CATCHY TITLE AND STEPDAUGHTER TIME
I spoke with a friend whose opinion I respect about this blog—as I didn’t know what the hell I was doing—and asked for suggestions. That is what he told me.
1-Keep the posts short
2-Use Catchy titles
3-And whatever I do don’t talk about myself because no one is interested in reading about me. I should write about Mary Astor who is the person potential readers will want to read about who click onto this site and blog.
In other words this is exactly what I don’t want to do. (How this for a catchy title: I PUT MY BABY IN A MICROWAVE AND HE GREW UP TO RUN A FORTUNE 500 COMPANY.) So I thought long and hard and concluded that I’m going to do what I’m going to do. I’m going to write about what I want to write and it’s going to be as long as it is going to be. As for Mary Astor, readers will have the Mary Astor button above to click if they want to read about her and let me tell you, there is plenty. This blog is going to be about me; and that’s that.
And, this is important. What I’m going to do here will be very fragmentary. In other words it will be something like a Jigsaw puzzle. Eventually when all the pieces are together you, reader, will have a complete picture of whatever I want you to have a complete picture of. And frankly, I have no idea what is that is going to be. In other words you will find out when I find out. In other words this blog will take on a life of it’s own.
But, what I will do is try to make all the pieces of that jigsaw puzzle interesting. You ca determine if I succeed.
SO, HERE GOES
Since I introduced the site and got all that movie gunk out of the way, I’m now free to begin assembling the jigsaw puzzle. This is what I will begin with. A while back I put together a small book in intended as an eBook composed of a collection of emails I wrote friends about step daughter while she turned from an angel of a child into a medusa of an adolescent. The how and why of writing this book is explained in the introduction and I’ll give you a sizable if not interesting excerpt. I post more in the future.
THANK GOD FOR VALIUM OR
HOW I SURVIVED MY DAUGHTER’S TERRIBLE
TEENS AND STILL LIVED TO TELL ABOUT IT
J. M. EGAN
(c) by J.M. Egan
All rights reserved. No part of this book
may be reproduced in any form by any
means or transmitted in any form by any
means, electronic or technical, including
photo¬copy, recording, in any information
storage and retrieval system, without
prior written permission of the author
Take note, this is not a ‘how-to-book’ as much as it a ‘commiseration book.’ In other words, if you, the reader, have gone through the ‘terrible teens’ with your own children you will be pleased to learn that you were not alone and that, in fact, another poor soul also had the privilege of suffering through those unforgettable years as well. A pour soul who, before it happened didn’t know it was coming, when it hit felt as if he was being washed over by a tsunami and, when it was finally over, still had a hard time believing what, indeed, had just happened. In other words, that our once sweet, respectful and obedient child had turned into human hurricane wreaking havoc on the previously tranquil lives of two extremely bewildered parents.
For those who haven’t yet suffered through their children’s terrible teens but, soon will, this book is a cautionary tale which should, at least, prepare you for what will most certainly be the most frustrating, exasperating and, at times, emotionally debilitating experience of your life. Do you remember the hell that you put your parents through during your teens, well folks, get ready. Sooner rather than later the world will turn again and it will be payback time.
Some background first. The genesis of this little book was sparked when a friend with two sons off-handedly remarked that his wife wondered what it would have been like to raise daughters. I knew the answer because, as a result of my second marriage, I had inherited three. Although, I don’t keep diaries I am a compulsive emailer. My emails are long, chatty and rather candid even about personal matters. Thus, over the previous five years I had written to friends and acquaintances on an almost daily basis voluminously about my terrible teen experiences with the youngest of my three step-daughters. So, as a favor to the man’s wife, I compiled most of the emails that I had written about my youngest step-daughter, Niccole, and sent them to my friend’s wife. That should have been that. But, as it often can happen, this little ‘off the cuff’ project took on a life of its own. A German friend to whom had I sent excerpts likened it to the “Reality TV” programs that are so popular in his country and wrote me that nothing even remotely like this sort of thing happens in Germany. Surprised to hear this, I eventually sat down and read this collection and was pleasantly surprised. What I had complied turned out to be a first-hand record of my daughter’s maturation from childhood into womanhood. And, what’s more, reading about it I re-experienced those years with the eye of a far more objective outsider.
