Now he’s 2 for 2

By Mir
February 20, 2007

I think it would be interesting to sit down and write out ALL of my fears about remarrying. And I will do exactly that, just as soon as I have a full year of nothing else to do, pinky swear! But in the meantime, I try to keep the neurotic angsting to a minimum.

Fortunately, I have two children with endless problems here to keep me focused on ACTUAL crises instead of the various ones I like to imagine.

One of the things Otto and I are doing is a series of counseling sessions with my pastor. It’s based on a profile we both filled out which was, admittedly, rather hokey. “I think my spouse and I should share every waking moment or it means we aren’t really in love! Strongly agree, agree, not sure, disagree, strongly disagree, or how much did we pay to take this test again?

In theory I think following a proven program for this premarital work is a good idea. In my experience, 80% of the program is utter crap and suitable only for morons. The issue is that the important 20% probably varies from couple to couple, and slogging through the other parts helps you to figure out which bits are most applicable to your particular relationship.

Otto and I have known each other for coming up on 18 years. I am neither surprised nor particularly bothered by his penchant for lousy jokes. He seems fairly tolerant of my melodramatic streak, and if he can clearly visualize my pre-pregnancy body he’s bright enough not to mention it. Our view of one another is realistic, I think.

No, the big issue for us is the kids. As in, I’ve been dealing with them for almost 9 years, and he has not. And step-parenting? Is there a manual for how to avoid that moment of truth where your kid shoots daggers through her eyes at your beloved, declaring “You can’t tell me what to do! YOU’RE NOT MY FATHER!?” (No, it hasn’t happened yet. I know my kids, and I know that day is coming.) This is a huge issue for couples trying to blend a family even if the kids are perfectly normal.

My children are many things. Some of those things are even wonderful. But they’ve already GOT a set of challenges. I know that ultimately this will all be fine, but I fear both for their adjustment and for Otto’s.

So we’ve talking about some of this with my pastor, and discussed it just between the two of us, and the conclusion we arrive at is always the same: So much of this just has to be lived to be figured out. We can’t know until it happens.

But my biggest fear to date has been Otto’s continued assertion that once the kids are settled in, a lot of the problems of this year will just fade away. It’s the disruption, the impending move, the going back and forth to their dad’s while he’s still very angry about all of this; once life has been restructured and calmed down, they will blossom, Otto insists. (Then again, sometimes what Otto insists about the kids is a bit different than what I’m thinking….)

While I would love to believe him, I think his view is overly optimistic. And I worry that if it doesn’t go the way he expects, it will be difficult for him to deal with. Otto has a pair of, well, perhaps not rose-colored glasses, but his glasses have a definite pink tint.

So we keep talking about this stuff, and I’m sure we’ll figure it out.

Today, I had a meeting at school about Chickadee. I walked into the room lined with guidance counselors and her teacher and the principal and cracked a joke about “long time no see” and everyone laughed and I thought (not for the first time) how great this school has been with my kids, but that I wouldn’t mind if we could go a few weeks without me having to attend a team meeting for someone, for a change. It was a productive session, I think, but when I reported on it to the kids’ dad he complained about it and I was really frustrated and bit back my inclination to say that if you don’t go to the meeting, you don’t get to comment.

I reported on all of this to Otto, later, and after some discussion Otto said something about how next year, he’ll go to these meetings with me. And I said I didn’t expect him to do that, and bit back the “because they’re not your kids” because he was being sweet and supportive and I didn’t want to sound ungrateful. But he took it the extra mile, Otto did, and when I said he didn’t need to do that, he went on to tell me how he’s in this and will be there for me and the kids and expects to be involved in everything.

“I’m going to be there,” he said, “and I’ll be there for it all. All of it. I’ll be driving them places and picking them up from detention.”

I couldn’t stop laughing. Probably because it’s true.


  1. Heather Cook

    This all just proves your a great woman and mom. If you weren’t worried about all of this… well, then we’d worry!

  2. Somis

    It’s true, I guarantee it. My husband IS my son’s father, in truth if not genetics. He’s the band-aid guy, the aim-better-while-standing-to-pee guy, the tucker-inner, and much more. He goes to parent-teacher conferences, joins me in getting defensive of OUR son, picks the boy up every day from school. They have father-son days, with movies and bookstores and junkfood. It’s more than I ever imagined it could be, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  3. Mel (Mama! Mama!)

