The Courage + Irony of Becoming a Bonus Mom
For crying out loud: When the courage and irony of parenting becomes loud and clear.
True confession: I hate loud noises.
I hate loud noises and I have twin stepsons. Naturally, loud is part of the package. “Loud” is in their bones. “Loud” is the very definition of who they are when they’re together. But the truth is that I seriously loathe loud. God’s honest truth is that anxiety shoots right up my spine at the first sounds of those inevitable screams between young brothers running through the house.
This so-called “noise sensitivity” is part of who I am as an adult child of an alcoholic, or an ACOA, as we call ‘em. Yeah, there’s an acronym for that. When unpredictable commotion is a regular part of your environment growing up, it can create a visceral reaction in pretty normal situations as an adult. So now I’m the grown-up. And my kids are the ones, well, being kids.
So I close my eyes when the disorder takes over. I take deep breaths. I talk myself down from that loud ledge of uneasiness when the twin tornado comes roaring through the living room. When the television is deafening. When it sounds like a herd of elephants are tap dancing upstairs. Sometimes it works. But sometimes it doesn’t.
The back patio provides some relief, although I can often hear the sibling rivalry from out there. And that’s when I ask myself, “Is it them? Or is it me?” It doesn’t take long to decide it’s me. I’m the adult after all. Or at least I’m supposed to be.
And then I pray for Patience to show herself. Thankfully, Wisdom is usually nearby to tap my shoulder with a gentle reminder that although our childhood experiences influence the present, they don’t have to dictate our reactions.
On one particular occasion, I sat on that patio in a panic of self-doubt, feeling angry and unfit to parent. I texted my mom:
“I don’t know if I can do this. It’s. Just. So. Loud. Why do they have to be SO LOUD? ”
She responded with the cringe-worthy honesty I needed at that moment:
“I love you, my once very active and noisy little girl. Your first sitter said you were going be a cheerleader because you’d stand in your crib and yell. I remember having your hearing tested thinking you were hearing impaired because you talked so loud. I had you checked for ADD because you were so active. Enrolling you in a dance class didn’t even help get your energy out.”
Mom followed this text with lots of kissy emojis and hearts and I laughed through my tears.
“THANKS, MOM., I’m surprised you didn’t drop me off at the fire station and run!”
She told me what I needed to hear. And how could I not laugh at Irony stomping around my house in the form of two little boys?
When I met their dad, I knew it would take courage to become a bonus mom – a role I hadn’t really imagined myself filling. When this “very active and noisy little girl” pictured her future, she knew she’d become a professional, a leader, a writer and probably a wife. Stepmom, however was definitely not part of the plan. But life is what happens, right? When you’re making other plans.
Today, when I look closely at the past few years, I begin to comprehend the traditions I’ve cultivated with this precious family of mine: Family game night. Glow stick dance parties. Summer road trips. The annual corn maze. Homemade heart-shaped pizzas. Making cascarones. Crossing our favorite bridge on the last day of school. The list is long.
That’s when I see a mom staring back at me. And sometimes that mom happens to wear earplugs.
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