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We were still evolving as a family but committed to making it work. I'm hyperconscious of not wanting to appear—to Noah, to Bob, to anyone standing nearby—as if I'm trying to replace Noah's mom. I'm acutely aware that to outsiders, I seem like a cold, detached mother. The worst was when one woman who'd found her way over to Noah turned toward me and instructed him to "wave at Mommy!
Noah, a smiley, well-adjusted kid, was excited for a new playroom and a backyard, and he seemed unconcerned with the arrangement until it came time to go to bed. At restaurants, I let Bob order for him; in front of Bob's friends, I don't discipline. On a recent "family" trip, Noah was the toast of the hotel pool: "Your son's so adorable! " Before I could explain to this stranger that Noah was not in fact my son, Noah let her know that his Mommy lives in Massachusetts with a cat named Stella.
Now, when Noah gets up at 4 a.m.—and he does often—we direct him to a sleeping bag on the hardwood floor. I've always been a supportive, generous person. For many of us in our 20s and 30s, having it all was the plan—a career, friends, clothes/car/vacations, the man and, one day, maybe, the kids, in that order. Bob says he was a hyper child and is still, at times, a hyper adult.
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.