Remarried Life

The Man and I celebrate three years married today, and I feel so much more competent at being married than I ever have. It really helps to have married the right person. I think the perspective from being married previously (to the hopelessly wrong person) helps, as well.

From the beginning with The Man, I saw us as a team. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, she reveals that marriage in the early years of western civilization was actually an act of civil disobedience against the all-powerful church (who preferred that individuals be married only to God), and became an “us against the world” partnership.

This coincides nicely with the advice I picked up somewhere that suggests you should never speak ill of your spouse to others. It’s all too easy to complain to friends and family when you feel like your spouse is being unfair or overreacting to something you did, but I have really tried to hold my tongue and keep any issues we may have with each other where they belong, between the two of us.

Here are a few other perspectives I have picked up along the way:

  1. The “never go to bed angry” line is nonsense. You don’t have any control over your emotions and how long you will feel the way you feel. You don’t look at the clock and say, “Oh, it’s 9 o’clock so I need to stop being miffed now.” But do go to bed together. It means that you are still in this thing together, even if you aren’t agreeing right now.
  2. Try not to let the little things drive you crazy. There are times when I fantasize about big heavy cast iron pans when the snoring has gone past its usual 20 minutes, and the TV is still on and he’s asleep. But there will come a day when there won’t be any snoring and no TV to keep me awake, and I’d much prefer to have him there next to me, even if earplugs are required.
  3. Show it don’t say it. Those three little words lose their meaning when repeated so often. Offering to do the dishes when he’s tired, not pointing out that he’s complaining too much, and letting him listen to Conway Twitty on the car radio go much further, sometimes.
  4. Being right is overrated. I come from know-it-all stock. I used to wield my intelligence like a cudgel, at times. Now I know that it’s ok to let my husband think he’s right about the mouth-being-a-very-clean-place-actually-because-he-heard-a-story-about-it-on-NPR.

The Man was nervous about getting married. His first experience wasn’t such a good one, either. But he knew it was important to me, and so he proposed. After about a year of marriage, he told me he was a convert – he hadn’t realized it could be so good. I hadn’t either, but I believed in us, in our team of two.

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Evolution of a Stepdad

The Man and I have been married for almost three years, and together for about six and a half. He’s been involved in The Boy’s life since he was nine years old. As I’ve mentioned before, he was the one to teach him how to ride a bike, he’s taught him to surf, how to operate the riding lawnmower, and countless other life lessons (including using the plunger the other night!). The ex was around until The Boy was six and a half. Suffice it to say that The Man has been more of a dad to The Boy in his memory.

When we first married, The Man was quick to classify his relationship to The Boy. “That’s my stepson,” he’d say when we were introduced to someone new. It never hurt me or The Boy to be introduced in this way, but it was something I noticed. You see, The Man has a grown daughter he doesn’t see much. And she was very young when he and her mom split up. Then she moved six hours away, but he made the effort to be in her life, made the drive to see her every other weekend, took her on trips, chaperoned her school trip to Washington DC, brought her to the beach in the summer, paid for much of her college and her car, and actually paid more than what he was asked in child support. He sees the other side of the coin, and always respected the fact that the ex was and is The Boy’s dad. He never wanted to replace him.

But over the years, that line has softened. He has grown protective of our boy. He is more comfortable voicing his opinions on his upbringing (while respecting the fact that I have the final say). The two of them have begun to have their own private jokes and rituals. And he often refers to him as “our son,” in casual conversation with others who may not know the whole situation. And I notice. ❤

like riding a bike

Proud

The Man and The Boy are a sight to behold.

When we end up going somewhere in two vehicles (which happens more than I’d like, but what can I do), The Boy will always choose to ride with The Man in his truck.  They talk about vehicles, and The Man makes the stupidest, corniest jokes that only 13 year-old-boys might find funny, and they crack each other up.

They don’t wrestle as much as they used to, because The Boy is quite simply too tall, and they could injure each other easily. But they are quite comfortable with each other, and it makes me smile.

