Shall We Dance?

So I’m still doing that thing where I’m raising someone else’s children. I’m going to be doing it, at minimum, for thirteen more years. If things go well, though, I’ll be doing it, on some level or another, for the rest of my life.

I gotta be honest, because that’s what I do here: parenting is really, really hard; difficult, in the superlative. Children, whether they come through your body or someone else’s, are their own little people, well before they arrive on this plane of existence. Some are easy-going. Some are more active. Some are naturally sweet. Some have a wicked stubborn streak. They are more influenced by their genetic make-up than you’d ever guess possible, or ever care to admit. You can do “all the right things,” but when it comes down to it, kids call their own shots.

Beginning with this school year, some changes have happened to our Littles’ personalities and behaviors — both for the better and for the worse. It’s been said that just when you get comfortable with one stage, kids do that thing where they grow and change, and it’s back to square-one for figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

LaLa, who had a rough first few years of school, seems to finally have it together this year. Knock on wood. Allofthewood. She’s always been fine academically, but with a moderate case of ADHD, she has typically been behind her peers socially and emotionally. This year, though, she seems to be coming into her own, socially, which is awesome to watch. And the academics are still going well. That’s not to say that there aren’t any more meltdowns or power struggles, but they are much fewer and farther between. I’m actually looking forward to her parent-teacher conference, which is in just a couple of weeks.

Bubs, on the other hand, has been on the struggle bus since school started. He generally seems more emotionally mature for his age than his sister ever did, but that’s not a silver bullet. I’m not going to list all of the knuckleheaded things that he has done so far this year, because, one, it’s not fair to him, and, two, I wouldn’t want someone to lay all my sins bare. Suffice it to say, there’s great room for improvement. Not so much looking forward to his parent-teacher conference. One of the saving graces is that his teacher has the kids come to their conferences, so they can hear the good, the bad, and the ugly along with their parents — which is brilliant, because then there’s no quibbling later.

Something that’s different for me than some other bonus parents is that I don’t have my own kids, but desperately want(ed) them. Because of that, I have some things going on in my head that some other bonus parents don’t, most especially when our Littles are on my ever-loving last nerve, such as, falling into the trap of believing that any child I would have or could have had would not X, Y, or Z like these two.

Yes, I am fully aware that my own child could and would be just as big of a jerk as the kids with whom I sometimes share the house can be. Any child can make a parent flip their shit at one time or another. But you can understand how easy it is to make an angel baby into, well, an angel.

For me, it’s an on-going dance between intimacy and distance. The closer I am to LaLa and Bubs, the easier it is for them to push my buttons. I’m sure that’s true of all people. Littles, though, especially, like to be close to people… but you can’t trust them not to intentionally push the buttons. I haven’t found the optimal distance yet. I’m sure that as they change and I change, that sweet spot will change, too. And so for now, we dance.

If you’re a parent, how do you navigate the intimacy-distance dance with your children?

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