    There will undoubtedly be bumps in the future but your kids are very lucky to have a mom like you. A mom who is concerned and can see the feelings and the reasoning behind their actions. I’m not sure if that made sense…but basically, just the fact that you are worrying about it is enough to show you will navigate through whatever comes up. The transition from being a single parent to having a…co-parent is tough at times. I had such a hard time letting go on occassion because I was so highly sensitive to what my son may be feeling…Not to mention I was used to being “it”. Sharing a bit of my control was tough. But we took it nice and slow and haven’t had any of those bumps as of yet. It has been 7 years. My son is nine. My son also has his issues. The tiring, frustrating, oh-great, another-issue issues. So it is not because he is easy going. :) It is going to be wonderful. Enjoy this time.
    I know that was so random, but I was trying to condense my many thoughts into a short version. :)

  4. Dysd. Housewife

    You are right on the money with “if you don’t go to the meeting, you don’t get to comment.” I think it’s so great that your new hubby wants to be involved in every aspect of you, including your kids. Congrats on finding a guy that WANTS that!

  5. daring one

    I love him. He’s a good boy and he sounds like a good balance for you.

    Every relationship needs a realist and an optimist. A drama queen and a calm, sane-ish person. When I’m frustrated with Dan, I have to remember that if he were just like me, I’d want to strangle him most of the time.

  6. Cele

    I remember waiting on an angst roller coaster for those words to be shouted at my husband by my daughter for quite a while, when it finally happened he snapped right back at her,
    “Get the phone and call your dad then, we’ll see what he has to say about it.”

    The subject was never brought up again. Honestly I think I was the more pissed off of the two of us.

  7. MomCat

    Very true words, daring one! Gotta have that balance. If it weren’t for me, our family would never have gone on a single vacation, no, not anywhere, because it’s expensive, and if it weren’t for my husband, we would’t own a house – just a big pile of very stylish shoes.

    You’re lucky, Mir, that Otto will talk with you and others about the “relationship.” In my experience, guys would rather have dental surgery. He’s a keeper!

  8. Sara

    Mir, you know that I think well of you. After all, I keep coming back here to read your words day after day. I think you’re a great mom, with so much to offer and a great sense of humor. But have I mentioned that I love that Otto? I have? More than once? So glad you are both in this together.

  9. D.

    My mom remarried my stepdad when I was seven. I was a kid who had “issues” of my own, but my stepdad is the best dad I could have ever asked for. He was the one who taught me to ride my bike, bought me flowers for the first time, threatened to beat up the first boy that broke my heart. He is everything that a dad is “supposed” to be and more. When he is talking to someone about me, I am his daughter, never step. So I think as long as the love is there, which it sure seems to be, step or whatever doesn’t matter. A dad isn’t based on biology, but on actions, and I think Otto is right there.

  10. Judy

    My kids were nearly grown (as a matter of fact two of them WERE grown and out of the house) when DH and I got married. But still… whenever he talks about them, it’s always “our” kids. My middle daughter wants him to walk her down the aisle when she gets married. You have a keeper in Otto. Appreciate the fact he wants to be involved. I don’t think he’s going to be a step-father. He’s going to be a second dad to those kids.

  11. Bob

    did you really mean the comment you bit back – because they’re not your kids? Or was it a lack of confidence that he’ll want to be a real dad to them? I can see you are really worried that, when the reality sets in, he’ll duck the hard work parenting is.

    There is no way, in my opinion, you can be prepared to be a parent. The easy way (if there is one) is to raise them from babies so you learn on-the-job. Stepping in the middle of impending adolescence will be difficult for him. I s-u-s-p-e-c-t he knows this and since there isn’t anything he can do about it he is choosing to be positive about it and is trying to make you feel better about it too. I don’t doubt for one minute he isn’t sincere about becoming a real dad for Monkey and Chickadee and, even if he doesn’t realize the work ahead of him, he will dig in and make it work. And I expect he will be much more supportive of you and be a real partner for you (than your ex), which WILL make your job as mom easier – even if your anticipated problems with the move come to fruition.

