Thomas, my pre-teen, has been in my life for more than five years (off and on for the first couple of years, granted, but I'm the only woman Bradford has ever introduced him to. Now that's when you know it's getting serious with your divorced, father of one boyfriend, ladies).
I vividly remember Bradford sitting me down after only two months of dating and basically saying, "Hey, um, my son is going to come live me full time. If you want out, now would be a good time." Me, being my overly stubborn self, insisted on giving it a shot. I can handle anything, I kept telling myself.
I was slowly introduced to Thomas and began spending more and more time together. After Bradford and I officially moved in together (after our "break," of course), my schedule was so hectic that I rarely saw Thomas, much less parented him. I worked 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, taught dance until sometimes 10 p.m. almost every night and spent nearly every weekend dancing. There wasn't much time to be a proper parent.
Since moving to Charleston and not having a schedule at all (I promise I won't go on a tangent about being jobless and not dancing), I've had BOO-KOOS of time to parent . . . and let me tell you, it ain't easy. I've heard my siblings complain off and on throughout the years about their trials and tribulations. But you have no idea until you're "in it."
Seven, 8, and 9 years old was cake (for the most part). Thomas was easy to discipline and was precious most of the time. Around 10, he started to test us and figure out what he could and could not get away with, hallmarking some pretty incredible memories. At 11, he went into the sixth grade, and whoa. What. A. Journey. He's never gotten in so much trouble in his life . . . until this year. A full-fledged 12-year-old pre-teen whose hormones are spinning in about 10 billion directions (just like every other seventh grader) can be hard to handle, to say the least.
There are days when I want to explode, and it doesn't help that Bradford's in school and isn't here to soften the blow. Not that I'm complaining. I thank my lucky stars every day that he has figured out what he wants to do in life. But it means I'm here most of the time, making sure Thomas gets his homework and chores done, helping him with projects, signing papers, cooking him dinner (guys, I'm cooking! I haven't been able to in years) etc. Every day, I wonder, am I doing a good job? Is he turning into a good kid? What will we do next year when his hormones are really out of control? Was I too harsh when I took his game time away because he didn't finish a chore? DID HE BRUSH HIS TEETH TONIGHT?!
Phew. My sister has said, "Yeah. You got the 'Shit Years.'" And while I agree these last couple of years have, at times, been a challenge, I wouldn't change a thing. Talking to my friend, Jenny, helps too. We've been friends since the age of 8, and she oftentimes reminds me of when we tested the boundaries. Like when we used to wait until her parents were in bed and sneak out her bedroom window to play Barbies on the roof. Or when she'd sleep over at my house, we'd sneak out my bedroom window and play Barbies in the pool. How we pulled that one off, I have no idea. And there was that time we snuck out of my dad's house to go cruising with two of our friends. Couldn't have been more than 15 then.
So I know I wasn't an angel, and it helps to be reminded that Thomas is testing and will continue to test our boundaries. That doesn't mean we're bad parents.
I try to stay grounded and calm and remember how lucky I am to have Bradford and Thomas in my life. And just how awesome it will be when I have children and get to do it all over again! At least now, I'll be prepared.
Wow. Do you think he likes wearing red or what? I love you, buddy!