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Noah is always the loudest kid in the playground, the crankiest one at the party.
He talks nearly nonstop from the moment he gets up until the moment he succumbs to sleep.
And yet, although it's perfectly acceptable, probably even normal, for a mother to admit that her own child drives her bananas at times, I cannot.
It feels like a judgment against someone else's parenting skills—and I'm not sure either Bob or his ex thinks I have the right to an opinion. I argue that Bob is too lenient with Noah; Bob argues back—informing me that I'm impatient, inflexible, conservative and a bit of a schoolmarm.
The squeezable applesauce I picked up at Whole Foods? Bob and I have explained to Noah that I'm not Mommy, but I can still be his friend.
And usually, I am—as long as we're both in the mood for it. Then I realize that he probably feels the same way.
On his birthday, he unwrapped the gift I gave him, threw it on the floor and said, "I've already got one of these at Mommy's house." (He didn't.) Meanwhile, he opened the third Star Wars lightsaber of the evening with as much joy and gratitude as he had the first. No one—not my parents, my friends, anyone I've ever been in charge of in a professional capacity, nor the guy in front of me at the red light—would describe me as patient, and being around Noah without some sort of freak-out often requires me to become a person I am not. On the summer day Noah begged and pleaded for cottage cheese and then refused to eat from the container I'd opened—"I want Daddy to do it! Most days, I'm positive my ambivalence along with my failure to act like a mature adult will eventually cause me to destroy what is otherwise the most fulfilling, caring and adult relationship I've ever had.
" he cried over and over—I took a spoonful of the stuff and hurled it at him. There are nights when I'll read Noah a book before bed or help Bob pack his schoolbag.
It barely grazed his cheek, but we both burst into tears. But there are also Saturdays when my primary urge is to take off for a day of yoga, shopping, a manicure and lunch with my girlfriends, or to lie in bed all day and read.
And then he'll sheepishly admit that he's loath to spend what little time he has with Noah in discipline mode. I don't want to impose on their relationship, and I don't want to be the evil stepmonster. His obsession with his father—and most men, in fact—is both unsurprising and kind of heartbreaking.
Already, I know that Noah sees me as competition for his father? He's just getting to the age where it's evident that he can feel the effects of his fractured family and is searching to understand his place? He talks about Mommy a lot, generally when we're all having fun.