It's the next phase of things, and it's not without weirdness.
I showed up late in her life, right at the point where she was starting to get an idea of independence and what it could possibly mean to her, as an individual. The last thing she needed was a male authority figure in her life; she had experienced that kind of action before, and with people who didn't necessarily care about her, only wanted obedience or a built-in babysitter.
This relegated me to a lot of spectatorship. I never quite figured out how to talk to her about serious things. I wouldn't call it a personality conflict, per se, but a difference in speech patterns.
It's hard to tell when I'm joking. I know this. And I have days when little things set me off. I know this, too. I think most people are the same way. But she never quite figured out how to take me. I learned that the my normal way of talking and approaching things would be enough to set her off, upset her, hurt her feelings somehow. I had to learn new patterns of speech. Careful patterns. Sometimes, even resorting to silence, when I couldn't figure out how to say something in a way that wouldn't come across as abrasive or critical.
It made me a little afraid of her, and I know there were times when Cootie felt caught in the middle of things, like the bridge between her husband and her daughter. Not an enviable position.
You would think I would know myself better than that. Even know, I can remember being mad, furious, but I'll be dipped in shit if I can remember what those emotions were about. Money? Groceries? The things that have managed to work themselves out?
We may end the month with a dollar in the bank, but that's still in the black, kids.
Rhiannon has been living here with her boyfriend, Brady, for almost a year now. Kind of an early jump into womanhood, but we would rather that than forcing her to sneak about or hide what she's doing. That causes wedges and rifts, and it's not helpful in any imaginable way. When you're a young couple, like Rhi and Brady are, you are deciding for the first time how you want your lives to be arranged, what you like, what cabinet the plates should go in, how you fold your clothes.
That sometimes grates on me. Sometimes the dishes don't get done. The measuring cup gets put away in a different place every time; it's a constant mystery, because there's no rhyme or reason to it.
Two separate couples, leading two separate lives under the same roof.
That's where it gets weird. The shift of viewpoint of her from my stepdaughter with a massive Pez dispenser collection to this autonomous being with one foot in our kitchen and one foot in her own. She's making life plans. College. Weddings. Babies. Jobs. All that shit that I am done with.
I have advice concerning all those things.
I have experience within all those things.
I am keeping my mouth shut.
These are all decisions she gets to make. She'll undoubtedly fuck some things up and have learn how to swim through them, just like Cootie and I did.
It's a different level of spectatorship.
I've always said the best thing I ever did for Rhiannon was to love her mother as fiercely as I do. I stuck around. I made an effort. I tried to give a sense of constancy, stability.
But I do hope the day comes, as she matures some, that she realizes just how much I do love her. The things I've done for her that she'll never know anything about. Maybe even the small things I've done will begin to add up in her brain. And she'll understand that I never set out to hurt her or make her feel weird or small, never wanted to undermine her self-confidence. I wanted her to think for herself. Think about the future. Grow up some before she became a grown-up. I wanted her to be ready for the shitstorm life can become. It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how.
We'll have that conversation someday, she and I. I feel sure of it.
After all, we're all adults here.