Of course, my family and I are as close as ever. My wonderful mother, aunts, and stepmom have all taken interest in my new role as a step-whatsit. They offer calming advice, personal experience, and an unending supply of "It's okay, this is normal" when I admit that I have no idea what I'm doing. My mom, in particular, has jumped right in with me, assuring me that not only am I a positive influence in their lives, but also affirming my decision to be their other mom.
[Just a few of my amazing family members.]
A few years ago, one of my best friends began having children. The almost 2- and 4-year-olds now lovingly call me Aunt Corky, and I get to spend a lot of quality time with them (especially since N is so close in age). However, it wasn't always so easy to spend time together. Not long after they were born, their mom hinted that, once you become a mom, your support system changes. It is suddenly easier to spend your free time with other parents, rather than non-parents. I didn't understand this - and was slightly offended by it - until now.
I used to go out - a lot. It was rarely wild and crazy, but it was still out on the town, dressing up, new friends, and a girl's night out every weekend. Since Chris and I met about 10 months ago, I can count on one hand the number of times I've gone out. And even fewer were those instances as fun as they used to be. Once I became a step-whatsit, it suddenly became wildly uncomfortable for me to be galavanting around town, Even though I still loved - and needed! - time with my girlfriends, it was suddenly more important for me to be setting a good example for our children. This meant I was suddenly wondering if my girlfriends would be interested in a night in watching animated movies and sipping Capri Sun, rather than dressing to the nines and showing off our stems to people we didn't know.
While I'm trying to help save up for back-to-school shopping and a $500 Youth Cheerleading extravaganza, my other girlfriends are having dinner dates, weekend vacations out of state, attending concerts, and racking up bar tabs that I haven't seen in almost a year. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS. Admittedly, I even sometimes envy their ability to do so. My only point is that I suddenly realize what Lindsay hinted at nearly 5 years ago. Being a parent changes your support system. Remaining friends with non-parents once you become a parent takes effort. It takes time. And it takes priority juggling. Being a step-parent adds a little extra "oomph" to the scenario, especially when friends don't understand why I can't just spend a night away from the kids that "aren't really mine."
To that, I say this: I could.
But if I'd gone out on Thirsty Thursday, I would have missed P getting her very first cheer uniform at practice, and celebrating with a dance party in the garage with her dad. If I'd gone to a concert on Saturday, I would have missed N asking his daddy, "When will you get married? Because if you got married, then we'd all have a mom around all the time, and Courtney wouldn't have to go home at night because she'd already BE home. So when can we do that?"
[P's first cheer camp]
[My flower from N: "This will be better than any present Daddy gives you, I promise!"]
To be perfectly honest, with the kids heading toward pre-k and 5th grade (and puberty and slumber parties and escalated temper tantrums and Ew, don't hug me, my friends are looking!), I want to hang on to this overflowing ooey-gooey--ness for as long as my hands can stay on them.
So friends, please please excuse my absences. I'm busy making memories.