  12. tori

    I think Otto sounds weonderful. I would expect nothing less from someone you would choose though. Otto is right, things will work out, it may be hard, but you will get through it just fine.

  13. meritt

    We had to take that hokey test…. 20 years ago! LOL. We scored really low in the ‘sex’ department but really high on the communication part! :)

  14. Lulu

    As my husband says, any man can become a father, but it takes a great man to be a father. Or something like that. Anyway, Otto truly sounds like a great man, and I’m sure that you all will do just fine! Just keep reading those morning newspapers!

  15. Ben

    I get the “you’re not my father” from the boys sometimes, but I think they do it just to here my Vader imitation:

    “I am your father. Search your feelings, you know it to be true…”

    Keep talking, it’s good…

  16. Shanna

    My husband is the “step-dad” too. He came into our “team” when Alex was 10. After 4 years he is still trying to figure out how things work. But he is always there for the soccer games, the parent-teacher conferences, the good, the bad and the ugly(this isn’t always the boy either). So if Otto needs to discuss/complain about trying to fit into an already established team, I can give him my husband’s number. I am sure he would love the chance to talk to someone else going through the same stuff. None of his friends are in this situation so they don’t get it.
    You are very lucky to have found someone who cares about your kids. I know that is the first thing about Steve that won me over. Wishing you all the best.

  17. LadyBug Crossing

    You and your children are very blessed to have such a great guy!

  18. Aimee

    That Otto! He’s a keeper!

  19. Chewie

    aww Mir. You know very very well that true parenting has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with commitment. You have to decide how much you are going to allow him to have and then let your kids know what you expect from them regarding him. Of course he will hear the obligatory “you are NOT my dad”, but don’t we all expect one version or another of that through the years? I don’t envy you attempting to mesh this bachelor with you and your kids, but if ANYONE could succeed in this, it will be you and Otto. Worse case scenario, the kids have many melt downs, but you deal with them just like you are dealing with them now..only you have a PARTNER right there with you to hold your hand along the way. What a blessing.

  20. Randi

    Being a daughter who’s mom did date and I did have a step-dad (still do) I found that most of the problem with my step-dad came from the fact that he had OTHER kids…hence he didn’t treat me the same as he did the other kids. You’re lucky in that Otto (at least I don’t think he does…) doesn’t have other children, so it’ll be easier for him to accept them as his own.

    The biggest thing about the picking them up and being at the meetings is, that as much as it’s for THEM to see a united front, it’s for YOU to have some support, and I’d say it’s time that Mir got some support, don’t you?!

  21. jenn2

    He’s a mighty fine man.

  22. Heidi

    Cele wrote: I remember waiting on an angst roller coaster for those words to be shouted at my husband by my daughter for quite a while, when it finally happened he snapped right back at her,
    “Get the phone and call your dad then, we’ll see what he has to say about it.”

    Gotta say, Cele, you’re husband REALLY handled that well!

  23. MMM

    Otto is good people.

  24. Jessica

    I think, like in every parenting situation, that Otto will be as involved as you let him be. Biting back your retort about him attending the conferences was probably your first moment of not shutting him out. It’s a tough road for any mom, even one still with the biological dad. Sometimes it’s just hard to let go and let someone help.
    As for the eternal optimism, Otto sounds like my husband who wouldn’t read a single parenting book or even talk about the “what ifs” of the first couple months. He kept to his “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” stance and in the end really pulled through.
    This next year will be an insane test of trust for you and for the kids. But I think you picked a great guy and it won’t be as hard as you think.

  25. LeeAnn

    Parenting is tough no matter who the “father” is….Otto sounds wonderful….picking them up after detention is a great line!

  26. Laura

    I think you’re both right. It won’t be easy, but it will settle down. And yes, somewhere along the road, someone WILL yell, “You’re not my dad!!”

    Oh, well.

    The hardest part for me was allowing my husband to intervene and discipline my kids. Now, our agreement is that I do have top billing in the parenting department of my kids (as he does with his), but we’re all living together, so of course he disciplines, too. And of course we discuss parenting concerns privately as well.

    For years I had to protect the kids against an angry and potentially abusive man. (Though he only ever abused me, not the kids, it was always in my mind!) Then I was happily single, and master of my own parenting ship. I LOVED it.

