It's an interesting thing to blend a family. Adding "Step" in front of common monikers, intertwining family traditions, co-mingling midget types not born to you that suddenly look to you for guidance. One year ago (tomorrow actually) I said "I do" not only to my husband but to three little ones who call me Step... mom.
One year ago, I would've never known the dramatic ups and downs, twisty topsy turvy wonder that my life would become. There were times, if I'm being honest, that I though running away might be a viable option. Especially when you add jealous ex spouses and the confused loyalties of little ones who unknowingly drink the venom of a less-than-kind-parent. Yes there were times where scooping up my OWN three mini ninjas and running for the hills looked pretty sweet.
Why? Because it's harder (and more rewarding) than I ever thought possible. When you're a "Step", you actively choose to be a part of a child's life. You make a conscious decision to do a large chunk of work for not a lot of credit. You enforce the parents decisions without the benefit of parental authority. You "step" back when you want to lunge forward. You don't have the lead role but try your very best as supporting actor/actress. You don't get the same rewards as a biological parent, the cuddling or snuggling or unconditional love that comes with automatically sharing the same birth surname.
Not only do you have those hurdles... but if you walk into a volatile situation as I did (we'll call it the "Bitter Betty EX syndrome) you are automatically suspect. The Enemy as it were. Constantly having to prove that you care about all children equally, whether biological or blended. Trying to juggle appropriate guidance and discipline without earning the dreaded "Stepmonster" title. Assuaging fears of womb born daughters that no one is going to "take their place". Juggling emotions of children transitioned from one household to another, remaining impartial; attempting with every fiber not to react to horrible things being said about you... when all you try to do is your very best.
All that garbage being said... all that difficulty... it's important to remember the upside. There is an upside you know. Parenting isn't about accolades even at the best of times. To see children grow and change and adapt and even flourish is the very best unspoken thank you can receive. It's not about getting credit, it's about seeing a child's joy. It's about showing three little ones, who I chose to be with, and three little ones who were born to me... the wonder of how to celebrate life.
The one thing I've done to the best of my ability, is to show all the children what's truly important. The little things that aren't so little. Not the buying of things but the present of "being present". Making each instant about kindness and love. Kids don't remember what presents they got for Christmas but they sure remember how special it was to play board games with mugs of hot chocolate and lots of laughter by a twinkling tree. They might not remember the toy they "had" to have for their birthday but they'll sure remember laughing and dancing and playing in the dark with 99 cent glow sticks on their special day.
All six children get along better than I ever could have hoped. Yes, even with the jealousy malarkey, they are the best of friends. They laugh and play and love each other in ways I never thought possible. One of the very best rewards I ever could have imagined was actually being able to SEE the compassion I've taught my own children magically make it's way across family borders to their step siblings. To SEE that what you've taught has sunk in is priceless. How else do you practice kindness and courage unless there is a situation in which to practice such things?
So when my stepchildren come home spouting how much their mom hates me... when I constantly have to be on guard of my emotions and how that may affect them... when I have cried myself to sleep at night for hateful things spouted out of the mouths of babes... I quickly recover. I remember what's important. I remember that I chose this... them... us. I remember that parenting is a thankless job and that step parenting takes even that a step... further.
This has been the most difficult, amazing, and rewarding year of my life. (and I haven't even spoken of my marriage to my wonderful husband) To make a choice every single day to "step"... into a life filled with magic and the wonder of children. To make a choice to be completely present is hard work... but totally worth it. Here's to continuing to step forward for another year... step by step... year by year... choosing to step into my swirly colorful blended family.
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