My oldest bonus daughter is getting ready to head off to college. She will be going to school in a town about seven hours away. Recently we have been looking ahead to orientation and trying to plan for the big event. It’s not easy when you’ve got six kids and are part of a blended family. We finally figured out a way to cover the other five kids for the weekend. My husband and the kids’ mom agreed that they would both participate in the college drop off but that they would stagger it.
The plan was that Julia and her mom would head up on Thursday so they could have some time together and then her mom would head back Saturday so she could return to work on Sunday. Julia’s dad and I would head up on Friday and stay until the end of orientation on Sunday, returning before we work on Monday. Seemed like a great plan. All of us got to be a part of the big event. Julia would get some time with just her mom and some time with just us and time with all of us.
I booked the hotel rooms. Registered for parents’ orientation. Got my mom to agree to have Justin over for the weekend and took the Friday off work.
A couple of weeks ago at dinner, my husband said, “Julia, Deb has done some research and looked up a number of places for us to have dinner while in Spokane.” Julia responded with, “Why is Debbie going? I only want my real parents there. I just want it to be you and me and mom and this should really be about me anyway. Why can’t we just pretend like nothing ever changed and we’re still one family.” That hung in the air for a moment – while all of the other kids looked at me to see what my reaction would be.
Don’t get me wrong. I suppose I can understand the sentiment, but I certainly wish she would have chosen another time and place and tone to express those feelings.
When my husband and I first started dating, I remember his ex saying to me that she hoped that their divorce would be like the one “It’s Complicated” where the divorced parents still get together with the kids on special occasions. It should be noted here that in the Meryl Streep movie “It’s Complicated” the divorced parents have an affair with each other even though the mom has a boyfriend and the dad has a wife. So this particular vision was not one that I (the new wife in the scenario) embraced.
I resigned myself to not going along for the drop off and really was fine with it. Admittedly, I was a bit hurt by not being wanted or welcome, but I could certainly find a way to occupy my time for a weekend.
My husband, however, was not content with the new plan. He called Julia and set up a dinner date for just the two of them. I found out about the dinner after the fact when my husband reported on their conversation. He said he had a very heartfelt conversation with Julia about the many, many ways I had been a “real parent” to her over the last four years, about how they could not afford the college of her choice without my support, how I haven’t missed a concert or play in four years, have made her dinner and driven her places and hosted her grad party, etc. He said that he wanted her to know that he and I are in it for the long haul and that he was bringing me along because he did not want her to look back years from now and regret that she had made a rash decision and had created a wedge that would be hard to un-create.
In two weeks we leave on a road trip. I suspect it will be pretty awkward since I still don’t think I am wanted there, but I am amazed that my husband cared enough to have that conversation and to take that kind of a stand. Julia may not need me there, but I think my husband does.So,I am planning to make the best of it and hoping we all fare better than Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.