    So letting this man in was hard. We’ve had our conflicts about it. I’ve had to step back, sit down, shut up, and let them work it out. I’ve consciously refused to act as go-between or translator. Sometimes I will tell one or the other that they need to talk to the other guy about this issue or that, but then I let them get on with it as they see fit. I will not listen to complaints of one about the other. I’ll listen for a bit, but soon I’m directing them to each other. “Sounds to me like you need to talk to her/him about that.”

    It hasn’t always been flawless. There have been difficult days. And weeks. There was that awful, awful time my eldest walked out the door one Friday night to go to her dad’s for the weekend and didn’t return for three years… (Not solely because of issues with my husband, but partly.)

    But it has worked out. We are a family. They all love my husband, their step-dad. *Particularly* the oldest, who now understands a lot more than she did when she was an impetuous seventeen. It’s taken a lot of persistence, hope, love, and sheer cussedness, but we have a wonderful family.

    It will work out for you, too.

  27. TSM-terrifically superiorily mediocre

    I hear ya, sistah.

    I’m thankful that my kids were SO young when I met C, and he’s just always been “Dad”. In fact, now that they’re teens, I’m hearing about how much MORE of a dad C is than their bio-dad (who never calls and they see once a year).

    I think if there’s ever a hot-issue, it’s discipline, and I’m told that is VERY common in step-families. But hey, it can be done! And you can do it!

  28. JayMonster

    “I’ll be driving them places and picking them up from detention.”

    Sounds like Otto’s glasses, while perhaps “pink tinted” are good enough to see clearly. Sounds to me like his is more than ready for scenarios that “don’t fall into place” quite as he planned.

  29. Liise

    How do you score low on the sex part of a test?

  30. Melanie Marie

    AWWW, I can see why you love him!

  31. Zee

    My mother remarried when I was 13 and once the wedding and the moving and the rejiggering and all that was settled, things did get better. Of course, we only moved across town and not cross-country, but I think Otto may be on to something as well. I’m not saying getting settled will fix everything (because, let’s face it, I’m still nuts ;) ) but it sounds like you’re laying a good foundation and that the kids like Otto already. That’s half the battle. Seriously.

    From a discipline perspective, my mom always made it very clear that she and stepdad were aware he was not my father but that he was still to be obeyed and treated with respect on a day to day basis. It was non-negotiable. That said, for the “big stuff,” like serious punishments, decisions about where I went to college and all that, my mother was the one to dispense the decisions. She consulted w/ step-dad, yes, but she was the one who made and meted out the decisions and that worked very well for me.

    Anyway, just my .02 based on being the step-kid in this scenario. Best of luck – I’m sure you guys will make it work!! :)

  32. Chrissie

    I am a step-mom. I moved in with my husband and step-son when he was 4. We married when he was 6. He’s 11 now.

    In the beginning, I was willing to do whatever necessary but my husband still had the Final Word in disciplining and things like that.

    7 years later, he’s my son. He annoys the ever loving crap out of me sometimes, but you know, so do my own daughter and son. I went to all his parent-teacher conferences (harder now that we have the little ones). I go to his Christmas concerts. I take him to the dentist, the orthodontist, the pediatrician for his ADHD meds (which reminds me, call for appointment!). I’m the one who checked his homework and read him stories and all that.

    It sounds like Otto wants to be THAT kind of step parent – the kind where the STEP part becomes unnecessary.

  33. Brown Eyed Girl

    Otto is good people…and people that stupid Tricia whatever comedian that talk about the “manufactured families” should really read up on people like Otto that love kids in their lives simply because they want to.

    Step parents have a harder job in my opinion because they don’t have that “this is my child I must love it no matter what.” it’s not easy. My husband and my son, 5 years later…well they still have their ups and downs..but NO more or less than my son AND I do and I was his oven for 9 months…kids are kids and they are going to test their parents, step or otherwise.

    The thing is..when people like my Jeff and Otto WANT to be the parent….it pretty much takes the STEP right out of it..they’re more like “LEAP and hope you fly or fall flat on your face” Parents.

    Here’s to Otto and hoping he FLIES…very very well because in my eyes..he’s already soaring.

    I remember once…one of my son’s friends was in the car INSISTING to Kyle that Casey was only his half-sister because Jeff was his “STEP” Dad…Kyle said..”the only steps in my house are the ones I walk up and down on..and that ain’t my Dad.”

