while you are trying to push it through a catch pen chute. My self-esteem came about after getting booted from college, enlisting in the Army, returning to college, getting commissioned in the Army, and then becoming an academic. My life as an adult was paid for by me and my hard work. Yes my parents taught me self-esteem by teaching me as a child to work hard and earn things for myself.
Before we go any further…do not mistake any of this introduction as me criticizing the parenting my wife has done with her kids…just the opposite…this introduction is to point out how completely unprepared I am to being a stepdad. My wife has raised 3 kids who are all smart, funny (actually sarcastic as shit…but hell I respect that), and creative little monsters who are way smarter than me and nobody likes being the only dumbass in the room.
So here is what I have brought to my new family: a hard-working, bourbon drinking former soldier who is very well-read, and who is completely on guard at all times to ensure he isn’t the stupidest person in the room…and completely inept at parenting. After 2 months of step fathering here are the lessons I have learned:
– Cats are cleaner than kids. My cats shit in a box and then groom themselves relentlessly. Kids have to be reminded to brush their teeth and make their beds.
– Cats don’t need constant attention. At least one out of three of my step kids has some need…like being fed or some shit…or has some issue that needs to be attended or addressed.
– Cats don’t care what is on television. With an 11 year-old girl, a 16 year-old girl, and 18 year-old in the room…there is always some battle of wills…should it be Disney Channel? Nick at Night? FX? or some show about the crazy actions of overly beautiful teens?…in the end, I make them watch BBC world news or the Golf Channel…damn it feels good to be boss.
– Cats don’t play video games, but 18 year-old boys do. This is where having a stepson comes in handy, becomes nothing makes a 43 year-old man feel more superior than spanking an 18yo’s ass at Call of Duty.
– Cats will eat the same food day after day, kids expect to be fed three times a day and expect it to be different food. Seriously, my cats have never asked if we could order pizza…instead they stare at me eating it, sniff the box and then walk away as if I am eating a large steaming pile of shit…but…kids…no they want different types of food morning, noon, and night.
– Cats can be left alone for the weekend. Kids actually need supervision…there is no putting bowls of food and water out and locking the door behind you. Instead you have to worry about mischief…see kids have opposable thumbs and are completely capable of unlocking the door and going outside. On the bright side, the kids never curl up on my pillow and leave their body hair all over it.
Kudos needs to be given to my wife, their mother, for listening to me rant and then indulge me when I sit the kids down and talk about having to dig a slit trench to take a dump in so they understand how easy and good their life is…but hey life is about compromise. In the end, what I am really trying to say is…you parents out there, especially you single parents deserve a lot of credit because obviously the parenting process you use must be working because child mortality rates in America are pretty low. If I was given a baby, the thing would constantly have a shitty diaper and eat nothing but Lil’ Debbie Zebra Cakes.
I love my wife because of who she is, and she is a woman who has been a single mom of three kids for a lot of years…which further proves that she is a far better person than me…even though she has never had to shit in a hole (she had to dig herself) in the Balkans…but if she had to…bet she could do it while mediating some argument over whether the kids are going to watch SpongeBob or ICarly.*
*Not even sure if that is spelled right.