Last night I awoke from a very vivid dream in which I was purchasing a can of organic beets from the local Whole Foods. While this seems innocent enough, I knew exactly what it represented. My college roommate once used beet juice to turn her defenseless MaltiPoo into a fuchsia furball in the name of breast cancer awareness. Beet juice would be my trump card. I would buy my stepdaughter a pony and dye it pink.
Its been going on in our blended family from the beginning. Daddy takes his daughter to Chuck E. Cheese; BioMom spends the weekend at Disney World. Daddy buys her a new pair of Toms; BioMom secures a pair of sparkling Sketchers that double as a laser light show. Daddy french braids her hair; BioMom braids, flips, twists and flower-clips the hell out of it until it looks like a g’damn enchanted garden.
It’s the game of OneUp. And it can be so easy and devilishly fun to play, but at what price?
The latest match-up came when BioMom learned her daughter was enrolled in a dance class on a night we have her consistently each week. We had the full intention of telling BioMom but the communication got lost in the shuffle of life and my husband never delivered the info. When the news came to her from her daughter about two months into class, BioMom went on the defensive. A string of emails citing parenting plans, lack of communication skills and her daughter’s “propensity” of lack thereof for dance seemed like overkill (Really? “Propensity??”).
True to form, she enrolled her daughter in gymnastics two days later.
When my stepdaughter came back to our home, gymnastics was ALL she talked about. Wasn’t “Mommy SO great to sign her up for something SO awesome?!” (Yes, honey. Your Mommy is so sweet to do that for you.). She was going to “stay up ALL night long and practice fantastic gymnastic moves on her bed.” (Yes, little acrobat, flippy flop your little heart out.) “It will be SOOOO much more fun than dance class.” (Yes, hon…wait…WHAT?! Are you f&^$ing kidding me?).
And thus Operation: Pink Pony was born.
Until now, I never thought my stepdaughter had much to lose from OneUp. In fact, it has been good in the sense its encouraged more playdates and she has enough pending craft projects to crash the servers of Pinterest, but I didn’t see this coming. Could it be that my stepdaughter sees what’s happening? Why would she so quickly compare and rate the two classes if she didn’t feel some sense of competition? And, the worst part, our home wasn’t in the lead!!!!!
I realize it’s possible I’m reading too far into a child’s innocent comment. But either way, it has made me aware of my attitude. There’s a stigma that our weekends need to be packed to the max with fun to hold a candle to what’s happening at BioMom’s. And even when the weekend-stars align and we manage to swing a sleepover, hit the county fair and catch a new episode of Sophia the First from a pillow fort in the living room, it’s overshadowed by the stress of planning the next weekend. This makes it nearly impossible to be present in the moment. Children know when you’re engaged, and that kind of genuine attention is what they live for. There’s no time for that in OneUp.
So tonight I forfeit. I’ve put Operation: Pink Pony on the back burner and instead opted for a game of Chutes and Ladders. I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard Ady laugh so hard. In the morning maybe we’ll hit the neighborhood Easter egg hunt, but if we sleep through it…that’s ok too. I’m sure she’ll have another brilliant idea. And I’ll be available to listen.
Have you ever caught yourself playing OneUp with your child’s other household? Did you change courses? How?
Photo credit: Timothy Ellis
Author Info: Lauren Brown is an accountant-turned-full-time-blended-family-mom. She and her husband Ken have two girls: Ken’s daughter from his first marriage and his baby girl with Lauren. Closely tracking a magically-fast toddler and calmly managing stepmotherhood are just two of her many accomplishments.