This was somewhat peculiar for me because, at the time it was happening, I felt as though my wife and I were going through a kind of personal hell to which only we and we alone had ever been subjected. Now, reading about it I immediately realized that, in actuality, this had been a universal experience to which many parents were, are, and will eventually be subjected. Also—and this was something quite astounding for me to understand much less accept but—during these difficult years, my daughter had been no different from many other teenagers who at that age had had their own particular quirks and foibles as they struggled to find their own unique pathway into adulthood. In short, my daughter was a perfectly normal teen and not some human anomaly bent on destroying her mother’s and my sanity.
Strangely, what I enjoyed most about this little email collection was observing my often bewildered reaction to all this as well as the mistakes, sheer stupidly and, on rare occasions, wisdom that I exhibited in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity. In short, this collection of emails was about me as much as it was about my daughter and a clear indication of how difficult it was for me to tread water in a situation in which I was clearly way over my head. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I didn’t. I will let you, the reader, be the judge which and when.
Finally two rather reveling anecdotes. When I married for the second time I inherited 5—as in FIVE—step-children; two boys and three daughters. To be kind, their biological father was an MD with some very interesting theories on what constituted fatherhood. Having emigrated from the former Yugoslavia a number of years earlier, when he had lived with his children and wife—born in Poland and trained as an RN—the good doctor felt perfectly justified in being both physically and verbally abusive whenever it suited his mood and or temperament. This was one of the principle reasons why my wife eventually divorced him. Then, with him no longer living with his family he was—except for occasionally handing out cash—not particularly involved with his children’s lives. Thus, for the younger kids and especially the youngest daughter, Niccole, raising them fell on their mother and, as her new husband, on myself as well. As I would later conclude, it was not a job I had really signed on for.
About the time the two older girls had left for college my wife and I built a house on four wooded acres on the side of a mountain in Dutchess County New York near the Connecticut border. Although the children still living with us—the two boys and the youngest girl—were extremely bright, the New York City school system had failed them dismally. One boy was flunking classes and the other boy had actually been held back a grade. Consequently, both my wife and I agreed that we needed to leave the city. In addition, she and I were both burned out by our years residing in ‘The Big Apple.’ I had been living in the heart of Manhattan for close to 25 years; she in the heart of the borough of Queens for the same period and we no longer wanted or needed to experience the intensity that constituted the New York City lifestyle. What we wanted was a beautiful serene environment that would enhance the quality of our lives. So, in April 2002 we found it in Dutchess County and, purchasing the land built the house and, in early September, took up residence.
A year or so after we relocated to this small town 75 miles or so north of New York city, two incidents helped solidify my conscious understanding of the depth of feeling that I felt for Niccole, the youngest of my three stepdaughters and the subject of this book.
The first incident occurred after eleven old Niccole and I had an argument and, “to show me”, she fled the house and ran into the woods. It should be understood that our home is surrounded by deep woods where, if one doesn’t know their way, they can easily find themselves lost. Also of note is the fact that these woods contain bears as well as coyotes and at the time of Niccole’s “disappearance” it was late fall/early winter and she had on only a light jacket. Consequently, after ten minutes and no Niccole, her mother and I were beside her ourselves with worry. So, we searched and searched and the longer we searched the more worried we became. An hour stretched into two and then into three. By this time Niccole’s mother and I were the definition of the word frantic as I was picturing my step-daughter frozen to death with coyotes gathered around picking at her bones as they finished up their feast.
Then just as we were about to call the police, Niccole suddenly walked out of the woods. She had gotten lost and it had taken all this time to find her way back home. When my wife, who spotted her first, told me that she was back, I was so relieved that I literally collapsed onto the floor and cried like a baby. In order to ‘to keep things together’ I had suppressed my real emotions and, now that she was safe, they suddenly all burst forth. The thought of something happening to this little girl had been simply too dreadful for me to even contemplate.