  34. chris

    And you say he has a penchant for lousy jokes…

    He cracks me up.

  35. Woman with Kids

    That’s priceless. No, things won’t go away. And problems will come up that are brand new. But? You’ll all make it through.

  36. MsShad

    You’ve said before that their father is a good dad. But he’s angry right now, and I don’t blame him. At the same time, you have the right to move to a better life. You wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t think life would be better for them, right?

    The thing is, they’re acting out partly because they are picking up on Dad’s anger, and maybe your worries about Otto step-parenting.

    Someone mentioned how important a united front is. When there’s step-parents involved along with involved bio parents, ALL the adults need to present a united front. Once things settle down, and the kids see how regular visitation works, it’ll be better, I’ll bet. Right now, they can’t be sure that they’ll still be able to see their dad, etc. Otto may be the perfect step-parent, but an involved bio dad is just as important to the kids. We’re all complimenting Otto, but I’m thinking of dad, too. Of course, he’s not the perfect dad, but neither will Otto be. You are lucky that the kids have a dad who is present and accounted for – so many divorced dads are not involved.

    When my honey’s wife took the kids across the country to live with her parents, he called his kids every single day. He gave them a cell phone of their own, that is programmed somehow to not allow outside phone calls, so that they could call him whenever they wanted. The mother was not permitted to use it, or use the non-use of the phone as a punishment (You can’t use your phone to call your dad cause you smeared peanut butter all over your sister). The phone alone gave the kids the security to settle down quite a bit. Before that, they were up in arms nearly constantly. At first, they called 5-6 times a day. Now it’s once a day, from each of them, or dad calls first. Dad says as much as he hates to admit it, he’s closer to the kids now – because he makes the effort now. Plus the kids know without a doubt that he’s there for them, so they confide in him in a way that they never did before.

    I hope your kid’s dad will make the best of it, and help provide a united front. I’m rooting for Otto, yes, but I’m also rooting for dad.

  37. InterstellarLass

    Yes, it’s true, he will. I remarried a year ago January. It happened sooner than we planned, and we didn’t have as long to ‘blend’ as is probably recommended. And those first few months were tough. I wasn’t always around to mete out disclipline (“Just wait till your mother gets home” doesn’t quite have the fear-of-death ring to it) and there were some growing pains and bumps, especially the first couple of months. But after about 6-8 months, the kids really started to grow to trust and depend on him. A couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with my son and gave him the option to go with his sister and me, or stay home with his step-dad. “I’ll stay home with Pappy. He’s my main man.” My heart did a little flip-flop and told my husband this later. They have developed a bond, and they will go to him now first for some things. He takes my daughter to school every day, and has stayed home sick with them. And in this last year, they have never once said “You can’t make me do that because you’re not my dad.” And I think it’s because of trust and respect.

    You’ll make it. I’m sure of it. And it’ll be great.

  38. Jen

    I think there will come a day when you DO start to both think of them and refer to them as “our” kids, with regard to Otto. My kids have a different baby daddy from my husband, but my husband is helping me raise them– even though their baby daddy sees them regularly.

    But it is a transition, of course. My kids haven’t told him that he can’t tell them what to do, but *I* have before. Yeah, it’s an adjustment, LOL.

  39. tammy

    I guess he’s a good egg. Even if he’s not the man I thought he was.


  40. BOSSY

    Bpssy thinks she and her husband need to take an aptitude test for a marriage well under way.

  41. Kestralyn

    My “step” dad always tells me the same thing he told my mom when they first got together: I was one of the major attractions for him ;-) That was 30-odd years ago.

    There’s a big difference between a father and a dad.
    Father = biological parent
    Dad = the man you turn to when you’ve scraped your knee

    What’s ahead is going to be a lot of work for everyone. Keep your sense of humor and let everyone be who they are. Not that it’ll make any of the problems magically go away, but at least nobody is trying to be someone they’re not!


