Posts Tagged ‘step-parenting’

Dolly Partner and a dream come true

A couple of years ago, we had a year of Dolly “Partner.” (That’s what Josh called her when he moved in with us.)

Dolly Partner Parton is one of Josh’s favorite artists.  He thinks she’s young.  He can’t believe she’s old enough to be his grandmother.

When he first moved in, we would hear him singing in the shower, “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, JOLEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNN…”

He would listen to Dolly “Partner” every chance he got.  He especially liked her song called “Joshua.”  “Coat of Many C0lors” was another favorite.  He looked for CD’s at used CD places and yard sales.  He hung CD covers on the wall so he could gaze at Ms. Partner.

He dreamed of going on vacation to… you guessed it… Dollywood!

So,  a couple of years ago, we had the year of Dolly Partner Parton.  Not only did we go to Dollywood (which was somewhat disappointing to my kid because she wasn’t actually living there), but we made sure he got to go to see Dolly live in concert! I saw the ad in the paper, plotted with my hubby, got up early on the day they went on sale to get great tickets online. Since we could only afford two tickets, only one parent could go.  But what mattered most was that Josh would get to see his Dolly Partner.

We were all excited when we told him about the live concert.  He called his bio mom, and told her, “Yes, I’m going to go get to see her– ALIVE! On the stage!”

Since I’ve never been a huge fan, my husband took Josh to the concert.  I regretted it later. I had no idea that she was an accomplished, well-rounded musician. My husband said I would have loved it (and he, being an introvert, would have loved to have quiet time at home).

Anyway, the guys dressed up and left early for dinner. My heart melted seeing them go out for a nice, dream-come-true-evening together. I waited up late that night. I wanted to hear about Josh’s time at the concert, especially since I was the mastermind behind it all (ahem).

Here is how our conversation went:

Me:  “How was it?”

Josh: “Fine.”

“What all did she play?  Did she sing your favorites?”

“Some of them.”

“Which ones?”

“I don’t remember.”


“Well, what was your favorite part about the concert?”

“It was kind of boring.  All I did was sit there.  But it was okay.  Thanks.”

And then he went to bed.

I sat there speechless.  His reaction was definitely either unexpectedly disappointing or unexpectedly funny.

I decided on the latter.

My husband told me that Josh really liked the concert, that Dolly could play a million different instruments, and that Josh really was tired.  He wasn’t used to being up that late.

The next day Josh told everyone who would listen about the concert.  He even said that his stepmom got the tickets and let him go with his dad, and that was really cool.

I learned that living joyfully and peacefully with others, especially those who have autism, usually means letting go of my expectations and accepting what is.  And I appreciate when others do the same for me.

Taking advantage of opportunities that come our way and accepting others for who they are– these things definitely lighten my life!

You can call me anything, as long as it’s nice

Autism is literal.  I found out how literal when my stepson moved in with us when he was almost 9.  It was a sudden thing.  We has just moved, and were still unpacking… and here he came.  (See my first post for more info.)

Josh was unsure of what to call me.  I could sense his struggle over this, as well as the greater struggle of what to name my role in his life.  I gently let him know that he could call me anything…  as long as it was nice.

See, when he first moved in, he cussed like a sailor!  Thus, the qualifier.

He tried out different names for me, all of them “nice.” For the first two weeks, he called me “sweetie pie.”  It was a start! Later, he tried out different names. Sometimes it was “honey bunches of oats.”  Once he copied my husband and said, “Come here, Wife.” (That didn’t happen again, LOL. We explained what “wife” meant and that I definitely was not his.) Other times it was simply “Elizabeth.”

Finally, he just settled on “step mom.”  It worked.

People were shocked that I was okay with this.  However, there are several ways to think about it.

First, it’s the truth.  I am indeed his stepmom. (Autism is literal, after all.)

Second, he wanted to acknowledge me as a mom without betraying his bio mom. (Great problem solving skills!)

Third, it’s a whole lot better than other things he’s called me when he’s angry.  Believe me.

Fourth, it makes perfect sense in the context of our family. I’ll explain:

When his dad married me almost 12 years ago, Josh was 3.  My husband explained to him that I was his “step mommy.”  Here’s the definition my wonderful, genius husband  taught him:

Step mommy = When Mommy’s not here, Elizabeth will “step in” for her and take care of you. See, I told you– Genius!

I remember the day that Josh learned this very clearly.   Suddenly, I was accepted by this literal little lad.  I was putting his things in my purse when he didn’t want to hold them, holding his coat, getting him a drink, and more importantly holding his hand and comforting him when he fell down at the playground.

When he moved in, and his mom wasn’t here, I stepped in.  I was, and am, his stepmom.

Now Josh is 15 and is looking forward to his first job. He just loves to flaunt the fact that he is taller than I am.  We still struggle to define our relationship as we adjust to the daily changes and challenges life brings.

My hope is that he will always remember that he can call me anything as long as it’s nice, and that I’m here for him.  My hope is also that I will remember how far he has come in his life, and to celebrate the milestones with abandon. Literally. 🙂

Epilogue: I don’t know if Josh read this or heard me talking about this or not, but the day I wrote this he started calling me “Mom.”  And the journey continues…

My stepson loves me and he wrote me a song

My stepson and I go back and forth between getting along famously and butting heads like you wouldn’t believe.

In music therapy, Josh wrote a song.  I framed it, and am looking for a place to hang it so that I can point to it when he tells me I’m “evil.” Mwa hahahahaha!

Before you read this, I want to acknowledge that some people have expressed “concern” that he calls me “stepmom” instead of “mom.”  Actually, since he has PDD-NOS / autism spectrum disorder, this is just his being honest.  It’s also a way for him to acknowledge me in a mom role without betraying his bio mom.  So it’s really ok, people!

Here’s my song.

Elizabeth’s Song

You are a loving Stepmom
Because you talk to me

I love you because you are
Loving, caring, kind, loyal, and a good cook.

You are a caring stepmom
because you are respectful and nice

I love you because you are
Loving, caring, kind, loyal, and a good cook.

You are a kind stepmom
because you listen to me

I love you because you are
Loving, caring, kind, loyal, and a good cook.

You are a loyal stepmom
because you are committed to the family

I love you because you are
Loving, caring, kind, loyal, and a good cook.

You are a good cook
Because you make awesome food

I love you because you are
Loving, caring, kind, loyal, and a good cook.

What’s next, flying meat?

Who says that folks with autism have no sense of humor?

My oldest son proved that to be false when he moved in with us.  I’m going to let you know about an inside joke.

When Josh first moved in he loved going to the grocery store.  (Dispells another myth, too!) On one of our trips, he “helped” bag the groceries and put them in the cart while I checked out.  He put the green bell peppers in their own bag on the bottom of the cart.

As I wheeled the cart out of the store, Josh started laughing and running. The peppers had rolled out of the bag and were headed toward the parking lot.

“Oh, no, rolling peppers!”  he laughed.

We ran out, collected the peppers, and put them safely in the basket.

“Rolling peppers.  What’s next, flying meat?” Josh picked up a roast out of the cart and began making it fly like super man.

We laughed and laughed all the way home.  Then we came up with other things.

My infant daughter would drop food on the floor.  I’d say, “Falling grapes!  What’s next?” Josh would find something to say.  “Flying green beans?”  Which I’d counter, “There better not be!” And we’d laugh.

We have other jokes, too.  Like those lawyer commercials where they say the name of the firm and then a big “DONG” plays.  Once we parked in a law firm’s lot after hours.

“Look where we are!  It’s Metzger Wickersham!”


Dare I say that we were “generalizing” through these jokes? 🙂