The second incident occurred the following August when Niccole, her mother and I were on the Taconic Parkway headed south towards the city. My wife was driving, I was in the passenger seat paying the monthly bills and 12 year old Niccole was spread across the rear seat of our Ford Explorer napping. My wife wore a seat belt, Niccole and I didn’t. Then, suddenly, lost in what I was doing I heard my wife shouting “Move over! Can’t you see you’re pushing me over!” I looked up to see that the car in the next lane to the left on this two lane scenic parkway was edging over, forcing my wife to drive along the shoulder. The man was obviously drunk and had no idea what he was doing to us. Then, just as suddenly, our car shot up an embankment on the side of the road, did a 180 degree backward flip onto its roof with me, not wearing a seatbelt, shooting out the front window at 60 miles an hour. Luckily, I cleared the car a split second before it flipped on its side and then proceeded to roll over twice before finally landing upright on the parkway’s huge grass covered divider a 100 or so feet away from me. Also and this was lucky for me, the drivers behind us, seeing the trouble we were having, had slowed down and were able to stop in time to prevent me from becoming another example of road kill.
While I was sprawled out on that roadway drivers rushed out of their cars and ran over to help. Seeing them coming all I could do was to keep screaming, “Fuck me, go to the car and take care of the baby. TAKE CARE OF THE BABY.” Fortunately my wife had been wearing her seat belt and was able to walk away from the accident virtually unscathed. Just as fortunately Niccole—not wearing a seat belt—had, when the car flipped over onto its roof, gotten her arm caught in the space between the front passenger seat and center console. So, when the car rolled over she was literally stuck there and as it turned out only suffered a broken arm. Consequently, when the drivers returned and told me that I was in far worse shape than Niccole, I was so relieved that I started to cry and kept telling everyone, “Good. Good, better me. Better me. Thank God. Now I feel better.” It was at that precise moment that I realized that even though we weren’t related by blood, Niccole had truly become a daughter for whom I would have gladly given my life.
The emails collected here embrace the years 2006 through 2011 during which time my eldest step-son, Marko, had left for college and the youngest, Peter, enlisted in the Marines. Subsequently, the only one of the five children still living with their mother and I was Niccole. She had just turned 14 and, as I can attest, her terrible teens had officially begun.
Here Are some Entries From 2007
Wednesday August 29, 2007
Niccole is back from Poland and now she and her mother speak Polish almost exclusively. Thus It has now become a Polish house. If you can believe this, I frequently need to ask for translations to understand what they are talking about. Talk about feeling like an outsider.
Tuesday September, 11 2007
The nightmares are now really beginning. Niccole turned 16 in early July. As we wanted her to have a license as quickly as possible (and therefore, especially up here, assuring her the degree of independence that a 16 year old requires) the entire summer—including her trip to Europe—was structured around her getting her junior license before school started in the fall. In fact, we could have sent her to Europe a month earlier and she could have returned two weeks later if it wasn’t for this license business. So, the day she turned 16 Niccole took the written test in the morning and the 5 hour requirement class that night. Two days later she was in Greece. Because we had told family with whom she was staying to take her on the road as much as possible, when Niccole returned her mother determined that she was ready for the road test. All she needed was to drive a bit more and work on her parallel parking which is exactly what her mother did with Niccole. It should be noted that her mother had taken her vacation at this time so that she could be here to work with Niccole on her driving.
OK, the day before the driving test Niccole–on the school’s Volleyball team—exerts herself too much and develops bursitis in her shoulder. Then, because she continued to play—and used other muscles to compensate—by the end of practice it hurt her to walk. When she returned home she couldn’t even make it up the stairs to her bedroom. So, her mother pumped her with anti-inflammatory medication and massaged her shoulder every two hours. By 11:00 at night Niccole could walk up the stairs to her bedroom and the next morning the pain had been reduced to merely discomfort.
The driving test was scheduled for 12:00 PM and the two were there on time. The only trouble was that Niccole was supposed to have printed up a form from the web and, filled out, required to hand it to the Tester. So, Niccole’s mother literally begged the woman to re-schedule for later that day. The woman took pity and gave them a 3:00 appointment. Niccole and her mother raced home (a one hour drive) to print up the form. Guess what? No electricity. The power was out up here for three hours. Niccole’s mother, who is very good in a crisis, then raced down to a local copy store which still had power and begged the owner to allow Niccole to go on the web and print out the form. Form filled out, they raced back to the test area and arrived at five minutes to three. Niccole took the test and passed. She had her license and our problems were over. Well, at least I hope they are.