The Man has learned a lot, especially in the last two years. He questioned much more at first, but now he seems to get it. He still gets annoyed, as I do, after listening to forty-five minutes of descriptions of the dome light of every known make and model of car. But he doesn’t lose his patience. He seems much more ready to understand that a meltdown is not misbehavior.

My BoysAs I write this, I am looking out our back doors, watching The Man teaching The Boy how to drive the lawn mower, while sitting up on the back of the seat because The Boy can no longer fit on his lap.

And earlier, I watched him tear up at a news story about a special needs family fighting to get treatment for their daughter. I know his perspective has changed, and I know now we are an “us”.

I am so happy for The Boy, so happy for us. And so proud of The Man.

Last Day: Looking Back

I think it’s only normal for people to look back before starting something new, and New Year’s Eve is a logical opportunity to do so.  It’s also important.  One of the things teachers benefit most from but rarely have time to do is reflect on their daily teaching to analyze what worked and what needs to be tweaked.  True in non-teacher lives, as well, I know.  At the end of the day, thinking back on what was positive, and what we could have handled better helps us learn from our mistakes, and decreases the likelihood that we will repeat them.

This year, I moved house in a major way, got married, left my career, battled for better schooling for my son, wrote a novel, and got a new job which I love.  I’ve left old friends behind (but never forgotten), and made new friends.  My life has improved, sometimes by sheer will.  I compromise more (a new husband and a blended family make this absolutely necessary), I don’t get nearly as many headaches, I relax (fully) more.

At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t see past June.  It was a complete unknown – What would I be doing?  What would my son be doing?  How would our lives change?  Now that I am six months past that point of all that was unknown, I am proud of us for taking this leap, trusting ourselves to get re-married, trusting that we could find a good school situation for The Boy, and trusting that I would land on my feet with a job I didn’t hate, making enough to pay the bills.  I am very proud of us.  It was a big leap of faith, and it has turned out beautifully.

2013 has been a year of great change, of great opportunity, of great hope, and of great reward for me (and us).  I hope it treated you just as well.  I look forward to 2014 with great anticipation for continued growth for all of us.

Happy Old Year, Friends.  And Happy New Year.

English: This came from New Years Eve 2004 int...

The Man for The Boy

This morning, The Boy’s transport van was ten minutes early.  If you know nothing about autism, you probably still know that routines are king, and if you mess with a routine… Well, watch out.

I heard the first honk at 6:38am.  The Boy had just decided he didn’t want to wear the pants we had chosen, but wanted to wear the blue ones.  I frantically searched for the blue ones, found them, gave them to him and he said, “Their inside out!”  I quickly turned them right side out, handed them to him and asked him to put them on, while I found a pair of socks to put on his feet myself.  That done, I headed to the front door, opened it, and stuck out a finger (no, not that one, although I was tempted), to let her know we had heard her and were coming as quick as we could.

I returned to The Boy’s room, and told him to go put his shoes on.  I grabbed his poptarts in a baggie, and his bookbag, and tried to hurry him out the door.  “Where are my glasses?” he wailed.  I set everything down, and went into his room to get his glasses.

She honked again.

Really?  Did you think I didn’t know you were there?  I already came outside in my robe to let you know we were coming, but you needed to honk again?

I gave him his glasses, gathered all of his things, and shooed him toward the door.  “I need you to tie my pants!  You’re not going to tie my pants?”  I got him on the porch, gave him his things and tied the drawstring on his pants.  I gave him a kiss and sent him on his way.

When I came in, The Man said, “Really?  Why was she so early, and why did she have to honk twice?”  Exactly.  “You need to call them and tell them they can’t do that to him.  He needs his routine, and they definitely don’t need to be honking like that.”

The Man advocating for The Boy.

Not just supporting me, because he knew I was a bit frantic and anxious from the situation the driver created (which he did, as well, asking more than once if I was OK), but actually defending and advocating for The Boy.

Exactly.

