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Aug 03

Expectations versus Reality

I feel as though my weekends always so harried and stressful… and this weekend seemed to be especially so. Friday night, we had Shabbat dinner, and it didn’t go well. I love Shabbat, it’s my favorite part of the week. I make homemade challah bread, a big dinner for everyone, we invite guests and it’s (in theory) this lovely, peaceful time when we all just relax and enjoy the night. And Saturday is supposed to be more of the same, quiet peace, time together as a family to reflect on how lucky we are and how thankful we are to have this life together. I love everything about it, from making challah with Sam, (he’s so freaking cute, he carries all the ingredients from the cabinet to the table, naming each one as he goes, and put in extra sugar to “help,”) to cooking dinner while the kids play, to sitting down with the whole family there, watching each child’s face as Marc puts his hand on their heads and blesses them, Marc sings a little love song to me, and his face is so perfect and sincere. After dinner, we read together or play tickle fight on the bed and snuggle the kids to sleep.

This week, it just didn’t work out that way. Friday was a disaster. Just utter chaos – the kids were horrible, screaming, fighting, arguing, shoving each other… I felt like all I was doing was refereeing. I had to take Jess to the doctors in the middle of the afternoon – she’s been persistently coughing for over a month, and I finally made an appointment for her. Turns out she’s allergic to dust mites – which are, for the record, everywhere. All the time. By the time I got home, the house was messy, the kids were wild, dinner still had to be made and I was hot and sweaty. It was not pleasant. My cousin came over with her husband for dinner, and it was just not fun for me. There was this lovely moment, after everyone went home, when Marc was curled up with Sam in Sam’s bed, telling him a story, and Jessie snuggled up next to me and I read her to sleep – that was what I was looking for. But it was not enough to get past the general sense that Friday night had been awful…

Saturday was better – I decided to change my outlook. I was going to have a perfectly pleasant day, and if that meant that everyone else was miserable, I was okay with that :-). While this sounds awful, I think it was actually a really good idea. Because as we all know – when Mommy isn’t happy, nobody is happy. And when Mommy is even more upset because she’s trying to make things nice for everyone, then we end up with the disaster that was Friday night. I think a big part of it is that I want Shabbat to mean something – I want the kids to have beautiful memories of times together – and it felt like they were all conspiring to make it miserable, despite all my good intentions. The fact of the matter is that they are kids, and don’t necessarily have the same expectations and hopes that I do. And that’s okay – but I need to adjust my way of looking at it so that I don’t end up being so angry at them for failing to live up to my expectations.

So I left Marc home with the kids on Saturday morning, took myself shopping to the library. There’s little that makes me feel better than being surrounded by oceans of books and I can read whatever I want. Then we spent the afternoon at the state pool. Saturday night, we had a cookout and some friends over for dinner, and that was lovely. I let the house get crazy messy, did what I wanted instead of what I thought was best for everyone else, and we were all a LOT happier.

Sunday was a little calmer, we had Sarah over for her birthday breakfast, then sent them home. Annie took Jess for a couple of hours, and Sam, Marc and I all napped. It was great. We went out to dinner last night for Sarah’s birthday – twice a year, we all get together, Marc’s ex, the two girls, Marc and I, plus Jess and Sam and have dinner together. It’s always a little tense, but mostly okay… Stepparenting is never particularly easy, but I think we have a pretty good situation, in that we cede virtually all control to the first wife, but are still able to spend as much time as we can with the girls. So she’s happy because she’s still feeling like she’s in control – but the girls are growing up as part of our family, which makes us happy as well. One thing I think we do right is maintain an atmosphere of utter civility – Marc NEVER fights her, which is at times frustrating for me, but in the end, it makes for a happier situation for the girls, and that’s what matters.

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