petite anglaise

October 24, 2005

evil stepmother

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:06 pm

The pre-teen girl was previously an unknown quantity to me.

Being the parent of a toddler means that I have some insight into the contrary nature of the beast known as the two year old, and have not inconsiderable experience in the dark art of heading off/dealing with temper tantrums. I also vaguely remember what one year olds are about: an unsteady gait, an extremely limited vocabulary and the tell-tale rosy cheeks of teething. However, my memories of the first twelve months of Tadpole’s life are fast receding. If someone were to hand me a newborn, I’d be just as reluctant to hold it as I was pre-Tadpole. I seem to have forgotten how. Then there are the things I have blocked out of my mind for a reason, a form of selective amnesia, like the thrice daily expressing sessions I spent hidden in the work toilets. (If you don’t know what I mean by “expressing”, trust me, ignorance is bliss).

Children any older than Tadpole are far beyond the limits of my comprehension. I see Tadpole’s future through a fog of apprehension about coping with a potentially upsetting Barbie obsession, or an unfortunate addiction to the colour pink. So, when I met my lover from Rennes, father of two pre-teen girls who come to stay on alternate weekends, I was understandably nervous. What would they be like? How would I be expected to behave (by both him and by them)? Would they warm to me, and to Tadpole, or resent us for getting in the way on their precious weekends with dad? Seen through their eyes, was I young and cool? Or distressingly old and hopelessly out of touch? How on earth does one talk to an eight or ten year old?

Six months down the line, having spent several weekends in the company of my potential stepdaughters, both with and without Tadpole, I have to say that thankfully my initial fears proved to be groundless.

Reassured by my lover that it would not be a big deal, I decided the best way to play it was to just be myself (albeit with slightly less freedom in my choice of expletives) and let them take me or leave me. Talk to them as young adults, without condescension. Avoid resorting to bribery or bombarding them with questions. Trust in the fact that what we do have in common – love for their father – would prove to be sufficient common ground for us to forge some sort of relationship.

So, on weekends where we all find ourselves in Rennes, the girls do their thing (drawing pictures of ponies, their obsession, performing dance routines to Christina Aguilera songs, making Scoubidou bracelets or watching programmes about animals in danger on Sky TV) and I do mine (grabbing their dad’s bottom sneakily when just out of eyeshot, reading a book in the next room, surfing the internet, or lazing around drinking tea). We co-exist, at ease with one another’s presence, none of us feeling the need to populate our silences with unnecessary nervous chatter. I’d be lying if I said I don’t look forward to the time when they will be tucked up in bed and I can spend some time alone with my lover. But all good things are improved by having to wait.

And so it came to pass that this Tadpoleless Rennes weekend was mostly spent watching a Lemony Snicket film (highly recommended) and playing board games (Cranium Cadoo).

And finding, almost in spite of myself, that it was really quite enjoyable.


  1. a fog of apprehension about coping with a potentially upsetting Barbie obsession

    A word of warning: Bratz are the new thing. Barbie”s still alive and kicking, but she’s got competition in the popularity stakes…

    Comment by Iain — October 24, 2005 @ 4:22 pm

  2. Petite as the evil stepmother? Nah. As a mother of a pre-teen, I would just like to share that pre-teen girls have a flair for melodrama and mood swings. Just don’t take things too personally.

    My daughter is also obsessed with horses. (Quite an expensive hobby that my husband and I subsidize on her behalf.) Pre-teen girls tend to form strong relationships with other girls and adults who love horses. Do you like horses?

    If you do, it is the perfect way to get to know the girls and have fun together. By the way, when it comes time for gifts anything horse-y will do. My daughter and her friends never met a horse or anything horse-related they didn’t love.

    Comment by Elle — October 24, 2005 @ 5:02 pm

  3. But you’re gonna cook them and eat them in the end… right…?!?

    Comment by JonnyB — October 24, 2005 @ 5:25 pm

  4. I think you’ve chosen a solution that’s going to work well. Children love being treated as a little older than they are, as long as they don’t think you’re patronising them, and I’m sure you’re not.

