Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Put the Blender on Frappe

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No need to introduce yourself; we've met before. You want to tell me about the man in your life -- the most amazing, beautiful man -- and I, of course, want to hear it. You met him at the grocery store/at a party/on a cruise/on the Internet/on Bourbon Street. That first date, you talked/danced/fought/kissed/quoted Monty Python all night long. He bakes his own bread/fixes his own plumbing/raises his own chickens/makes a killing on the stock market/has three Ph.Ds/loves kittens. He calls when he says he's going to call/does what he says he's going to do/never complains about the condom.
And the children! Have you mentioned his children? They are so sweet/talented/generous/gorgeous. You know that the older one will grow up to be an astrophysicist/dancer/model/doctor/soccer star, while the younger one will go on to play the violin/build bridges /march to the beat of his own drummer. Their mother, the ex? She's loopy/stupid/lazy/weird/spaced out on psychotropic drugs, but your man and his ex work to get along for the sake of the kids.

You're in love. You're dizzy with it. Dizzy/crazy/blind.

You're getting married.

The one thing you want to understand: why is everyone else so negative? Your mother cries and your friends quote statistics. Your stepdad, the man who raised you as his own, tells you not to do it. What is wrong with everyone?

They're just bitter/scared/jealous/worried, I say. You know your own heart and you must follow it. But before you do, I have few questions, a little test. Think carefully about your answers. Use a pencil to erase your mistakes. You have all the time in the world, but your results will go down on your permanent record.

1) Circle all of the things you've said since you agreed to marry a man with children:

a) "The kids already have a mother. I won't have to do a lot of parenting."
b) "His ex is remarried herself. She won't have any problems with me."
c) "The custody situation is all spelled out in the divorce agreement."
d) "The finances are all spelled out in the divorce agreement."
e) "The holidays are all spelled out in the divorce agreement."
f) "The children told their father that they just want him to be happy."

2) Circle all the things other people have said upon learning you will marry a man with children:

a) "Uh oh."
b) "Really? Are you the other woman?"
c) "What would you do that for?"
d) "Does he have a lot of money?"
e) "Well, you know he has kids, so at least you know what you're getting into."
f) "Why don't you just have your own children?"

3) You will first realize that this stepmom thing could be more difficult than you thought when:

a) Your soon-to-be stepdaughter throws up on the eve of your wedding and the other one cries all through the reception.
b) You are trying to redecorate the master bedroom, but the younger child follows you around, scooping up curls of her mother's old wallpaper and wailing in despair.
c) You peel a kiwi instead of slicing it in half, causing more weeping.
d) A child informs you that you're really scary without your make-up.
e) A child glares at you from across a restaurant table and says, "Do you have a daddy? Cause this is MY daddy."
f) Your husband's ex informs you that you need to start doing your share.

4) Your stepchildren's problems will become your problems when:

a) The seven-year-old's jelly shoe falls off while rafting down the Delaware River, and said child screams for five solid miles.
b) The thirteen-year-old refuses to eat anything but spinach, carrots, and Thai food, so you gain twenty pounds while plying her with spring rolls and red curry.
c) The children have any of the following: braces, doctor's appointments, parent-teacher conferences, dance lessons, piano lessons, recitals, talent shows, colds, bedtime stories, homework, regular meals, or the tendency to faint.
d) College applications require financial information from adults living in the child's primary residence, and that means you.
e) All of the above.

5) Fill in the blank. Being a stepmother is more like being a _______________.

a) Psychologist
b) Anthropologist
c) Adjunct Faculty Member at a Junior College
d) Hostage Negotiator

6) When your husband's ex calls the cops over a minor dispute and sends them to your house you will:

a) Call up your mom and keen like a psych patient
b) Threaten to throw the ex into the wood chipper a la Fargo
c) Threaten to throw self into wood chipper a la Fargo
d) Pack your stuff and prepare to move to somewhere more ordered and peaceful, like Afghanistan.

7) When you find the ex's diary among some old files, you will:

a) Put it in the shredder without telling anyone or reading a word
b) Read it, tell no one and then put it in the shredder
c) Read it and tell everyone
d) Publish it on the Web

8) At times, you might find yourself sympathizing with:

a) The Evil Queen from Snow White
b) Cinderella's Ugly Stepsisters
c) Sylvia Plath
d) Attila the Hun

9) You will be watching your stepkid's high school talent show when you will realize that:

a) Your husband and his ex managed an icy but civil exchange during intermission.
b) All the grandparents from both sides of the family are seated together.
c) You have fallen in love with your stepchildren.
d) "Talent" was defined differently in your day.
e) All of the above.

10) Ten years from now you will be riding in your car with your stepkid, who says:

a) "My breasts are bigger than yours."
b) "You used to be a lot thinner."
c) "You didn't just marry Dad. You married us, too. That must have been weird."
d) "Can we go get ice cream?"
e) All of the above.

11) Which phrase is a more accurate description of a stepfamily than "the blended family"?

a) The Origami Family
b) The Frappe Family
c) The Fondue Family
d) The Flying Wallendas
e) The Stupids

SCORING: Turn the quiz over. Write Pi to twenty decimal places. Add all the numbers together and multiply by the number of people in your extended stepfamily (including pets). Divide by fourteen and a half. Multiply by zero. This is your score. But does it really matter? Because you knew he had kids. You knew what you were getting into.

Laura Ruby is the author of I’m Not Julia Roberts, a collection of interconnected short stories about blended families.

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