Being a step-parent

I’ve heard from at least three different people in the last week that being a step-parent is hard. 

I think being a parent is hard.  I think being a kid with four parents and two homes is hard.  I really don’t think being a stepmom is that much harder than being a mom.  (Once in a while it’s a bit frustrating when someone listens to dad when they wouldn’t listen to you but most of the time there’s no difference.)  The difference is it’s just a bit harder communicating among four parents and keeping consistent rules than it is between two, but I don’t think I have it any harder than any of the other three parents! 

Now if someone would just show me where that Magic Guidebook to Parenting is …

Dads are great, even unprepared, maybe even because they are unprepared

I was driving home from the airport last night when I got a call from Frank saying ‘Come to the softball field! I forgot the diaper bag!’ 

I was driving along all annoyed that it was eight o’clock at night and Caleb hadn’t had dinner when I started remembering some of the good times I had with my dad.  Like the time we snowmobiled from one town to another in Alaska with no extra clothes or safety gear much less dinner!  (Did I mention I was six years old and my sister was four?)  Or the time I got a piggy back ride down a cliff to see a "bear’s cave."  I don’t even remember how old I was during that one.  Did those experiences make me more comfortable jumping on a plane alone to visit India?  Or going horse back riding for a week in Australia?  Or meeting a big potential client for the first time?  You bet.  So maybe unprepared dads and missing dinner isn’t such a bad thing.  I relaxed and went to rescue Caleb (or was it rescuing Frank?) at the softball fields.  At least Caleb was very happy to see me!

Is life too easy in the Peace Corps?

My cousin Kelsi is in the Peace Corps and people have been giving her a hard time that she’s got it easy.  She’s really been enjoying the Domican Republic and writing some great stories about the country and the people there.  Having been in third world countries and a lot of Carribean countries, I don’t think it she has it easy.  I’m really glad she’s enjoying the good parts.  In her email today she shared one of the negative sides for the first time:

The first thing I saw when I got to my house in La Cienega was the hugest rat I
had ever seen being chased by the family dog.  I about started freaking out on
the spot, but since it was the family´s first impression of me, I held it
together as much as I could.  They reassure me that there are no rats in the
house, but I have the dog and cat sleep in my room just in case.

It reminded me of a hotel in Honduras where I was sitting at the pool and two rats tried to climb up on my chair.  I pulled up my feet and let my friend continue to sleep in the other lounger.  What else could you do?  I certainly wasn’t going to go anywhere while they were there!  I wish I’d had a dog!

Which would you prefer, more money or more friends?

I just read a very thought provoking article, Why Having More No Longer Makes Us Happy by Bill McKibben.  The author argues that pursuing more wealth worked well in the past when we didn’t have much material wealth but now that we are a relatively wealthy nation, pursuing more and more wealth is making us less happy not happier.   His main points are:

  1. We are pursuing more and more wealth because it worked in the past,
  2. We are spending less and less time with family and friends,
  3. We are busier and more isolated,
  4. And it isn’t working anymore.

He points out that if you are rich in relationships and poor, more money might make you happy, but if you are poor in relationships and have plenty of money, a new friend will make you much happier than more money.  If you are a peasant in China with lots of relationships and no money, a little money can go a long way towards making you happier but a sixth person living in your house won’t.  On the flip side, if you are an American living in a 2000 square foot house, another friend might make you a lot happier than the money for another coffee maker.

He argues that in the pursuit of wealth, we’ve lost our community.  We spend less and less time with family and friends and more and more time isolated: commuting, working, watching tv, surfing the internet.  And yet studies show that it’s social networks (the real ones, not the virtual ones) that keep us happy and even healthy.  Robert E. Lane, a Yale political
science professor writes that "evidence shows that companionship … contributes more to
well-being than does income."

One point he made that really struck me because I can’t tell you how many people told me that college was going to be the best years of my life and I kept asking, "Why?  Does it go downhill from there?"  Apparently it does if you look at the quality of your relationships.

Why do people so often look back on their college days as the best
years of their lives? Because their classes were so fascinating? Or
because in college, we live more closely and intensely with a community
than most of us ever do before or after?

Something I read recently said that the number of friends we have drops off dramatically after our 20s.  Recently, I’ve realized that I really miss the number of friends I had in my teens and 20s.  I did things with large groups of friends several times a week if not every day.  Now we are lucky if we squeeze something in once a week.  And even when you have time (like when I was on maternity leave), your friends likely won’t have time!

So think about it.  Increasing the time you spend with your friends and extended family will do more to make you happy than a raise at work.  And I’d even argue it’d make you happier than winning the lottery!

Jacob’s first travel crisis

Remember what I said about getting behind children in line
in security? Well, I was wrong.  On our way to the British Virgin Islands last week our six year old, Jacob, caught the attention of the TSA security agents.  In his Scooby Doo backpack he was carrying, in addition to the normal
treasures, a metal box of travel games, a metal Bob the Builder box to
collect treasures in and a wind up flashlight – oh, and a metal bell without
the clapper. When his
backpack hit the scanner’s screen the TSA agent stopped the conveyer belt, stared at the image for a while and
then waved over one of her associates. The second guy stared for a while and then pulled out his radio and
called for a third person! The third
person collected Jacob’s backpack and took it over to the explosive testing machine.  By this time, Jacob was starting to look really worried.  The agent took eveything out of the backpack, much to Jacob’s concern, examined it all, tested it for explosives and then took all the contents and the backpack back to the scanner.  Jacob bravely fought back tears and asked why were they taking his backpack?  We got it back shortly after that and the agent explained they had never seen a wind up flashlight or a metal travel games box before.  Jacob is now sure he does not like security and that they take things from you!

New family vocabulary

In my last post I said we need new vocabulary for in vitro kids for:

  • my mom that carried me for 9 months
  • my mom who donated an egg
  • my dad who donated sperm
  • etc

Well, we also need new vocabulary terms for all the new extended families out there:

  • my husband’s ex (how are you supposed to introduce her?)
  • my step-grandmother (is that your stepmom’s mother or your grandfather’s new wife?)
  • my half brother’s cousin
  • my half brother’s stepbrother

What other terms can you think of?  How do you deal with them?