    It’d be good if they saw you as a fun ‘older sister’ who’s understanding and calm. Give each of them a little quality time that they hadn’t counted on and they’ll love you :o)

    You could conspire with them over what you should each give their father for Christmas – perhaps even help them with something home-made, I’m sure that they’d love that!

    Comment by David H — October 24, 2005 @ 5:28 pm

  5. You’ve got the right idea. My stepmom and I had a hard go if it at first, but she is one of my best friends at this point in my life. It clicked for us when she started being herself. Sounds like you have a great handle on that already!

    Comment by Heather — October 24, 2005 @ 7:13 pm

  6. I’m with Heather on this one. It’ll work itself out. My stepmom is a wonderful person and it took me 10 years to figure that out. Now? We go together like peas and carrots. Biggest (unfounded) worry? That she’d try to act like my mom. Be friendly, be an advocate for them, but above all be the joy and love of Dad’s life — they’ll love you for that alone. Good luck!

    Comment by Alyce — October 24, 2005 @ 8:06 pm

  7. The hardest spot will be in dealing with dad in a few years, when the boys start coming by to see ‘his girls’.

    Comment by joeinvegas — October 24, 2005 @ 10:34 pm

  8. Happy to hear that you coexist without tension thus far. That’s a battle won in itself!

    Comment by yayaempress — October 24, 2005 @ 10:48 pm

  9. Hey…I wrote a series of emails from Europe when I went on a 4 month journey. That was before blogs!

    I’d love to do a blog link exchange. Mine is

    Let me know if you’re interested.


    Comment by Bill Hicks — October 25, 2005 @ 3:47 am

  10. Has it been six months already!?!? Time flies.

    Comment by Aeogae — October 25, 2005 @ 4:05 am

  11. I remember when my firstborn was only a few weeks old, looking with horror at another young mum’s toddler who was constantly having to be dragged out of potential trouble and thinking, Well, I’ll never let my child behave like that! Second child was the one who went from toddler to teenage tantrums without a break – a boy, of course!

    Comment by Jennyta — October 25, 2005 @ 9:17 am

  12. Well as long as you don’t go getting any eyes tattooed on your ankles the girls should be fine. Personally I didn’t think the film was as good as the books which are fab.

    Comment by Universal Soldier — October 25, 2005 @ 9:41 am

  13. I have a tweenager.

    I also have experience of others tweenagers, teenagers and wannabees.

    My only advice is to retain that air of mystery with them.

    Comment by Greavsie — October 25, 2005 @ 10:50 am

  14. For pictures of horses, this is where it’s at.

    And for Tadpole, there’s this.

    Comment by suziboo — October 25, 2005 @ 11:13 am

  15. Petite – ‘Wicked’= cool, mischevous, up for it,.. wicked sense of humour etc, but of course! Stepmother – yes, well on the way to being an ideal stepmum as well as mum. Wicked stepmother, perhaps….. but evil stepmother? No way!

    Comment by fella — October 25, 2005 @ 12:09 pm

  16. As long as you don’t use phrases such as “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!” You should be just fine.

    Now of course, once the full teen years and hormonal overload kicks in, well, that will be a different test alotgether………

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — October 25, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

  17. It sounds to me like you had a very nice weekend, and that is all that matters :) I also love the film, having a pre-teen, tween and 7 year old (where do they fit in?) as well.

    I wish I could be as calm. I tend to have my freak out moments…

    Comment by Beltane — October 25, 2005 @ 3:38 pm

  18. Cranium Cadoo goes very well with vodka.

    Comment by Tim — October 25, 2005 @ 6:49 pm

  19. Tim – I suspect you mean the adult version. I’m sure they have you making far more interesting items with the play doh?

    Comment by petite — October 25, 2005 @ 7:45 pm

  20. :D ….si contente que tu aies pu passer des moments agreables en leur compagnie!

    Comment by Kiora — October 26, 2005 @ 3:58 am

  21. …whilst I just survey the harmonious scene with a serene smile on my face…and a cat o’nine tails in my hand.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — October 26, 2005 @ 10:40 am

  22. (My favourite credit ever is on Lemony Snickett. It was so nice of them tot animate them so charmingly for us)

    Comment by sam — October 26, 2005 @ 11:57 pm

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