What follows is a short essay that Niccole wrote for her freshman college English class about that “infamous” junior license. I’m including so as to give her point of.
In the town in which I lived a car is an absolute necessity. My home is located on the side of a mountain deep in the woods, miles from both the local town and from my friends. So, driving my own automobile I was now free to go anywhere I wanted without having to depend on someone else for transportation. Prior to driving my own car, traveling to school meant riding in a big, ugly yellow school bus. It smelled of old leather seats and a bus load of sweaty kids. Worse, during the entire ride I was forced to listen to screaming kids who helped make those trips to and from school one of the worst experiences of my day. That being the case, once I received my driver’s license I felt like someone who had just received a ticket to an amusement park without any waiting lines. Not only wasn’t I required to ever take that awful school bus again but, with my driver’s license in hand, I was now able to enjoy the parties and ‘get-togethers’ that would comprise some of the best times that I had during my last years in high school. Also driving my own car I could choose with whom I spent my time thereby developing strong and meaningful friendships. Now, being able to go where and when I pleased allowed me to better appreciate living in an isolated country home located in the midst of a beautiful natural setting. I must admit, although the 1996 Isuzu Rodeo that I drove often broke down and gave me considerable trouble, the good times I experienced driving that car far outweighed the bad times and I will never forget them.
It’s sounds so reasonable from her point of view. Interesting that she doesn’t mention any of those unforgettable experiences. There is a reason for that; just keep reading and you’ll find out why.
Tuesday September 11, 2007
Niccole had her license just three days—it’s was a Saturday—and leaving at 5:00 PM she told us that she was going to a friend’s house—a girl. Now, up here a junior license allows the holder to drive during the day but is restricted with regards to driving at night. In Niccole’s case she can’t be on the road an hour after sunset which is determined to be 9:00.
9:00, no Niccole. Same for 10:00. Same for 11:00. We call her cell and no answer. We are generally worried. My wife asks me if she should look for her.
“Get her!” is my answer.
I stayed home so that, if Niccole did return, I could call her mother. Her mother then goes to the girl’s house. No Niccole. It seems that Niccole left much earlier to go to a boy’s house. So, a bristled mother orders the girl into the car and the girl directs her to the boy’s house.
They arrive at the boy’s house. Niccole’s car is there but, when her mother rings the bell, no answer. So, it is a pretty irate mother who opens the door—up here no one locks their front door—and walks in. No parents. No other children; just an empty house. No one’s in the kitchen or living room. When Niccole’s mother heads down the hall to the bedrooms, a 17 year old boy walks out of one of the bedrooms and surprised to see this strange woman standing there asks her, “Who are you?” He is even more surprised by the answer.
“I’m Niccole’s mother, so get the hell out of my way.”
Her mother marches into the bedroom, sees Niccole on the boy’s bed—clothes on thank God—and says to her, “You are fucked. Up and out!” My wife says good-bye to the boy who is standing there too shocked to say anything. Outside she tells Niccole to head home while, she drives the friend home.
That night her mother really gave it to Niccole. When asked why she didn’t answer the cell, Niccole said that she knew that her mother would have said “no” if she, Niccole, had told her where she was going. Niccole’s mother announced that Niccole can’t use the car on weekends for a month. The next morning when everyone is considerably calmed there is a meeting. I do the talking. I tell Niccole,
“Niccole, look, if you want to get laid, be my guest. It’s your body; you do what you want with it. When I was sixteen no one was going to tell me what I could or could not do with my body. I fought my father tooth and nail about my long hair. You are the one who is going to have to deal with that boy talking to his friends about what he ‘got off you’ and all the kids in school hearing about it. You are going to have judge what quality of person that any boy with whom you have sex is and how discreet they are. And, if it comes down to it you, and not us, are going to have to have an abortion. OK, that’s called adult responsibility. The issue here is not morality. The issue here is that you were out with the car after 9:00. If a cop had stopped you, you could have had your license taken away from you for a few months. Everybody at this table made a lot of sacrifices to ensure that you had that license. The objection is that you are playing games with it.”
