I feel like I lucked out because my stepdaughter and I have a really good relationship. She calls me Mom, always searches for me to kiss me goodbye and hello, and is all around a good kid. She rarely gets sassy with us, which most 8 (almost 9 year olds) tend to do. And, she is an amazing big sister to her little sister and brother.
There are, however, times when being a stepmom can be super duper shitty, and by no means is that MK’s fault. We have MK at our house 50% of the time. She goes to school approximately 30 miles from our house, or about a 50 minute drive WITHOUT traffic. Therefore, during the school year, she is with her mom on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and most Thursdays. We pick her up from school on Friday and she is with us Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and we drop her off at school on Monday morning. While I love being able to spend the weekends with her, I hate that I have no control over any of the “important stuff” that goes on during the week. And by important stuff, I mean the things that probably shouldn’t matter, but actually do when you are 8. For example, how often MK showers and what she wears to school. I grew up in a family where my mom would take us shopping to get new school clothes every summer and I would have my first day of school outfit picked out weeks in advance. MK wears old t-shirts and pants with holes in them to school. In a perfect world, clothes and appearance shouldn’t matter, but kids are mean and the world isn’t perfect. I wish I had more control and influence over her hygiene and how she presents herself to others on a day to day basis, not just on the weekends.
I also do not get to be that involved with her school activities. I pick her up from school as needed and drop her off at school as needed, and I even go to conferences with Mark. We also attend every play/concert/sporting event etc that she performs in. But, I do not get to hear about the day to day things that happen at school, help with homework, have her friends over after school, and be involved in classroom activities.
In the summers, we have MK much more. Usually we have her a full week at our house and then she goes a full week to her mom’s house. This summer we’ve had her even more than that due to her mom’s schedule. This summer, MK has had some issues with sensitivity to the sun. Remember, she is a red head and has fair skin, so a lot of sunscreen is a must. If she gets too much sun, she’ll develop bumps on her skin that get very itchy. One week she was complaining that her head was itchy, so we made sure to continue to apply sunscreen to the part in her hair and got her some really hydrating dandruff shampoo to help.
A few weeks ago, she went to her mom’s house on a Thursday, and on Monday I got the most terrifying call from Mark. He said the three words that I have dreaded hearing since the day I became a mom……”MK has lice.” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! My head instantly began to itch. My stomach began to churn. And, I wanted to leave work right away to check Harlow and Jacek. I cannot think of anything worse about being a parent than having to deal with lice. Diaper blow outs?!? I got it. Vomit?!? Easy peasy. Blow outs while vomiting?!? HA! No prob. Lice?!? Ick.
I quickly called our nanny at home to do a once over on the little ones. They checked out ok. I could breathe a little easier, but I was progressively getting itchier and itchier. My co-workers could tell something was wrong and asked me if I was ok. I told them that MK had lice, and it’s like I told them my house was on fire. “Go Home!” “OMG. That SUCKS.” “Lice is so gross, and such a pain in the ass!” Yeah, thanks everyone…..you made me feel much better. I was even told that one of my co-workers had lice in her house and she and her whole family had to put olive oil in their hair at night for 3 weeks, sleep on towels, and wash it out with Dawn dish soap every morning. At the end of the 3 weeks, they had to cut the ends of their hair off because it was so damaged. That sounded like a lot of time and effort, and it was not something that would fit into my already packed schedule.
I went into research mode and learned everything possible about those little pesky ass critters. I watched youtube videos (which I highly DO NOT recommend if you are already feeling itchy). I learned that lice have a lifecycle of about 3 weeks and start out as nits. (vomiting in my mouth as I type that). I also found out that the itchiness doesn’t occur until the nits become lice and actually start biting (seriously getting sicker). So, I was trying to do the math on when MK might have gotten infected. All my calculations lead to YMCA day camp. All my calculations also lead to the fact that she had lice all week at our house last week, and there was a very good chance that I was going to go home to a bug infested house. Then, I kept thinking about what a bad mom I was because I bought her dandruff shampoo for an itchy head and didn’t even think about checking for lice. I don’t think I was in denial. I think I must’ve just pushed the idea of lice (vomit!) so far in the back of my head that it couldn’t even surface as a possibility. I couldn’t stop scratching my head. I went on to Amazon and bought all of the lice removal and prevention products I possibly could. I also looked at all the techniques possible to get rid of them and rid the house of them. I was going to kick this lice infestation’s ass!
I picked Mark up from work and asked him a million questions on the way home. “Who discovered that MK had lice? How bad is it? What is her mom doing to get rid of it? Are there nits or actual lice? How big are they? Did her mom tell her not to share hats or brushes with anyone? Is she washing all of her bedding?” He, in true man form, could not answer any of them.
As soon as we got in the door, we meticulously checked the little ones again. We did not see any signs of nits or lice (vomit!). Then, Mark and I did probably the most intimate thing we’ve ever done together. We went through rows and rows of each other’s hair checking for lice. My love for Mark grew more than I thought it ever could based on how thorough and patient he was while inspecting my scalp looking for critters.
We both checked out lice free as well! THANK GOD! It’s funny how the itchiness factor dies down a little when you initially check out critter free! The next step was to burn (I mean wash) all of the kids bedding, stuffed animals, hats, etc. We also vacuumed the shit out of the carpet and furniture. So far so good. AND, I had about a million dollars worth of lice (vomit!) defense products coming in the mail soon. I felt prepared, but still extremely cautious.
I did EVERYTHING possible to remove and defend against this lice infestation. I even checked my kids and Mark (and he lovingly checked me) everyday for the next few weeks. However, I still had this horrible nagging fear that the same meticulous removal and future prevention was not being done at MK’s mom’s house which is where she was going to be for the next week. Here’s where the shitty part of being a stepmom comes to play. I had no control over how this infestation was handled when MK was not with us. I, unfortunately, did not trust that it would be handled in the appropriate way and MK would come back to our house and we would keep going through this vicious cycle of constantly having to comb bugs out of hair, using treatment shampoos, etc. I was envisioning this never ending cycle because I cannot influence what happens when MK is not with us.
After all is said and done, the rest of us have not had any signs of lice. (Thank GOD!) However, every time MK comes back to our house after being at her mom’s I start to feel itchy and make sure to check her hair. It’s hard being a mom only 50% of the time because I don’t have any control over what goes on when she is not with us. I don’t get to help her pick out her clothes; I don’t get to make sure she is bathed on a consistent basis; I don’t get to remind her to brush her hair; I don’t get to teach her about the importance of eating healthy, but also the importance of being a kid and enjoying some ice cream every once in a while! I do what I can, but sometimes I just have to sit back and realize that things aren’t perfect and the imperfections in my life are what help me become a better person (and a better mom!).