I stood in the long, gray corridor just before room 208. I needed a moment, a moment to ponder, to catch my breath before I’d knock. Was I ready for this? Was this the right timing, was it too soon? How much of this is me being ready, or just giving into the ongoing pressure? I felt a cold shiver through my veins, and the nausea was taking a pretty strong hold. I felt vertigo as my eyes peered towards the long halls, the exits seemed so incredibly tempting, but so incredibly far away.
I grew up in a complicated family tree of two separate generations of steps. I had been treated with a blend of love, distance, resentment, and absolute adoration from the bunch. The cold ones were balanced out by the ones full of love, and vise-versa. When you grow up with 9 grandparents, one of them is bound to love you. My parents were products of torn homes, and with my father’s sudden death my mother found a new reason to welcome a step-parent into the scene by the time I was 11.
When I started dating Mr. R, it seemed that the relationship between he and the soon to be official ex was civil. When he would vent, it seemed the conflicts they had were manageable and I often found myself taking her side in many instances. It took me several months before I agreed to meet “little dude”, mostly because I didn’t know how I really felt about Mr. R just yet. I didn’t want to expose myself to an innocent toddler in a time that must already be so incredibly confusing and traumatizing. When the time came, we decided to spend two days with little dude, and to make matters a little easier we chose a place with many distractions.
I was supposed to meet them at Mr. R’s hotel room just before we headed to Chuck E Cheese, this was suddenly becoming such an incredible reality. I studied human sciences in college, which is basically the mom degree. I knew everything there was to know about the psychology of, the dos and don’ts the nature vs nurtures of raising a child from infancy to high school. At least I was an expert to the depth that could be understood from a long tedious blend of textbooks and multiple choice exams. With my childhood and my education it seemed on paper I would be the perfect step mom, but college was years ago, my childhood even longer, and now here I was diving head first into parenting with a family I could honestly say I knew nothing about, at least from an unbiased perspective anyway.
I knocked, softly, perhaps they wouldn’t hear, perhaps I could slink out one of the emergency exits. Perfect, the elevator just dinged we had company, and I had an exit plan. But just as I took the track starting pose the door knob let a little jiggle…and then again. Suddenly there he was, a tiny two foot tall dude staring back up at me. His blonde bowl cut hung back behind his head, his blue piercing eyes stared with confusion and fear up at me. He started to step backwards and Mr. R grabbed the door just before it could shut in my face again.
We stared at each other in silence as Mr. R said something about doctors visits and weekend plans, unaware of the stressed aura that was growing in this decent sized hotel suite. I felt so trapped it might as well have been a closet. My fear was not of little dude, but instead the pressure of doing this perfect, of doing this right. How did I do this without causing total trauma to this tiny two year old? He knew something was rotten, I could tell by the way he glanced at me. Having my own daughters now, I wonder how he came to be so wise.
If I had it all to do over again, could I have done it any differently? Perhaps a better meeting place. Perhaps if I had reached out to his mother before things went so incredibly wrong. Perhaps if I had just held off until things were more calm. Is there ever a right time?