Otto is a man of relatively few words when it comes to feelings. It’s not that he doesn’t HAVE them, or even that he won’t talk ABOUT them, if pressed, but despite his penchant for a good story, he is somewhat taciturn when it comes to attempting to quantify the changes of the last year-and-change. If, for example, you ask him what the biggest difference is? He will most often recall (usually while being bedtime-tackled by both kids, who are vying for the best hugging position) how in the beginning I would say, “Okay, kids, go say goodnight to Otto,” and Monkey would go give him a hug and say goodnight, yes; but Chickadee would stand in the doorway—arms crossed over her chest, chin jutting in defiance—and deadpan, “Goodnight to Otto,” before stomping upstairs.
And that was fine, of course, and serves as a great memory to remind us of how far we’ve come. Now when Otto gets home in the evenings WOE BETIDE HIM if he dares to hug or kiss me, first. “NO NO! HUG MEEEEEE!” she squeals, hanging from his shirt. “SAY HELLO TO MEEEEEE!” It’s a pity they haven’t warmed up to each other, no?
Anyway, a couple of days ago—Monday, to be exact—my pal Suebob happened to Twitter that the following day was Stepfamilies Day. I’ve got a little girl-crush on Suebob, so I saw this and immediately thought, “OH HOW NICE!” and turned to the kids.
Me: Hey! Guess what! Tomorrow is Stepfamilies Day!
Chickadee: Can we have CAKE?
Priorities, people. My daughter has them.
Me: Sure! Why not? Cake for stepfamilies!
Chickadee: Can it be a SURPRISE? Can we not tell Otto and just suddenly have a BIG CAKE and tell him then?
So that settled that.
The next day (Tuesday; yesterday), SueBob Twittered about it again, announcing that it was Stepfamilies Day, and I decided to look it up. Not because I didn’t trust her, of course not; just because I wondered about the origins of it and stuff. I’m a KNOWLEDGE-SEEKER. And I found that it is indeed a real holiday. Celebrated every year on the 16th of September. (Yesterday was the 23rd.)
I brought this to Suebob’s attention, which is when I discovered that Suebob is fabulous but doesn’t know how to read a calendar.
But here is where having young children is completely awesome; the kids still thought yesterday was Stepfamilies Day, and I certainly wasn’t going to tell them we’d missed it by a week. I mean, who cares what day it is? A moment to be thankful and have dessert needn’t be constrained by silly things like calendars.
So. We went out to buy a cake. And ended up with a key lime pie, because that’s actually Otto’s favorite. Look at us, playing fast and loose with ALL the rules! Who cares what day it is? Who cares what sort of dessert it is? WE ARE REBELS! REBELS WITH A STEPFAMILY!
And then, of course, we hid the pie and whipped it out after dinner was over and announced that it was Stepfamilies Day! And Otto said
“Mmmmm, PIE!” “Wow, that’s great!”
And being me, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I couldn’t just let the kids eat the damn pie, no. I insisted we all share something about what we’d found the most unexpected about being part of a stepfamily. And the children rolled their eyes at me and looked longingly at the pie and I knew that I had just become every stereotype of an after-school-special mother, but I did not care. Because we were going to HAVE A MOMENT.
“Well, I guess I didn’t know that Otto was going to be the very best stepdad in the whole wide world!” said Monkey, smiling broadly and without guile. Monkey loves Otto. And me. And you. And possibly that dustbunny on the floor. You get the idea.
“Okay! Um, great! Chickadee, what about you?” She harumphed and squirmed and joked around and finally I said, “Okay, we’ll skip you,” and she got upset about potentially missing her turn.
“I didn’t know he was going to to be so awesome,” she blurted out. She thought on that for a moment. “No, wait. Not awesome. OUTSTANDING!” And then she smirked at her brother, because clearly OUTSTANDING trumps BEST any day of the week, sucker. “What about YOU, Mom?” she asked.
“Oh, well, I don’t have a stepkid OR a stepdad, so I don’t have to play,” I said. I chuckled as the crowd disagreed (loudly). “Alright, alright,” I said. I thought about it. “I guess I didn’t know that you’d figure out so quickly what Otto is better at than me. Like, you just go straight to him for stuff, now, which is pretty cool.”
“Like when something is broken!” suggested Monkey.
“Yep, like that. You know who can fix it,” I agreed.
“Okay, what about YOU, Otto?” Chickadee demanded. “You have TWO STEPS, so you have to do TWO THINGS.”
“Two steps,” mused Otto. “Ten more and I’ll be through the whole program!” He and I burst out laughing. After a moment Monkey joined in, clueless about the joke but just happy to laugh. Chickadee looked back and forth between us.
“What’s funny?” she asked. “I don’t get it. Why is it funny?” We laughed harder, and she cracked a grin, seeing her opening. “It’s pretty funny, whatever it is. HA! HA! I am just going to laugh, anyway. HAHAHAHAHAHA! SO FUNNY! I DON’T GET IT! HAHHAHAHAHAAAAA!”
Eventually we stopped laughing. We explained the joke. She still didn’t know why it was funny. But she demanded to hear Otto’s “thing” and so he had to pony up.
“I guess I didn’t expect to LAUGH so much,” he said. “We are a very laugh-y bunch. I didn’t expect that.”
“Really?” asked Chickadee.
“Yeah,” I told her. “He expected life with kids to be one grim, horrible death march straight into the pit of despair. Right, honey?”
“Right!” He agreed. “And it IS, but with a LAUGH TRACK!” That set us off again—him and me, for the obvious reasons; Monkey, because we were laughing; and finally Chickadee, because everyone else was laughing so why not.
And then we had pie. All in all, not bad for a week-late celebration of a pseudo-holiday.