The Libertine's daughter stays with us every other weekend. I love her to death, and so does the Mister. If you google "stepchild guilt" you get hundreds of stories of step-parents who hate their stepkids. That's totally NOT the case here.
The problem I have is that I feel like I just don't know her very well. I don't know what she likes to eat. I don't know what kinds of toys she is going to want to keep here. I don't know if she even enjoys being here, to be honest. I know that she likes to play with the Monkey and the Mongoose, but at times it seems like she is totally overwhelmed at being in a house full of boys (though I can relate on that count).
The Libertine is doing his best to help me figure it out, but in the gaps between Princess visits things often change, so what was true two weeks ago might not be true this weekend. This weekend she might eat chicken nuggets, next time she won't touch them. Last time she was with us we went to the store with her and I asked her to pick out things she wanted to eat, and she was afraid to ask for what she wanted.
I'm afraid that I'm somehow earning the "Stepmother" badge - you know the one. I never yell at her, I never ask her to do anything that my own kids aren't expected to do (pick up toys, etc), and I try to love on her as much as possible. I worry constantly that something I'm doing is making her mother angry. I try to make sure her hair and teeth are brushed each night, that anything she leaves behind is kept safe, and that she has a place in our house that is just hers to keep her things in. I'm judging myself constantly on my parenting skills of a child that's not mine. I probably judge myself harder regarding her than I do my own two boys.
I know this is silly. The Princess and I will work out a relationship over time. But right now it is emotionally really hard. And things happen sometimes that result in knee-jerk emotional responses that make me seem totally crazy. For example, the last weekend that the Princess was here, her Mom fed her immediately before the Libertine picked her up. I was at home making a dinner that I knew she was going to want to eat, so when he told me she had already eaten I felt a bit like I'd been punched. The first thing that popped into my head was "Her Mom doesn't think I feed her. She thinks I won't make her things she likes and she goes home hungry every weekend."
Isn't that the most irrational, crazy thing ever? But that's exactly the thought I had. Maybe it's a subconscious fear I have. Compared to my kids the Princess does not eat much - my two are almost always eating a piece of fruit or a handful of pretzels. The Princess reminds me of the little alien dude that Scotty was stuck on the ice planet with in the new Star Trek movie: "You don't eat anything! You could eat a bean, and you're done!"
When I told the Libertine how I was feeling, he reminded me that they do the pickup/drop off right near a restaurant. It's only natural that the Princess should see the food advertisements and ask for something to eat - she's 6. My 5 year old would do the same thing.
I never expected that I would consider myself a bit of a stepparent. Having a girl around here is pretty awesome. I just need to adjust to everything being so different from being the parent of boys. All of a sudden there is pink stuff, and dress up toys, and theatricality. The Monkey and the Mongoose love when she comes over. We'll be out shopping, and the Monkey will see Hello Kitty and exclaim "We need to get that for the Princess!"
I guess we needed a little girl around here.