That was a strange difference from how our mother “kept house“, and my sister and I were not sure what to make of this development. But that was just the first of many surprises awaiting us.
As much as Dad tried to make me feel welcome, my stepmother Beatrice yanked the very same welcome mat right out from under me. Crazy like a fox, though, she knew to be careful and not to be blatant with her behavior.
I tried my best to ignore her and knew if I needed anything my dad would take care of it. For whatever reason, Dad and my stepmother never sat down with all of us and discussed how we would operate as a family.
I guess they just expected us to wing it, or suddenly and magically know how it all fit together. But, like the instructions in an item purchased from Ikea, we had neither magic powers nor a manual to guide us on our new journey as a blended family. We were clueless, and getting any cues from our new stepmother was completely out of the question. Attempts to talk to her and glean hints about how things were going to be were futile; inevitably the conversation always turned back to her.
My dad set the rules for me and my sister, while my stepmother tried to set the rules for her children, Sissy and Kevin. This arrangement was far from perfect because of the inconsistency and unclear consequences. It was a guessing game as to what behavior would be acceptable and what would not. The truth was my dad trusted me to follow his rules and I truly did not want to disappoint him…or to somehow incur the wrath of my stepmother.
I went to school, returned home and went to my room to see my little dog Sniffer. When it was dinnertime, we ate together as a family. Sissy and I were expected to do the dishes and clean up after the meal. Conveniently, Sissy almost always had a friend call right at the moment we were putting our hands in soapy dishwater. This meant that I had to complete the task and wait for her to come back downstairs. She would conveniently show up just as the last plate was being put in the cupboard with a sheepish grin on her face.
It seemed I was the only one who figured out what she was doing. In an effort to not cause waves, I let it go (after exchanging some smart retort with Sissy).
And thus was set our pattern for our new family’s interactions.