My heart broke last night. It seems like it’s been breaking a lot as of late. This parenting thing is tough. And stepping in as a step-parent? It’s certainly not a role for the faint of heart.
I’ve avoided writing here because I wanted this space to be fun and filled with laughter and joy. My words over at my other site, A Big Umbrella, tend to be more serious, touching those tender places of heartbreak and loss. I wanted this to be my space to try writing with humor and lightheartedness, because there’s a lot of that in my family. And I’m grateful. And honestly? I wanted you to picture my life like a Brady Bunch episode. Sure, there are trials, but they’re fixed and resolved in less than 30 minutes. And there’s a housekeeper who cooks and cleans. Who doesn’t want that?
But that’s not my reality. This first year of marriage has been tough. Not because my husband and I don’t get along — we do. In fact, we get along so well that it freaks. me. out. As in there are days I withdraw a bit not because he’s hurting me in anyway, but rather, quite the opposite. He’s so nice. And sweet. And I struggle to reconcile the reality that marriage can be like this, this good, this easy, this encouraging with what I experienced for fourteen years through my first marriage. That hard. That filled with hurt and sorrow. I withdraw to try and protect my heart from being hurt again as I wait for the proverbial other shoe to come crashing down.
But there is no shoe dropping on this family of mine, on my heart. So why has it been a difficult year?
The kids. And not just any kids —stepkids. Kids carried in someone else’s womb, born and held in someone else’s arms. Someone who chose to walk away.
I’m not here to bash anyone, certainly not my stepkids’ mom. Everyone has a story, and while I know a piece of hers, I will not stand in judgment of it. I don’t know the entire story, and it’s simply not my place to judge.
But I am standing with the repercussions and let me tell you — it sucks. It hurts. And it breaks my heart to see how our actions as parents, as adults, directly impact the kids and the damage divorce leaves in its wake. It doesn’t matter if they’re twelve or twenty-two, divorce hurts everyone, including the kids.
This is the point where well-meaning people step in and ask, so why do it? If remarriage is so difficult, why do it? To which I respond, I fell in love.
I did. I fell in love with this man that just seemed to fit me. He gets me. He knows how to care for me, how to love me. He respects me and he respects my relationship with my oldest daughter, and has come to love her as well.
But I also fell in love with his kids with their crazy, puppy-like-rolling-all-over-eah-other-energy and constant need to touch me all. the. stinkin’. time. With their sassy attitudes and broken hearts. With their giggles and can’t quite-get-out-of-the-door-on-time-in-the-morning struggles.
Yes, I fell in love with them, too, but it is tough stepping in during these middle years. When hormones speak louder than rationality. When they already struggle to be accepted and included and then I go and change some expectations on them as me and their dad rewrite a new normal.
There are days when the pressure builds and I know if I don’t get some space, some time alone, I may just explode. When the frustration builds as I tell them, for the thousandth time, to clean their rooms, do their homework, and stop farting on their brother . . . Yes. That’s a thing in our house.
But then moments like last night come along. When the one in the middle, my tender guy, sat on the bed doing everything possible to hold back the tears that threaten to spill. Pinching his throat, pushing on his eyes, staring ahead looking his dad straight in the eye without blinking. This one who struggles with anxiety and belonging, whose mind races faster than his ability to speak, who just can’t focus to figure out how to do school, who can’t seem to get the thoughts and things he knows written down on paper.
I watched him and determined – this. This is why I choose the hard road. My mama-bear-love rose up, that deep primal protective love, love that I thought was only reserved for the children born of my body, stood ready to roar against the world who dare hurt this precious boy. Who dare to tell him that he isn’t smart or funny or capable. Because he is.
And this love is not just for him, it’s for all three of these kids that have captured my heart and burrowed their way into my love. The girl who longs for a mother’s love and the oldest boy who just wants to do what he thinks is right.
No, this hasn’t been an easy year. It’s been filled with tears and struggles and frustration. And while it may never be an episode on the Brady Brunch, it’s unfolding as it’s own kind of story. One filled with hope and healing and lots and lots of love. One I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.