Monday, November 28, 2005


Can you believe it? I’m a legal guardian. I have two unfortunate stepchildren whose stepdad makes beer at home and brushes his dogs’ teeth.

We hear parents talk about how difficult it was to raise infants, with midnight feedings and diapers. But no one ever gives credit to the stepparent who has kids dumped in his/her lap. A lot of people think that if someone acquires children who can already walk and talk and go to the bathroom by themselves, then this person has gotten off easy. Well, I say that quite the opposite is true: babies can be molded to a great degree. They have you as their role model – their god – from before they can remember, so you are incorporated into their psyche as an unquestionable authority figure. Pre-formed children, on the other hand, already have previous experiences and beliefs, and adults who enter their lives after their consciousness has developed must pass through this filter. This is the situation I was thrust into, the result being that my stepkids were able to see from Day One what a dweeb I am.

My older child is a car-crazy teenager. He reads up on all the latest models and trends, so when he got his drivers license, I guess I showed what a square I am when I offered him my Nissan Sentra. He’s over 6 feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds, and my old car was so small that circus clowns would refuse to get into in on the grounds that there wasn’t enough room.

As for college, I sure hope he gets a student loan because my mortgage payments keep me so poor that homeless people throw change at me. One place I know he won’t be able to afford to go is Harvard (“Where mediocre students pay exorbitant sums to say they went to Harvard”). A single year at this school costs more than my Camry, and anyway, Harvard is basically full of lawyer larvae.

Speaking of college, I heard they changed the SAT so that there is now an essay question. That’s all well and good, but isn’t a person’s score then subject to the opinions of the graders? And since different people will be grading different tests, won’t that make the scoring inconsistent? At least with multiple choice, everyone is on equal ground. For example:

What is the largest bird of prey?
A) Himalayan Griffon vulture
B) Californian condor
C) F. Lee Bailey

My younger child is the quintessential boy: rambunctious, active, and always covered with a layer of dirt. I like to play with him because I never grew up. Some people say I’m going through a midlife crisis, but that’s impossible because I haven’t passed adolescence yet.

I once went through the traumatic experience of taking him fishing. I never liked fishing very much, not that there’s anything wrong with the act of fishing itself, but I simply detest worms. I’m not squeamish around other animals; I like snakes, lizards, even spiders, but I find worms disgusting. Well, fortunately for me, my child has no compunctions about handling the little buggers, so he baited the hook. As much as I can’t stand worms, I felt kind of bad about the fact that he was skewering and drowning them, so even if I didn’t mind handling them, I probably still wouldn’t have been able to bring myself to shove hooks down their throats, unless they had little faces that looked like Martha Stewart. Anyway, my child didn’t catch a fish all day, but he got plenty of nibbles. In fact, many worms got eaten right off the hook. These fish were very smart, probably because they travel in schools (har!). Seriously, one of them actually gave us The Fin. That’s right, we got flipped off by an animal that can’t even use silverware. That has to be the most degrading, insulting thing in the world, unless you count registering a car at the Motor Vehicle Administration.

I make sure my kids get plenty of life experiences. I am not one of those parents who raise their children in an overly safe, insulated environment, like a veal calf. They need to learn while they’re young that this world is not always the way we want it to be: there is war, poverty, disease, and Jesse Helms.

The thing you have to watch out for when living with stepkids, or any kids, or a spouse for that matter, is insanity. The stresses of family life can push your mind over the edge. One way to tell that you’re losing your mind is when you start to not recognize words. An implumous flumen might result when you realize that you’re suffering from obdormition. This can rontle your vaculum and is often accompanied by anuresis. If this starts happening, visit http://www.pills.calm.