Have you ever offered to help cook when you go over to a friend's house? Or when you were younger and your mother asked you to help after she already had started dinner?
That's what I liken to blending a family......starting in the middle when no one has let you know what the dinner is supposed to be.
It's left up to you to continue where someone else has left off.....it has already begun....the decision has been made......out of your control.....but you have been left with figuring the product out. The goal of the end result has been set by someone else that came up with all of the necessary ingredients, all of the measuring, all of the mixing and stirring.....but you have to finish.
That's me.....the cook in someone else's kitchen.
Don't get me wrong....I am extremely willing, honored and open to the challenge of blending a family and being a mother for 2 precious boys that sadly no longer have their mom. I wouldn't trade it for the world!
But there are times where I find myself standing alone in the kitchen amongst all of these "started ingredients", wondering what the intended product (their lives) is that I am supposed to be making.
Step-parenting is hard!! Starting in the middle is hard!!
Parenting, in and of itself, is a huge undertaking and causes (at least for me) extreme stress at times....mostly due to the "shoulds and should-nots" that I continue to hear in my head. We, as parents, have such high expectations for our children to grow and succeed that, at times, we have a difficult time looking past those expectations and simply enjoying the interactions we get with our children. As with most things that bring frustration and anger, the source is usually fear. Fear of failing as a parent, fear of our children growing up and not being prepared for the outside world, fear of them making mistakes that we feel helpless in stopping - and the ever-present.....GUILT, that seems to be a constant companion in choices and decisions that try to make in the parenting role.
Take all of those feelings, emotions, and attitudes......multiply them by 10 and you are left with the daunting task of step-parenting. To describe step-parenting and blending a family is like having the highest expectation put on you, with a magnifying glass to your every move and word, with less foundation to fall back on, all the while being constantly compared to a future there will no longer be.
But I guess my thoughts through this process of figuring out the recipe, have left me with some insights and questions:
*********WARNING...I am realistic and sometimes it comes across as harsh...so for the following, I apologize if I'm too straightforward for some people***********
No one can prepare you for the step-parent role....no one tells you that you will feel guilty because at times, you don't particularly "like" this child standing in front of you trying your patience to the edge and being as irritating to you as a rug burn is to your skin!
I find myself thinking first before I react (positive or negative) in order to evaluate this child and the situation, rather than (as with my natural children) simply reacting with ease.
I find myself overcome with love and true affection for the boys at times, and other times I view them with a wall - looking in from afar, feelings cut-off.
The ingredients to this recipe are sometimes hard to work with.
If you come into the recipe mid-way, what happens if you don't like what you're making?
What if you want to change the ingredients? Is that allowed? And is it fair to want to change them or is it taboo?
Where's my recipe book????
The option of changing may imply that I think I can do it better.....not true....just different. And if I'm the one in the role of mom and see something that needs to be changed for the better (according to my self-described parenting strategies), shouldn't that be taken into account??
Ok......for all of you not following my thinking.....Is it bad to want to bring my boys up differently than they have been raised thus far? Different....not saying better. Is it wrong to take an alternate path of parenting with them then what they are used to because they lost their mother? Does that matter in the decisions I am faced to make with them?
The reason for the questioning is because of self-doubt. Those of you who know me and in my past posts, I have issues when it comes with self-doubting my own parenting skills, as do most moms - as I've been told. But step-parenting, especially with children who have lost a mom and you are stepping in, the self-doubt is tremendous!
Fear takes over when I have to draw the line with them or give them boundaries....my mind plays all kinds of scenarios....will they come out wrong? will they hate me? what if I'm doing this wrong?
My second-guessing is immense.....needing to feel loved, knowing (after reading my stack of books) that their love will not be for some time and they won't put me in that role for at least 3-4 more years.
I have to continue with the knowledge of not receiving anything in return except cordial acknowledgments and formalities (usually only coming after their dad has said something to them).....true unconditional love! The epitome of parenting - step or not!
So.......whether or not I have been in this kitchen from the beginning and whether or not the ingredients have already been mixed and stirred......I'm in for the long haul......and looking forward to seeing how this recipe turns out.