Keith and I have been married for 8 years now. We have children from both of our previous marriages. I have a son and a daughter, and he has 3 boys. Together we have one four-legged furbaby, Zoey. We all have had challenges blending these two families together. My kids were older and more independent. His oldest boy was not even in High School at the time. When I told a friend about our engagement, she asked me in surprise what I was thinking? I was almost done with raising kids why would I want to start over again? Good question with just one answer. I loved Keith. His boys were a part of him, so I was willing to take that chance. He was a package deal.
I saw Keith’s smile on these boys faces. I saw how his mannerisms would pop up in them. They shared a sense of humor, and it would show up in the most unexpected times. Ugh, the fortune cookie joke they still tell… And I saw the look my husband had in his eyes when he looked at them. Colin, the oldest, is a quiet, unassuming kid with a daredevil streak that scares me and delights me. He is the one who would lead the family down a black diamond ski run without looking back. I can’t tell you how often I brought up the rear of that train, my knees knocking the whole time, and how much fun it was at the exact same time. Nathan has his father’s brains and curiosity. He is the one that can figure things out without much trouble. He is creative and smart. Aidan is the one with a huge heart and big feelings.
In my wedding vows, I promised that I would accept these kids as my own, always try to see through their eyes, and to love them the best I could. We have had a difficult time of it. I have read books on parenting, advice on being a stepmom, and many articles on the web trying to figure this out. We have a sort of uneasy truce between us. At least that’s what it feels like to me. I had always hoped that it would get better as we got older but I am not sure where that lies. There are days I have hope and days that I don’t.
I own my part of the dysfunction. I didn’t understand how these boys worked. I have a son myself, but he was different than these stepchildren. He was not as boisterous or active as these ones were. I couldn’t figure out what they were feeling, and often I felt like I was the uninvited guest to the party and they just wanted me to go home. I felt rejected and it was easier to take a step back.
I was an imperfect mother. I was often impatient, and when I got mad — I got mad. I will not list all of my flaws, I’ll just say it would be a pretty long list. I didn’t get the kid raising manual when I got the kids, so I was playing everything by ear.
But I have tried. I spent three years cooking double dinner when Nathan was a vegetarian, and we were not. I have baked amazing birthday cakes (I don’t mind giving myself a little credit here) and spent inordinate amounts of time figuring out the best Christmas gifts I could come up with. I taught them how to do their own laundry. I’m pretty sure they will thank me later on. We have had really astounding family vacations. I went to culinary school because of this crazy idea that food is one way to show people you love them when it’s too hard to do it any other way. I have taken them from bread-and-cheese to food explorers.
I feel like there is hope. One Christmas they got me everything you would need to make movie popcorn. Ok, I have an obsession with popcorn. I love it like a fat kid likes cake. They did all of the research and found the right orange oil, the fake butter, and the popcorn popper that gives the corn just the right amount of fluff. OMG! I was blown away by their thoughtfulness. Last year Colin gave me a beautiful photograph he’d taken and thanked me for all of the encouragement I had given him.
There is still a bunch of awkwardness around us. It’s hard navigating the rough waters of any relationship. If the boat doesn’t get rocked too much, we’re pretty good. At least we’re trying.
As I was sitting on my porch typing up this post, I got Happy Mother’s Day messages. It didn’t come with a mimosa, or an envelope. And It was every bit as good.
What do you know?