It's Christmas and We're Raising Olivia

It’s Christmas day and I've got a few minutes when everyone at our house is busy. I have a soon-to-be twelve year-old stepdaughter and I’m enjoying raising her and having the opportunity to influence her in so many positive ways. I've been Olivia’s step dad since she was 8 years old. My own children are grown and all in their twenties, leading productive lives. I’m getting to do it all over again and I love it. The Christmas gift that seems to have been the biggest hit was the knee-high sneakers we got her. You know, those black canvas things with the white rubber soles. She’s got them all laced up and has had them on since we opened gifts this morning (they looked the best with her pajamas and bathrobe). 

It’s been wonderful this morning, watching her be a little girl once again, a nice break from the regular hormonal rages and her regular disdain for wanting to be with her mother and I. It seems like just yesterday, she was 9 and collecting Webkins. No more. One day back then, she approached us and asked if she could have some legos. We gladly complied with her request because it was something that wasn’t electronic or had a video screen attached to it, and required her to use her creative self. But it didn’t take long before I would notice her building a castle with legos one minute and then trying on dresses in front of her mirror a few minutes later. 

She’ll be twelve in just a few weeks and the legos are long gone. Instead, her room has been repainted to a lime-green and purple color scheme and she now dons clothing that could have been worn by a character in one of Tim Burton’s movies (Beetle Juice, Edward Scissor Hands, or Nightmare Before Christmas). My favorite (not) is her ”truck driver” look; jeans, moonwalker boots, a guitar hero t-shirt, a vest, sunglasses, and one of the cheap, mesh baseball caps that you usually see the work TEAMSTERS airbrushed on it. Her mother and I continue to bite our tongue as she develops her identity and we continue to give our business to the local thrift clothing stores.

Her two older brothers will be here soon (18 and 22), arriving from their father’s apartment for an overnight visit. Soon after that, my wife and I will begin to hear the groans of victory and defeat coming from the rec room downstairs as the three of them practice their eye-hand coordination with Mario on the Wii. My wife and I will also notice a familiar transformation; Olivia’s voice will change slightly, she will talk to us differently, and her mannerisms will morph as she emulates her brothers. It’s her way of bonding and connecting with them. 

We have learned to ignore it and not take this temporary change personal. It’s been a while since I went over the “house rules” with all three of them to help the boys transition to our home, so I’ll make a note to do that just as a refresher. I don’t expect to get much response except quiet acknowledgements from the boys and rolling eyes from Olivia. Someone once said that raising teenagers is like trying to nail jello to a tree. The secret is your patience when it slips to the ground.


© 2013 Bill Corbett  -   All Rights Reserved

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