On the dunes

This is a Stepdad

Today, The Man and I got up early and went to the store to get 6 gallons of paint – we were finally going to start painting the house!  The Man has single-handedly remodeled this place, and this summer, we replaced the siding, which was 20 years old.  To save money we used panels that were “seconds” and therefore marked on the corners with blue paint.  Because of those marks, staring us in the face every time we drove up, we were anxious to finish the job, and the exterior paint was almost the last step.

I’ve helped the man do a fair share of painting, in our own house, as well as on a few large jobs he’s had.  But I am not a painter.  I was doing pretty good this morning, but got extremely frustrated after lunch and quit.  I am not usually a quitter, but it was beyond what I could handle, so I walked away.  The Man finished that side of the house on his own, and then moved on to cutting the lawn.

He had asked The Boy if he wanted to “drive” the mower today, so when he was ready, he took him for a few rides around the house before he started mowing in earnest.  I took a few snaps, and came inside to relax for awhile (the sound of the mower tends to put me to sleep).

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And then I heard voices.  I looked through the back doors and saw The Boy and The Man on the mower.  The Man was directing him where to go, and The Boy was actually mowing the lawn, steering, going in reverse, slowing down, and keeping his lines straight.  It was a pretty neat sight, and erased all of my earlier frustration.

Because this was more than a stepdad showing his stepson how to mow the lawn.

This is a stepdad who understands how fascinated his autistic stepson is with cars, and watches how he pretends to start his own car every time he climbs into a vehicle.  This is a stepdad who took his stepson to his favorite hardware store, and asked them to give him one of the mistakes from the key-making counter, so he could have his own set of car keys.  This is a stepdad who watched his stepson pretending to steer and use turn signals in his truck this very morning, and decided to give him an opportunity to steer something with a real-live running engine, while throwing a hands-on lesson in there, to boot.

This is a stepdad.

Blended Boys

Blending families is an ongoing journey, even when you only have one school-age child.  Differences in parenting styles become apparent fairly quickly, and when your child has special needs, it can be even more challenging.  We have been lucky — The Man and I dated long-distance for several years, which gave us an opportunity to glimpse each other’s parenting styles and transition to a blended parenting style over time.  To say that it’s a finished product would not be right – it continues to evolve, but it’s functioning, and a positive thing for The Boy to have two parents in our home.

The Man continues to learn about The Boy and his challenges.  It can be unfortunate sometimes to have a disorder like autism, because it isn’t oustwardly visible, and people who don’t know will judge, while even people who do know will forget, myself included.  Not forget that he has autism, but forget The Boy’s struggles and needs, even if momentarily.  This happens with The Man from time to time, but we continue to communicate and progress on our journey.

The Man is a natural-born dad — he doesn’t know it, but sometimes I almost burst into happy tears at his small gestures towards The Boy.  He doesn’t even realize that he is doing things for The Boy that have never been done for him before.  And I have found that the one best thing for their growing relationship has been to force them together without me for awhile.  I have had to leave for work for a few hours on each weekend, and they have gotten to hang out a lot more this month.  And you know what?  We’ve had fewer meltdowns from everyone involved.

Yesterday, The Man pulled into the yard, home from work, and immediately grabbed our knock-around bike from the shed to go join The Boy who was riding around the neighborhood with some other kids.  And I watched, with those happy-tears in my eyes.

The Boys

The Fight

Last week, The Man and I had a moment, a disagreement, shall we say.  And I wasn’t sure if I was gonna go there, if I was going to share with you about this experience, because, well, some things are private, and dirty laundry and all that.  But I decided that sharing the essence of what happened is important because the whole point of this blog is sharing my true experiences as a single mom, now remarried mom raising a boy with autism, and possibly showing others in the same or similar boat that they aren’t alone.

