My New Roommate: My Boyfriend's Daughter
by Dani Alpert
Guess who's coming to dinner... and staying for a month?!
If you guessed a dapper black man named Sidney Poitier, sadly, you would be wrong. The answer: my boyfriend’s 18 year-old daughter. Ahh!
She lives in a dorm at school in NYC and is off on break. What is up with our educational system? I do not remember having a month off when I was in college. A few months ago, she asked if she could live with us, instead of her mother when she’s on vacation and over the summer. What could we say?
“Of course.” (Of course my “Of course” was uttered through clenched teeth and a forced smile.)
I like my boyfriend’s daughter. We get along quite well, do stuff together and I think she likes me. What’s not to like? My apprehension, hesitation and internal wig out, has more to do with that old stand by, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Like every other child related event that’s been hurled at my head, this too will take time to process.
I’m not used to having another body around. Another body that doesn’t know how to put dishes in the dishwasher. Another body that takes my nail polish and doesn’t return it. Another body that is a messy eater. Another body that didn’t know to knock before entering a closed door. Another body lurking around the house, so that now I can’t lurk around the house naked. Another body sleeping in the room next door, so now my boyfriend and I have to keep the television on to drown out the noise when we do sexy stuff. Oh, and believe you me, there’s noise.
I know that this is yet another piece of the Girlfriend Mom puzzle, but I was just getting used to soccer Sundays. I wasn’t expecting to live with a child for more than 48 hours every other weekend. I didn’t see this one coming.
In the short time that she’s been with us, I’ve learned a lot about myself. And really, who needs that?! When the four of us played board games over the Christmas break, I felt like a stepmom in a Lifetime movie, for the first time in five years. I was the odd man out, the one that didn’t belong. The non-blood relation. I glanced over at the three of them and their profound closeness wafted in the air. I felt a million miles away.
I tried to convey to my boyfriend that what his kids had with their mother is naturally going to be a different with me. I’m not their mother. They’re not my kids. Sometimes I’m uncomfortable with the familiarity that they share. I’m traveling in foreign territory without a GPS system, and often I don't know why I'm feeling the way that I do.
I cannot move any faster than my feelings will allow. Perhaps it’s simply a question of time and patience. I’m honoring, not judging. Wow, that got serious quickly. Moving on.
Why do the kids have to take showers in our bathroom? They have a brand new gorgeous one to use. I don’t understand (just one in a long list of things I don’t understand) Is it because they see it as a treat? Do they feel closer to their dad? The question I ask myself is, “Why does it ruffle my feathers?”
I lived alone for a long time before I moved in with my boyfriend. I’m used to my privacy and not having to share, unless I wanted to. For crying out loud, my boyfriend and I are still learning to live with each another. Now you add a child to the mix, without having the benefit of years of practice, and poof! disruption of routine, rhythm, style and wet towels on the bathroom floor.
Change doesn’t come easily for a lot of people (especially my mother) and apparently this kind of change doesn’t come easily to me either. I can uproot myself from a 16-year stint in Los Angeles, selling everything from fork to car and move to Prague, but living with kids scares me. The parent (my boyfriend) in the relationship has to realize that the non-parent (me) has no past experience to draw upon.
I’m trying not to make a mountain out of a molehill, because the reality is, none of it is life threatening. Rather, it’s the emotions and feelings that the situation stirs in me, that gives me pause. This is what I’ve come up with, in so special order:
- I’m jealous of the attention my boyfriend pays to his daughter. (Was my mother jealous of my close relationship with my father? Note to self- ask mom)
- Sometimes I feel like I play second fiddle and I don’t like it.
- I crave boundaries and there aren’t a lot regarding my boyfriend and the kids. Boundaries were an issue in my family, mainly because they didn’t exist. I needed them, so I'd punish myself, often sending me to my room.
- Sometimes I feel that sides are taken, and they ain’t mine.
- I chose not to have kids for a reason and sometimes I feel that I’m not living the life I chose.
- Sometimes, when it comes to the kids, I’m immature, controlling, and selfish. I want all the attention. C’mon, I’m a performer. Of course I want all of the attention!
- I’ve truly come to realize how important solitude, peace and quiet are to me.
- My boyfriend and I change when the kids are around. And sometimes not for the better.
- I sometimes judge my boyfriend’s daughter, or the way he’s raising her. Yuck on me!
- My lust for order gives me the illusion that I have some control over a situation that I have no real control over.
How much of my crap, and by crap, I mean my feelings, are unresolved personal issues, or my hot buttons? Perhaps these little people are my triggers. Darn them! Why do they have to unleash, overturn and bring up what I’ve worked so hard to shove down.
I met a very wise woman the other day, who recently lost her fourth husband. She has both biological and step-children. We shared stories of the children in our lives, to which she said, through held back tears, “Just love them. That’s all they want.”
And that’s what I plan to do. Dishes in the dishwasher or not.
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