Summer vacations are certainly not what they used to be. In my case, it’s no vacation at all. Sure, I’m an adult and the luxuries afforded to us as children just aren’t the same with the shackles of adulthood. Additionally for me, this was the first time since I’ve been remarried that I’ve had my stepchildren stay with us for more than 3 days. During this time I’ve gone through a plethora of emotions ranging from anxiety to excitement. It has also reassured me that my decision not to have children of my own was the right one for me.
While we were still dating I had a handful of experiences around my stepdaughters. Precocious, hyper, exhausting, these are all words that did and still does describe the now nine and seven-year olds. However, there is a vast difference in having them for a weekend versus having them for two weeks. It’s the difference between hanging out and living with someone. I’ll admit it, I’m very set in my ways. I like order. I like quiet. I relish all the things a life without children brings. These past several days have taken me completely outside of my comfort zone and I know that I’ll never be quite the same.
I have marveled at just how odd a feeling and experience this has been. I’m not the type that is jealous for my husband’s attention while he’s with the kids. Rather, I’m the type that’s easily annoyed when my husband acts like one of the kids. This was the case when we recently went to Wal-Mart. All three had tantrums and so I excused myself from their company and continued my shopping alone until they sorted themselves out. Seriously, some of us are not cut out to be full-time parents. I must admit, however, that as the days go by and we work out various routines, it has become less of a chore. I’m still not used to having less sleep as we try to fill their time with us with all the “fun” things children come to expect during summer vacation.
The days leading up to their arrival I became more moody than usual. My husband and I got into more frequent spats and like a rebellious child, I wallowed in my sense of routine and comfort. Our house is always pristine. Everything has its place and when something is used it is promptly put back. The only exception to this is dusting. That’s my husband’s chore given my sinus problems. It’s the one thing that I can truly tolerate since I will literally only lift a finger to dust. Our home is not, by my definition, child-proofed.
Looking back on things I have to admit that I am truly blessed and appreciative of how quickly the girls had taken to me from the very start of mine and their father’s relationship. We’ve not had any “Baby Mama” drama or squabbles by anyone relating to being a blended family. All the same, it had been almost a year since I’d last seen them. Believe me when I say that children don’t cling to me and so the fact that they accepted me has been a major plus. If only it were the same for them. For me it was always okay to be in their lives from a sizable distance. But that is not the role of a stepmother.
That title changed everything. And while I still joke about it, everything feels different. And so this, their first official visit, I’ve been at a loss in trying to figure out how I really fit. I still defer to my husband and his ex-wife in most things. My way is not always their way. I’m learning to accept that. I’m learning in general. As a stepmother there is a delicate balance that must be achieved in parenting. In my case I try not to parent them if I can help it. Rather, I try to be an adult that they respect and care for. They have two wonderful parents and the last thing I want is to cause any further inconvenience for them.
I’m beginning to love them. I never imagined being a stepmother. Really, I’d hoped not to become one. But with each passing day I learn to appreciate it more. I may not be the one that they come to when they skin their knees but I can be a stable and constant force in their life. After all, we all need more of those types of people in our lives.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 7/10/13 issue of The Union-Recorder.