I became a step-mom in the early 70’s, when mixed, blended and combined families were not as common as they are today. In fact, I didn’t know of another family where a non-parent was married to a parent. If there were rules for this role, I hadn’t any idea what they were or how to find them, or even that I needed them.
Being a naive but clever young woman, I could handle anything. This is a belief that comes only with ignorant confidence and zero experience in the ways of children.
My husband was the father of 4 teenagers, and we were blessed (I say that with joy in my heart) with having his 14-year-old son live full-time with us.
If you’ve never been around a male adolescent just reaching the age of hormonal extremes and unable or unwilling to utter more than a grunt now and then, you just haven’t been privy to miscommunication and confusion. It is a an experience most intelligent people would skip.
The son wanted to stay in the same school district where he had grown up, but since we lived in a different district, he had to show that his address remained where his mother and 3 sisters still lived. Not a problem with me. Whatever address he wanted to use didn’t matter to me, until it did.
One night when his father was out of town, he woke me mumbling something about not being able to see. His eyes were burning, he couldn’t open them, and he didn’t know why. I immediately covered his face with hot packs (maybe it was cold packs, I don’t remember), and we rushed to the nearest emergency room.
I was in a panic. I didn’t know what to do with a blind child. What if he never regained his sight? Did this mean he would live with us forever? Oh God, No! I thought I had signed up for 4 years of step mothering, not a life time.
You can see that my level of concern swirled around me, and had little to do with this non-seeing boy! Empathy may not have been one of the attributes I brought to this marriage!
Checking into the ER brought on new anxieties. They wanted to know this kid’s full name. We hadn’t had enough conversations for me to learn his middle name. So I turned to him and asked him,
“Rod, what is your middle name?”.
Then they wanted to know his address. I didn’t know his mother’s address.
“Rod, what’s your address?”
And what is his birth date? Uhhh.
“Rod, when were you born?”
When the alert clerk asked me who I was, I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I’m his mother, of course.”
We were shuttled into a room to wait for a doctor who came in asking what I had done to the boy’s eyes. I thought, “Oh no, now I’m going to jail for abuse.”
And for the first time a full sentence came out of the mouth of this sightless babe. “I think I burned my eyes when I was welding this afternoon.”
I didn’t know he had been welding. In fact, I wasn’t certain what welding was. And he hadn’t mentioned welding when I quizzed him about what he thought had caused his eye loss.
Immediately the doc reversed whatever I had done, admonishing me that the worst thing you could put on burned eyes was whatever I had done. If I put hot packs on, it should have been cold, and vice versa. Who knew? Not me. Obviously, I still don’t know.
One of the many lessons I learned as a result of this medical emergency was to write down the full name, address, and birth dates of all four children…just in case.
You never know when you will be called upon to fake motherhood.
I’m just full of step-parenting stories. Stayed tuned.