First of all, on a total side note, when you are singing "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman" all day long, you are DEFINITELY a parent! Lol
So, tonight my husband and I had plans to go out for a dinner date...primarily to converse about the next phase of our business. We are expanding. Upon leaving and kissing the kids goodnight, while making sure they had brushed their teeth and selected their dog to sleep with (Yes, it's a nightly drill), my daughters face was flushed. I knew the look and I knew the anguish.
Immediately, I sat down onto her bed.
Me: "What's wrong?! Did something happen?"
Her: (in hysterics) "No, I'm fine."
Me: "No you're not. Do you need to cry it out and then tell me?"
Her: (chin quivering) Yes.
She cried for about ten minutes, chest pounding and then finally somber.
Me: "Can you tell me now what's wrong? This is a safe place. I don't judge you. I won't ever stop loving you. Just say it and cry."
Well, long story short, something very small and very insignificant to others hurt her feelings earlier in the evening. She felt unwanted and made fun of by a small gesture made that meant no harm. Reason being is that she is an old, sensitive soul and again, it goes back to the abandonment issues. It always does.
Eventually, after many tears, I got back into my yoga pants and sports bra, and we decided to have our business meeting from home. My husband asked me if this was a good idea, caving into her emotions and letting her have her way, as if to get attention. He meant nothing by it but speculated. I told him that this is the very best and ONLY option as far as I'm concerned-to STAY. I was that little girl. I held back my tears and I will NOT allow that to be her childhood.
So, now I'm downstairs waiting for a helpless cry from her, in case she needs me. I'm staying awake as long as I can in case her little heart needs a hug and that's the most important thing to me right now: meeting her emotional needs.
So, so many people think kids need electronics and distractions and $500 birthday parties to be happy but that is so off base. I wish I could sit every one of those parents down and tell them the HEART of the matter.
Truth is, all they need is to know that you're there, through sickness and health, and they can TRUST you with their feelings.
I'm honored she comes to me. I could never, EVER, judge her or any of the kids. It doesn't mean there won't be consequences or guidance, but I will not make them feel inferior for putting their faith in me as their mom.
That goes for all four of my kids and my message to you is feel honored, as parents, when they come to you. Blessed that they trust you with their flaws and insecurities. Be gentle when they need healing and calm when they are in duress. Don't be a pal, but be a confidant. It's such a privilege and you will just KNOW that you're doing something right.
"You don't have to try so hard. You don't Have to Give it all away. You just have to get up, get up, get up, you Don't have to change a single thinG"
Lately I've been thinking about "trying hard" vs "trying too hard" as a parent...but mostly as a "step-parent", because there is a natural feeling of the desire to over compensate for the children you've come to know and love.
Some of it is selfish as a "step parent", because you want to pat yourself on the back and feel the very BEST at your role. Most of us are over achievers. The other part of it is the sadness that you feel for the kids who you know innocently got drug through some kind of bad situation to end up with two separate parents, living separate lives and having to constantly reassess where they belong. Where they feel "safe".
Either way, you can end up crazy making and feeling the way I do sometimes... like where do I, Taylor, belong? And is this even worth it in the end?
One of the main things got me thinking about this concept was the holidays and how I see so many parents just blatantly spoiling their children. Teaching them no values, and no appreciation and I have to ask myself what is the happy medium? What is the acceptable level of festivities and love VS trying way too hard and essentially destroying your kids ability to value anything in life? (AKA SPOIL) What also got me thinking this was because my step-son went away to college this summer and I've probably heard from him twice. He never really comments on my Facebook, yet I see that he does actively communicate with his dad. Sometimes that just makes me feel outright unappreciated. Especially when I'm the one planning the holidays, events and sending him care packages.
Well, while this hurts my feelings and while I feel in the last seven years I suffered and grieved when I didn't need to, I have to realize that with my oldest step-son, I didn't try hard... I tried TOO hard, which in the end made me vulnerable and made it MY fault. I expected him to have the same feelings for me that I have for him, and invest in me the way I have in him. But the truth is this... step-parenting is as thankless as most parenting- but with a good slap in the face a lot of the time and the constant reminder, through both their words and actions, that their love for you is limited and only as strong as they know how to receive it. After being drug through fire, sometimes selfless love can be perceived as a trap or a threat to them.
So what do we do when as step parents, we just want to give it all away? Love until we burn out? Prove our worth? Set the bar so high that we can't even achieve it? Look for love in all the wrong places... the accolades for the Christmas presents, the graduation gifts and the volunteering that we do without the request to do so?
We stop. Breathe. Realize that we don't have to try so hard! We can't replace the biological parent or earn our place in the child's heart. Even if the ex is a drug addict, a convict or mental. All we can do is be consistent. We will either be loved and appreciated in the end-or we won't.
I know with my oldest step-son, I volunteered at his school, made special food for him the way he liked it, personally bought his gifts and planned his parties. I gave him medicine when he was sick and sent him things to his college dorm in the hopes that he would realize my worth. But I'm never going to get that. He may see it one day but he doesn't now and his approval cannot be my driving force.
My husband and I had more fights over parenting than anything else, because I'm so invested and maternal but the fact is that only certain things are worth fighting for. Ethics, yes. Morals, yes. Household behavior, yes. But you can't fight the feeling that you're not wanted. You're not. And what you give may never be seen.
So, don't do it for the credit. You don't have to earn your right to be a part of the family. You are enough by being yourself and all you have to do is be there. I was just watching one of my favorite tv shows and one of the character asked, "how do I not screw it up? How do I be a good parent" and she answered "just be there. That's all you can do. Be there".
Put a little heart in each situation and just show love. Through trust, through touch & kind words. You don't have to be PTO mom or pack the lunches like I do, or do photo shoots and adopt rescue animals to feel worthy! You already are.
Just be you. Have an open heart but not an open palm. Just breathe and know that God positioned you exactly where you are supposed to be and either the rewards will come, or they won't.
What to expect when NOT expecting:
So ya, I am still pregnant. Technically. Breasts tender. Cravings. Yes! But expecting a positive outcome...? No.
The photo above is my step daughter and thankfully during this time, I feel she appreciates what I'm doing for her. How it hurts. How I feel god has forsaken me. How much more giving do I have to be before I basically just "give up" on His plan.
I am at tears right now. I've been planning this baby shower with a heavy but generous heart and it turned out lovely! How could it not? I'm practically pretending it's my shower. The details. The food, the eloquence and grace of a shower I would imagine as my own.
First, let it be known that I am so happy to be in this role and I do not resent it.
But secondly, let it be known that this is heartbreaking to me. I'm currently seeing, physically, my third child's fetus leave my body as I urinate and I cry. My breasts are still tender, food cravings still strong. Yet I have to be strong. Why? My step kids. They deserve it. With a biological mother who is nowhere to be found, I am the solution. I'll protect them and in "some way" suffice.
Will it pay off? Only God knows. I hope they know none of this was for selfish gain because I know what it is to be the lost child. Forgotten. And unwanted. Will they understand? Hmm. Maybe?
Dare I say this. They are not my step kids. They are MY CHILDREN. I would lead them into battle. Strike my sword. They DESERVE the utmost protection and love that only Christ can give. I only hope I can render a glimpse of that. Maybe one day.
With the divorce rate at 50%, that means many blended marriages and "step" children to follow..Someone needs to voice this! It's tough! Nitty gritty! Hardcore and without exception of blame! This blog is to not just inform but solidify how difficult, awkward and how severe the power struggle can be as a "step-parent"