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Love ‘Em While You Have ‘Em

Love ‘Em While You Have ‘Em

In the summers, we get to spend extra time with my stepsons and we have my kiddos almost every day, all day. While we love it, it definitely makes things tricky. My husband and I both work full time, so we have to weave an intricate matrix of “I’m-remote-this-day, you’re-remote-that-day” to ensure that someone is home with the kiddos during the week. Throw in business travel, volunteering, and events/dinners outside of working hours, and our matrix would make any flight control tower operator sweat a little.

This is the first week of the summer that I’ve worked from home solo with all five of the kids. I will be honest—I’ve been dreading it. We have some…extenuating circumstances…that ensure when my stepsons arrive, they act like we’ve never met, and I am some kind of axe murderer, just waiting for them to fall asleep so I can eliminate them. After a few hours, they come down from the ledge and remember that our home isn’t the dangerous Den of Iniquity and Child Torture they may have been warned about. They relax again and you can almost see a visible change of “Oh, yeah. These people actually love me. They love Jesus. They love each other. We do fun things here. I do not, in fact, need to sleep with one eye open.”

Lest you think I’m over here on my exasperated pedestal, wondering how anyone could possibly buy into the ridiculous lies and insecurity and jealousy that come oh-so-freely with a blended family, let me tell you—I am the Queen of buying into the lies of the Enemy. The Queen.

 

More often than I care to admit, I believe the same lies that my stepchildren hear from others, from society and from the media. We’ve been programmed by Disney for years that stepmothers are wicked, right? They are jealous, hateful monsters who seek only to lock you in a damp attic so they can have your father’s money and attention exclusively, yes? Hey, I love the attention I get from my husband. He’s affectionate and funny and makes me feel like the most important person in the world. Do I expect him to ignore his kids and pay attention only to me? Good heavens, no! I love how much he loves his (and my) children, and it only makes me adore him that much more. As for the money part—I make my own money, thank you very much. We both work hard to take care of our family and neither of us would have it any other way. Entitlement has no place in this home.

While we can logically separate the stepmothers portrayed in Disney cartoons from real life, we do fall for the lies of the Enemy over and over again. On especially crazy days, when parenthood and work and the responsibilities of life feel like too much, I start to let my hurt feelings and helplessness outweigh the opportunity and gifts I’ve been given. I wish away my life, one blended week at a time. All too soon, these precious (albeit taxing) days of our young family will be gone, and I’ll be left wondering where they went. I want a whole storehouse of sweet memories with all five of my kids before they leave home to start their own families. I want to make the most of the short time I have with all of them. But it’s so hard, when you’re in it.

Maybe you aren’t in a blended family and you’re hearing the same whispers of untruth. Other parents seem to have it all together, and you don’t. If you have to look at one more Utopic collage on Facebook of a perfect beach vacation, with a smiling family in coordinating white and khaki outfits, basking in the glow of a gorgeous sunset, you’ll lose it, right? Here you are, surrounded by 63,337 Legos, none of which are from the same $100 set, and you’ve stepped on 63,335 of them. You’re cleaning up dog vomit with one hand, and confiscating an iPad from a whining child with the other. You have a conference call in 10 minutes and you realize you haven’t made lunch (a lunch that at least 60% of your children will criticize and dramatically gag about). Utopia, it is not. I will readily admit that. What I strive to remember, and ask you to remember is that there are so many moments of sweetness inside the mess of it all. An unexpected hug from my stepson. A little love note from my husband. A mid-day snuggle with my daughter. A meal that is met with an approval rating above 60%. These moments are there. They’re everywhere. I promise. Don’t let the Enemy choke out the joy from the everyday. You are right where God wants you to be, and the season of parenthood is so short. Don’t miss it.

You do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.– James 4:14

Love ‘em while you have ‘em, mamas. One day at a time.

Why would anyone want to do THAT?

Why would anyone want to do THAT?

Since this is our first meeting, I would like to start our cyber relationship by offering you an uncomfortably tight virtual hug.  You need one, right?  If you stumbled across my page, you might be a member in the big, bumbling, wonderful club that is Blended Families.  If you are like me, you may not have been aware that at no additional cost, membership also includes a lifetime position in the Man-Eating, Gold-Digging, Home-Wrecking Evil Stepmothers Club.  You don’t even have to apply!  It’s automatic!   Your husband’s ex-wife will provide ample, constant, and some might say even excessive recommendations to the voting board (your new stepchildren) and your membership will be assured.  Ladies, it’s your job to get kicked out of that club.  For some of you, it will be easy.  For others, not so much.  For a select few of you, your adoring stepchildren will sing your praises as you braid their hair and craft haikus about how perfect your newly blended family is.  If you’re in the last category, please get out. Okay, okay…you can stay.  Your time will come.  Puberty. Breakups.  You’re not immune, my comfortable friends.

Now that we’re clear on the basics of membership, you might be wondering how to answer the question “Why would anyone want to do that to themselves?”  Sign up for a lifetime of stressful weekends, awkward family functions, holiday visitation jigsaw puzzles, etc?  WHY?  Because it’s worth it.  It’s that simple, and that’s what you have to remember. Because you love the person that you married (or are going to marry), and for that reason, you had better love what comes with that person with every ounce of love and understanding that you can muster, or you will find yourself right back where you started, and the kids will suffer more than they already have in the aftermath of their biological parents’ breakup. No pressure.

Blended families need the kind of support you can’t find in the average self-help book.   I don’t mean to imply that I have all the answers that the books lack.  I don’t.  Most days, I don’t even know what the question is, let alone how to answer it. What I do have, is a very supportive husband, who happens to be my best friend; 5 wonderful, silly, sweet, kind-hearted kids (step and biological); an extended family who rallies behind us and treats all of our kids the same; and most importantly a strong faith in God.  Somehow He never gets tired of my pitiful pleas for wisdom and my constant apologies for screwing it all up.

This is not a blog to bash exes, rant about step kids or trash your spouse.  That being said, my primary language is sarcasm, and honestly, if I don’t joke about it, it’s probably not important to me. My family–all of it, in all its forms–is of the utmost importance to me.  So prepare for the sarcasm, friends.  It’s my medicine and I hope that in some small way that it helps heal you too.