It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Love is affirmation

loveheartsWhen you’re up to your neck in the immediate, unceasing, second-by-second demands that is parenting a young child, you tend to think this is as tough as it gets. You tend to think this defines parenting.

You’d be wrong, of course. On both counts.

Parenting teens and young adults is far less second-by-second, true. You don’t need to worry about their bathroom habits (apart from getting your younger adolescent male into one), they can wipe their own noses, they can dress their own selves, they can read their own stories.

If you’ve done your job well during toddler years, you’ll have minimal temper tantrums and other toddler-esque behaviour so common to the adolescent stereotype.

But as you reach the point in parenting where you can be apart from your baby for hours (even days) at a stretch, where they can get themselves to their playdates hang with friends, where they can even cook a meal, you reach the age of Really Big Parenting Issues.

And I’m not talking about kids who skip school, won’t do homework, and fail courses. I’m not talking about backtalk (again with the ‘do your work in toddlerhood and you’ll see a whole lot less of this in adolescence’), weird hair, piercings, emotional storms, rowdy parties and skanky ‘fashion’. Though, lord only knows, all that is draining enough on the poor weary parent, and puts your long-ago angst about ‘he won’t eat his peas’ and ‘she won’t nap’ in perspective. But even then?

That’s all small potato stuff.

I’m talking about pregnancy scares. Teens with friends who commit suicide, or teens who consider it themselves. Drug use. Running away from home. Estrangement.

Serious stuff.

And, while we’ve been blessed with (and have worked hard for) children who have done very little of the Big Stuff, we do have eight kids between us. We’ve suffered a decent amount of anxiety, pain, tears, sleepless nights, betrayal… Not as much as some, but more than you’d choose. If you were given the choice.

Which is why, when my husband received two beautiful Father’s Day missives from two of my children — one a very sweet card with a meaningful hand-written note, the other a long amazing letter of healing and love — we both cried. These are not his bio-children, but mine. He’s a mere step-parent, and those of you in blended families know just how very, very, very difficult it is to be a step.

Way harder than being a bio-parent, I believe. This is a man who is in their lives not through any choice of theirs, but of mine. Though it’s been more peace than pain, more laughter than anguish, it has not always been easy, not by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all hurt each other. I’ve felt the wrenching pain of divided loyalties, and I know my kids have, too. And, while as a parent you know that you’ll love that child no matter what, you’re not always so sure of the child’s feelings. Particularly if you’re a step-parent.

Once in a while you receive affirmation as a parent. Sometimes it comes from family. Sometimes it comes from random strangers. Sometimes it’s something the child does inadvertantly.

And rarely, oh, so precious it is, the child goes out of their way to open themselves, to be vulnerable, to let you know how much they love and appreciate you.

It’s a gift. And I am grateful.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone.

June 25, 2009 - Posted by | my kids | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I’m from a split home. Both step parents have been around since I was a toddler. I like my Step-Mom and I make sure I send the appropriate cards and call to say hi. But my Step-Dad was a blessing to our entire family. I love him dearly and make sure I tell him often. I was a typical teen and rebelled a tad and he got the brunt of some of my foolishness. At times I treated him like a “step” yet he never did. That is what makes a good parent. Not the biology used to make us but the love used to mold us.

    Comment by Jenn H | June 25, 2009 | Reply

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