So we had a moment.  We were getting ready to leave the house to visit some friends for dinner, all three of us.  The Man and The Boy had a disagreement in the kitchen about which lunchable to take with us in case he didn’t like the food being served.  The Man got angry and stomped off.  I assisted The Boy with his lunchable, got his things together and we went to wait in the car.  After waiting in the car for a bit, it was clear The Man wasn’t coming right out, so I went in.

And we argued.  And neither one of us was completely rational — I know I was defensive (naturally).  The argument petered out enough so that we could go be social with our friends, and over the course of dinner, everything got turned right again.  Afterwards, we apologized to each other and talked a bit about what happened, and it was all good.

BreatheBut I continued to think about the argument, because I had rarely been so angry with The Man.  And I wondered at my reaction, and then it dawned on me.  The previous day, I had reacted to The Boy much the same way when he refused to leave Grammy’s house at the appointed time, even with the help of multiple timers.  I was frustrated and handled it badly — I had stomped off in anger.  And that’s OK.  Everyone who lives with autism has those moments, where we rebel against this thing that runs our life sometimes, because it’s not fair.  We react, lightning-quick, with anger because just for that second our resources of patience have run thin from over-use.  We are human.

I had gotten so angry at The Man for being human, for having a moment of weakness, for not being perfect when I clearly wasn’t the day before.

The point is, if you live with autism, and never “lose it”, you need to be recommended for sainthood.  I know I’m not a saint, and I know I didn’t marry a saint.  And recognizing that, and seeing myself in my husband was a much needed paradigm shift.

Is it Real Yet?

People have been asking if it has hit me yet, all this permanent change (there’s an oxymoron for ya!), and I have to say yes and no.  This house is definitely “home” to us, and I don’t have the feeling that we are returning to our old house or state that you sometimes get after moving.  It will help to get out of limbo, and have my new license, new license plate, new name on all of my forms of ID, and the like.  But that will take a few more weeks to be sure (*sigh*).

Not having a job, and not having a routine is a little unsettling, still.  When The Boy starts school in a little over a month, it will feel much more “real”, I predict.  But I’m not usually working in the summer anyway, at least not in the wake-up-report-to-a-building-and-stay-for-a-long-time-doing-stuff kind of way.  So this doesn’t feel all that unnatural, either.

I can say that I’m not used to being referred to as “Mrs.” or “wife”, yet, but I love being married to The Man.  It’s a little surreal, because the terminology is the same, but the experience is so much better.

The Boy is adjusting well.  He has been perusing his old yearbooks a bit, keeping them close, so I know he’s missing what’s familiar.  But I also know he’s enjoying having some new neighborhood friends, some freedom to ramble a bit, and is very much looking forward to school starting.

So, it’s real, if a bit limbo-y, but enjoyable all the same. 😉

Our Simple-y Wonderful Wedding

Our very simple wedding was this past Friday.  We ended up having about 20 people in attendance. Sunshine and Princess appointed themselves Flower Girl and Bridesmaid, and their parents served as our witnesses and photographers.  The Boy was the best ring bearer a bride could ask for, and the whole thing was over in about 10 minutes.  It couldn’t have gone better.

Earlier in the day, I got my hair done, and bought some flowers for myself, and my “attendants” (two bunches of Gerber daisies for $8 total).  We came home, and got ready.  PITA  loaned me a sixpence that she had put in her own shoe when she got married (this was my “something borrowed”), which I tucked in my bra, and we all headed to the gazebo.  Guests started wandering up, and at 5:30, we started the ceremony.

Afterwards, most of us walked a few blocks to a restaurant and had a great meal.  It really wasn’t stressful in the least, just a short, sweet ceremony filled with love and smiles, and a very nice evening with most of our closest friends and family.  Trust meThis is the way to do it.

A word about the pics: My new husband is not too keen about having his picture plastered all over the internet, and I’ve made a conscious effort not to do that to my son, either.  The result is that the pictures you get to see will not give you the whole picture, so to speak.  I’m sorry I can’t give you more, but my commitment to my boys is rock solid.

Our New Family Who Has the Rings? With This Ring... Flower Girls wedding1