Since moving in with Chris and J and becoming a sort of 'partial stepparent,' several of my friends have made comments like "I don't know how you do it!" or likening me to some kind of glorious cherub for my mad parenting skillz. And, you know, sometimes I do think I deserve props for helping take care of a child that's in no way biologically connected to me.
But then I remember the time, about a year ago, that I had a temper tantrum in Target.
An honest to God, "I'm angry and I'm leaving" temper tantrum. I got over the whole kicking-screaming-crying thing years ago, thank goodness, but this was certainly the adult equivalent.
And do you wanna know why? Do you wanna know what made me so upset that I lost my cool in a chain retail store and had to go outside to my car alone to calm down?
I wanted the green bath mat.
I wanted the green bath mat and J wanted the black bath mat and Chris wasn't immediately agreeing with me as the adult and I just lost it.
I was moving in with them that month and we were decorating what would be becoming our shared bathroom. And I wanted that bath mat. I knew for a fact that it would match our shower curtain and would look really lovely and WHY DIDN'T EVERYONE ELSE UNDERSTAND THAT?! Didn't they want me to be a part of their family?! Didn't they trust my judgement or care about my opinion?!
Suddenly my brain had turned a simple decision into something ultra-meaningful.
And for me, in that moment, it really was. It was like this random object was representing my belonging and having a say, and now I somehow wasn't meshing with everyone else and this was a huge issue in my mind and I had to get out of there.
So I did.
I went to my car and I took a few deep breaths and I can't remember perfectly clearly now but I'm pretty sure I held back some tears.
And then, of course, after sitting and fuming for a few minutes, I realized that I was being an idiot and all of this fuss was over a stupid bath mat. And that Chris never said he didn't like the green one, he was just trying to look at all of the options. And that J was eight years old and liked black things and that was really the end of the argument for her.
And they probably still wanted to live with me even if they DID like other bath mat colors anyway.
I tell you this story because I feel like it can be easy for things to escalate into something personal in a non-biological family dynamic. If people aren't on the same page, it can feel like it's because you're not related - that somehow your lack of shared bloodline is the cause, and not just that people have varied preferences.
And that can be hard to realize and navigate and be in tune to. So I just wanted to be a source of reassurance for anyone else out there who may find herself with less-than-graceful reactions to seemingly innocuous things. It's not that those reactions are okay (Come on Grady, you're a grown woman for goodness sakes!) but the feelings certainly are.
Luckily, I am getting better and I'm -usually- able to tell when I'm escalating something just because of my "not part of the club" insecurities. But that doesn't mean it's always easy.
(And, for the record, we totally got the green bath mat. And it DOES match our shower curtain. So I really didn't have anything to worry about anyway.)