Twenty years ago, when I was a snarky teenager of fifteen (going on forty), my mother scolded, “One day I hope you have a daughter and she‘s just like you! Then you will see what I have to put up with!”
My very own, beloved mother hexed me.
After Krista came into her ‘womanhood’, I knew it was only a matter of time before the sweet, little, innocent gem of a child would turn on me. What I didn’t know is that it would happen rather quickly, for no apparent reason and extend over a prolonged period. (No pun intended) Albeit, Krista wasn't my biological child, but she was beginning to act JUST. LIKE. ME.
...Nurture over nature, I suppose.
It began with moping around the house, and sauntering behind the ledge of the coffee nook, while the rest of us gathered in the living room for movie nights. Then, all conversational dialogue became tainted with eye rolls, audible huffs, sarcasm and sassy replies. One evening, during family game night, after losing to me at Clue, she barked, “I know you are cheating somehow!”
The wind was knocked out of me. What the frick just happened?! Krista, my little buddy, is comin’ for me... over a board game!
My mother’s words from a long ago curse echoed in my brain, “One day I hope you have a daughter, and she’s just like you!” Thanks mom.
For weeks this behavior went on. Krista would come home from school, hide in her bedroom and text Eric secretly, avoiding me at all costs.
What on earth did I do to make this child despise me?
Long answer: Krista was going through a biological emotional rollercoaster, and I was the perfect target for pent up frustration and the proverbial punches that follow; hormones, middle school drama, morphing body changes, grandpa living with us, sharing a bedroom with Kylie, limited privacy, etc. all added to the fact that I wasn't mommy, and I was stealing daddy.
Short answer: Puberty.
It all made perfect sense. Still, I was perplexed as to how I was supposed to nip this behavior in the rear without becoming more of a two-headed, tentacle armed, fang bearing villain than she had already made me.
First, I tried the ‘I’m your friend, let’s talk’ approach. I sat her down and listened to her thoughts and feelings. The conversation was emotional and tear filled for both of us. However, when I asked for a 'let’s-hug-it out,' there was still tangible distance.
I attempted the fun and silly route, putting on one of my famous one-woman shows to the soundtrack from A Chorus Line. It received lackluster reviews.
Then, there was the, ‘Let’s get lunch and go shopping’ angle, which almost worked... until the novelty of her most recent purchases wore off.
I tested the firm and steady showcase of ‘I will not stand for pouty behavior.’ That sent her shuffling to her room, on her own recognizance... pouting.
Things only got worse after I threatened to shut off her cellphone service for being mouthy.
I'm going. to lose. my mind.
In an attempt to save my sanity, I spoke with Eric, which proved to be both supportive and cathartic. One on one, he took it to Krista, and the next day things seemed to be back to normal. Sadly, after only a brief intermission, the saga of our tumultuous stepmother-stepdaughter dynamic continued.
I gulped hard and swallowed my pride.
It's time to bring in the big guns.
I ambushed Biomom in the parking lot of Kylie's cheer studio. “Hey, while you’re here, can I talk to you about Krista for a moment?” I could sense she was a titch fearful for what I was about to say, but she agreed.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Biomom and I get along fairly well, all things considered. I’m very fortunate in that aspect. Sure, there are times when she does (or doesn’t do) something that irks me to no end (and probably me as well), but for the most part we are pretty amicable.
I explained Krista's behavior, and how she had been justifying it as “but I’m a teenager.” I emphasized how hard it had been for me, how I didn’t know what else to do, and how I hated constantly feeling like the bad guy. She agreeably interjected a few times, leading me to believe she was experiencing somewhat of the same in her household. “I’ll have a talk with her tonight.”
In that moment I actually wanted to have a ‘hug-it-out’ with Biomom, but restrained. You are not friends, you are simply raising the same children.
The following Monday, the first day of our week, I awoke with an excruciating migraine. With my head throbbing, I wasn't feeling up for teenage angst, although I was certain it was coming.
Afterschool, the girls got off the bus, walked through the door and went straight to the dining room table to do their homework before their respective sports' practices.
Okaaaaay? I felt confused. No eye rolls? No sass back? No huffing and puffing?... Wait, is this a trick?
It didn’t matter. For the moment I was going to savor it. I popped an Imitrex, went into the bedroom, laid down and rested my eyes.
I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew Krista was climbing into my bed to eat her Wendy’s.
“Are you feeling any better?” She asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
“Sort of.” I replied groggily.
“Do you want a French fry?” Krista knows I love French fries.
I think she's extending a peace offering. Trying my best to not to sound caught off gaurd, “Yea, I’ll have one. Thanks Keeks. How was softball?”
Over nibbles of fast food, Krista told me she had received her new uniform, and proudly held up the black and yellow jersey, showing me the team’s logo: a bow adorned skull with lightning bolts for eyes. “Oh that is so cool!” I told her.
She smiled, “Isn’t it? I love it!”
We chit chatted for a few more minutes until Eric came in to remind her it was bedtime. Krista leaned over, gave me a hug and left for her room.
I sat in my bed perplexed. What just happened?
I thought back to my conversation with Biomom, and realized she must have had a talk with Krista, after all.
Biomom to the rescue. I pondered. Didn’t see that one coming.
My migraine subsided.
I don’t want to jinx it, but things have been going really well, lately. I’ve noticed practically a 180 degree change in Krista's attitude, and I’m starting to get my little buddy back.
Too soon to know for sure, but I think my mother's curse has been broken.
*virtual air hug to Biomom*
~names have been changed to protect the innocent~