  42. Kate

    Oh Mir – That Otto is going to make one heck of a (step)dad. It’s obvious that he loves you AND your kids. Often times and through my growing up experience the man marries the woman and puts up with the kids b/c it’s a package deal. But Otto – he’s different. In a good sort of way :)

  43. Cherie

    I always read your blog but never comment, however i had to today.
    There are so many weird feelings and issues that your new family will stumble across.
    I am a new(ish)”Step-Mum” and boy is it difficult. To begin with you think everything will go the way you expect them to but when they don’t it’s heartbreaking!
    To be pushed away by a little person becuase they want their Daddy and only their Daddy and not being able to give them what they need/want tears your insides out.
    On another side of this though are the times when the little ones start to come to you for a hug all on their own or when they start calling out for you occasionally instead of their Daddy – that’s heart warming.
    I guess what i’m trying to say is it is so hard to be a step parent on the level Otto is talking about, but if you can go through the heartache, have total support from your partner in the end it’s worth it.

  44. liz

    you found you a good one, didncha? i’m glad! hope all is going as well as expected with the ex. that situation for you is one of the things in my regular prayers. :)

  45. Ali

    The pastor who did our pre-marital counseling was later chased out of the church (not quite with pitchforks, apparently, but almost). He was, I admit, a little unorthodox. The only piece of advice I got from him was NEVER STOP HAVING SEX. I swear. We spent a long time on this subject. He told us that the only Heaven’s Gate people who didn’t join the mass suicide was a couple that had ignored the directive to give up sex. So we should NEVER STOP HAVING SEX. NOT EVER. And I pass that on to you, for whatever it might add to your premarital counseling.

    There was a great piece on This American Life way back when about marriages, and it was brilliant. I just checked out the site, and it’s show #261 from 04 (I won’t post the link, because I might get blocked). But I loved it, and so did friends of mine. Totally beat the pre-marital counseling we got (did I mention that we’re supposed to NEVER STOP HAVING SEX?).

  46. Suebob

    If they can clone a sheep, why can’t they clone me an Otto?

  47. Susan

    I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: I love Otto.

    Would he be willing to pick my kids up from detention? Because that would REALLY be a help.

  48. Mom2One

    Oh Mir, I say this with love: Just shut up and let him go with you. :)

  49. dorothy

    You guys are going to be so fine. Just keep talking.

  50. rachel

    I totally agree with everyone – you’re going to be fine. talking is the key.

    Meanwhile, I have the BEST step-father ever. And a mediocre step-mother. I think the key is that my step-father ALWAYS made time for us – he did 1:1 things with both my younger brother and me. He wasn’t the disciplinarian at first, but grew into sharing that role after he had been around a while. My step-mother always put her kids first. And it showed. Unless there’s a whole lot you aren’t telling us, Otto won’t have that problem. but 1:1 time is very cool. especially if you get ice cream.

    And sure, my brother and I said wretched things like, “Oh, you won’t stay around long, just like all the others” and “you’re not my dad”, but in the long run, my step-dad AND my dad walked me down the aisle together when I got married.

  51. Jen

    I love the Otto too! My other half is very conscious he is not my child’s father, and he won’t ever TELL her what to do because he remembers telling HIS step-dad “you’re not my father”. So without ever TELLING her to do stuff, he gets her to do almost anything, more than I can, I swear; he has a gift. And he is more of a DAD to my child than her own father. He’s been in our lives since she was 8, she is now 16 1/2 – from the age of 10 she said she wanted to live with him, not her real dad, if anything happened to me. I think that says it all! That man is a keeper, Mir, and I’m sure it’ll be ok because you are both aware of the pitfalls in advance. Wishing you much happiness :)

  52. billy

    to paraphrase lincoln- there is no sense worrying about what might happen- because you can tust that at least 50 percent will not happen- – as long as you instill a sense of right and wrong in your children- as opposed to cool or not cool- which i call the beavis and butthead school of decision making- and which their peers will try to instill and cajole them into- you will be fine- dont mistake every childs need to assert his/her independence for a lack of love for you or your partner- it is an essential part of growing up- i think that they will be fine- one small word of advice- tho unasked for- i hope the two of you will treat eachother better than you know anyone else could or can- then you will always be fine- in other words if you are constantly worried about the kids your partner/husband will begin to feel a little left out- and vice-versa- and dont forget time alone- to do nice things for yourself- billy

  53. billy

    and if you tell your kids that they should consider anything that otto says as also coming from you – and instill that in them-until they know you mean it- then that dreadful day you fear may never come-

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