Frizz, my (future) stepson, milled around the kitchen putting his lunch together for the school day. We were both moving around each other, doing our best not to disturb the other in the dance we did every morning. He moved like I wasn’t even there. I just tried to stay out of his way. Neither one of us spoke more than an obligatory “good morning” greeting to each other. And even though I wished him a good day before he left, he said nothing back as he rushed out the door for school.
I wasn’t sure how to act around this teenage kid. First and foremost, I was sensitive to his place in the house. He had lived here all his life, most of it with his mom and dad together under the same roof. Me, I was the intruder, the one who took his mother’s place in the house – even when I made every effort not to take his mother’s role in his life. He already had a mom. And I was hoping to take on the part of “friend” rather than parent.
But I didn’t even know how to talk with him, and he felt more like a stranger than someone I had gotten to know over the past 3 years.
I genuinely liked the kid. He was smart and slow to anger. When my 10-year-old Taz was bouncing off the walls and both Mr. W and I were ready to throttle him, Frizz would just look at him and calmly say “Chill out, dude.” It was way more effective than anything I could ever say.
But there were things about this teenager that drove me nuts. He had no concept that after 11pm he should move around a bit more quietly. Flushing toilets seemed a foreign concept to him. His favorite music was a pounding beat with no melody whatsoever played at ear-splitting volumes and on a loop. Random moments of jumping jacks weren’t uncommon from his second story room. His videogaming slowed down the rest of our Internet usage. He claimed we were (and I quote) “robbing him of his childhood” by expecting him to do chores and help out around the house. He slept in on weekends till the afternoon after staying up till the early hours of the morning….
And then there was his habit of blatantly ignoring all of us.
“I just don’t feel like talking,” Frizz eventually explained to his dad when Mr. W tried to get a response out of him repeatedly, only to be met with silence. It was infuriating, his silent way of giving us the finger just because he knew it would piss us off. He didn’t talk back (unlike my 13-year-old daughter DQ was famous for) or say anything that could be held against him. He just didn’t speak when spoken to.
I was concerned over my growing feelings of resentment coming out of the lacking relationship Frizz and I shared. I took all his teenageness personally, as if it were a direct attack on me. And I worried that neither one of us would be able to move past this awkward phase we were stuck in. I longed to be able to joke around with him the way I could with my own kids. And I was jealous that I never got to see the funny, insightful, sarcastic kid that Mr. W kept bragging about in Frizz.
I had always hoped that I could be that cool stepmom, like the awesome non-judgy stepmom in the movie Juno, or something reminiscent of Kim Rosenthal-Doonesbury, that hip young thing Mike Doonesbury married in the infamous comic strip.
I wanted to be the one Frizz would go to for dating advice since no teen can actually talk to their parents about the opposite sex. I was hoping we could have regular hangout time when we could talk about how teenage years suck and share some of our favorite MP3s. Being more than a decade younger than Mr. W, I was hoping Frizz would find me a welcome addition to the household.
What the heck was I smoking?
To be fair, I had no idea what the kid thought of me. Most of my energy was spent trying to not piss him off or step on his toes, and the rest was spent resenting the fact that we weren’t bosom buddies and I couldn’t joke around with him the same way I could with my own kids. However, I didn’t know him. And he didn’t know me. Never once did he express dislike for me, but he also never expressed any kind of feeling about me whatsoever. Overwhelming every emotion I had involving this kid, the biggest was a hope that we could overcome this sense of distance.
Something needed to change.
To be continued…