Niccole’s mother agreed that Niccole was probably just testing us. Since she was a child, Niccole has always been a big-time rule tester and thus, her mother would not restrict Niccole’s weekend driving “this time.” We told Niccole that she had been warned and that next time the restriction would take hold.
In two years, Niccole will be off to college and I am counting the days. As Niccole has four older siblings, this is the fifth time—and, thank God, last time—I will have to go through this sort of thing and I believe five is more than enough!
Finally, could you imagine fathers telling their daughters what I told Niccole in 1965. If that had happened—teenage sex without guilt—today most psycho-analysts would be on the unemployment line.
Thursday September 20, 2007
Niccole started her first job last Friday Night. She is working for a caterer who operates out of a local country/golf club. The club rents out their hall space for weddings and the like and Niccole works directly for the caterer. I felt so bad for her as her Friday would have been a tough day for anyone much less someone starting their first day of work. Up at 6:30 for school; volley Ball practice till five and, then, the caterer after that. She didn’t get home until 1:00 in the morning. Then on Saturday she was up at 8:00 for Volley Ball Practice, back home at 12:30 for a nap and then at 2:00 she off for her to second day of work not finishing until two in the morning. Fortunately, on Sunday she slept most of the day. Her mother and I felt pained for her but we raised her tough and it seems to have paid off. On Friday when I asked how she was going to make it though the day, she told me, “I’m just going to have to just tough it out.” Then on Monday she told her mother that she wants to also work this Thursday night. God, was I fucking impressed!
Tuesday September 25, 2007
A new Niccole adventure: Sunday night she told us that she was going to a friend’s house and would be back around 6:00 PM.
6:00 and no Niccole.
7:00 and No Niccole.
8:00 and No Niccole.
By this time her mother and I were frantic. Niccole didn’t answer her phone and none of her friends knew where she was. I was leaving voice-mail messages every five minutes. I tell her mother that if Niccole was in an accident, she would call and if she was killed in an accident the police would call. (This was my half-assed way of trying to lessen the woman’s worry. It of course had the opposite affect.) So, I tell my wife not to worry but, meanwhile I am, as usual, fearing the worst.
So, I plant Niccole’s mother in front of the television and turn on “Dexter” (of all shows) and tell her to get ‘into’ the program. I’m so tense that I’m making her tense so I walk to my office/cabin and do some busy work. Because I am growing more and more worried I am imagining all sorts of car accident scenarios. What makes it worse was that we had one of the tires replaced on Niccole’s car and Niccole had called at 5:00 PM to complain that it was hard making turns as the alignment was off. Finally, at 9:00 PM my wife gets a call. I’m so happy that I have not only forgiven Niccole for putting us through this hell but want to shower her with presents for merely being alive.
When Niccole arrived home we all sat down in the family room for a “talk”. What followed was a very intense half hour “conversation.” Because I was so relieved that she wasn’t dead, I was calm as pie and everyone was both receptive as well as communicative. I learned an invaluable lessen; stay Calm! Calm! Calm!
It seems Niccole had left the phone in the car and didn’t think it was all that important to tell us that she would be late. While her mother, so angry that the woman couldn’t speak, let me have the floor. I explained to Niccole what her mother and I went through and tell Niccole that from now on she is to leave the name of the person she is going to visit as well as their telephone number on the kitchen counter.
Niccole was annoyed telling us she doesn’t like being treated like a five-year-old. I tell her, “Well, when you behave like one you are treated like one.”
Her mother finally enters the conversation and told Niccole that if something like this happens again that she (Niccole’s mother) will take Niccole’s cell phone away from her for a week. You should have seen how Niccole perked hearing that. When Niccole tried to turn it around—she’s quite good at that—I let her get it all out before I told her that she was like a defendant who is accusing the prosecutor of all sorts of things hoping that the judge will be distracted enough to forget what the defendant is on trial for. Anyway it all got worked out. But, again, what I learned was to be calm! Calm! Calm!
Nevertheless, when I got back to my office/cabin, I immediately took a valium