I come from a long line of worriers. I’m a worrier by nature. I’ve accepted this now and try to manage it rather then to fight it. I’m going to imagine the worst case scenario, then make it a little worse. Then I’m going to think of four of five ways I can respond to the four or five different possible outcomes. That way, I’m prepared. And that way, I’m a little safer.
But it’s a false safety, as nothing has actually happened yet. Here I sit, in the same chair as before, unchanged. Nothing has changed in my life. The only thing that has changed is my state of mind from being a-ok to getting all worked up.
The rational person would then say, “Well, the only harm done is the harm you’ve caused yourself by worrying about things that may or may not happen! So save yourself the pain and stop worrying, dummy!” I am a rational person. And for the most part, I have been able to take this self-advice and manage my anxiety. But it is still almost always there.
In a few weeks, Norm and I are moving in together. Kiddo and I will pack up our stuff at my parents’ and join Norm and his two kiddos, who we’ll call PB and Jelly, in a big new house not far away. In addition to our blended family of five, Kiddo’s 18-year old sister from her father will be joining us as well. We’ll call her Callie.
I met Callie when she was 13 after I began dating her father. She was bright and funny and we bonded very quickly. She was 15 when we welcomed Kiddo, and overjoyed to be a big sister. Things quickly deteriorated in our home. As things got worse, I promised I wouldn’t leave her, no matter what. Less than a year later, I had to break that promise. I took Kiddo and went to the police. The police took Callie the next day. She went to live with other family and started her junior year in high school in a new school in a new town, minus her family as she knew it, minus the baby sister she adored. We had to move over three hours away, unable to be there for her, unable to cuddle on the couch and watch our dumb shows, unable to tell her that I would never leave her and that it would all be ok. It was horrible.
We talked on the phone and chatted on Facebook. She was in a lot of pain and did her best to keep going. But carrying all that baggage and being 17 in general, she hit some bumps in the road.
Just finish high school, I said. Just finish.
She didn’t know if she could, she said. She couldn’t relate to these kids anymore, complaining about clothes and school dances and how unfair their parents were for not buying them the right type of cell phone. It was hard to focus, everything hurt, it all seemed like bullshit.
There is nothing worse than feeling powerless when someone you love is hurting and there is little you can do about it.
Just keep swimming, I said. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.
Just finish, I said. Just keep going. Just finish.
Despite many obstacles, including leaving the family member’s home and moving into an apartment on her own so she could finish high school, Callie finished high school. Five months early.
I was so proud. So proud and so relieved.
And now we come to the present. Norm and I forming a family of our own. Blending a little of mine and a little of his to make a whole lot of ours. When we first met, I told him. “Look,” I said, “I have Kiddo… and I also have another kid. Kind of.” I explained further then waited for him to say Nice Knowing You at the idea of partnering with a woman with this much baggage.
“Well,” Norm said. “You’re a package deal. I can deal with that.”
So in a few weeks we’ll all be moving into a new house together. Me, Norm, Kiddo, PB, Jelly and Callie. A truly Modern Family.
“Wow,” said my friend. “You guys are like… the fucked up Brady Bunch.”
“I prefer Modern Family!” I said.
Getting engaged was wonderful. But gathering the five people I love more than anyone else in this world under one roof? To reunite Callie and Kiddo again and truly live as sisters? To laugh and cry and feed and hug and cuddle on the couch and watch dumb shows? To do all of this with a truly supportive partner who has become my best friend? This is why I can’t focus at all on wedding planning at the moment. I just can’t wait until Moving Day; I can’t wait to be a family.
And that’s when the worrying starts to creep in. Will we be ok? Will everyone adjust? The three and five and eight and eighteen-year old? Will we have enough money? Will our individual and collective baggage get too heavy sometimes? Will I be a good mother/step-mother/half-mother? Will I be patient enough? Understanding enough? Strict enough? Will I be a good partner to Norm, who has been nothing but open and supportive and truly good to me and mine? Will I be able to balance this all without losing my mind to worry?
In the end I simply decide. I decide to say Screw It. Let’s dive in. All we can do is provide a loving, structured home from which these kids can base themselves. How things turn out is ultimately up to them.
And hell, I’ve watched enough Cosby Shows to know how to parent all these kids, right? All you need is a sense of humor, a few hoagies and some family choreographed lip-synched routines during special occasions, like grandparents’ anniversaries or the like, and you’ll be fine.
We’ll be fine.
Everything will be fine.