Sometimes we forget that there are two homes, maybe more. That there are two boys being shuffled throughout our busy lives. We don’t see what happens outside of our four walls, we don’t hear the words said to those tiny ears. We only see what is shared, what was felt and what was pried out of them.
Sometimes they don’t talk. Sometimes they are silent and sleepy eyed when they come in, does that mean they stayed up late watching their favorite Tuesday-night sitcom or does it mean that mom didn’t think about what midnight does to an 8 year old who wakes up an hour early to get on the bus? Did she say something to them that shook them, the way that we can sometimes? Are they hurting or are they sleepy? Silent is rarely satisfactory.
We continue to work together, though sometimes it seems as if we are against one another. Last week, my husband made home made biscuits. Twice. They tasted great, even without being dipped in butter or used for the homemade soup he intended them for. But they were wrong. They didn’t rise. Something didn’t blend the right way. Twice. He used the same recipe and found ways to tweak it, thinking he knew best. Still, they were not what he expected.
This week we encountered the first round of parent-teacher conferences, just in time for 12 to inadvertently tell us he’s broken the rules and we have to sit down and talk about morality, right and wrong, and if he can play on his tablet in this lifetime again or not. I can’t emphasize enough that it’s not my goal to get these kids into trouble. but sometimes, kids need to suffer the consequences for their actions (ok most of the time.) Because I am the wicked one, Prince Charming usually handles disciplinary actions on his own, or involves their mom in it. I usually cheer from the sidelines and hope that PC will hear me. Wednesday, he shared with 12 what he thought the appropriate actions were, and then he said “StepMomma, what do you think about it?” and this huge part of me lept for joy. I had to turn my smile upside down by forcibly using my hands to hide my excitement. not because I got to punish them, but because PC saw me as valuable, important insight into the situation. So I told him what I thought, 12 tried to run and I made him sit and listen to me. and Prince Charming encouraged it. This is it! They finally see me as something other than this “Step” character, I felt. wrong.
Parent teacher conferences come and so do the “Not gonna make it, going to PTC. Cya later. Love you.” text messages. And I force back the tears I’ve welled up for the whole school year this far (8 grueling weeks), because I am also there helping with homework, reading with boys, checking math problems, cleaning out backpacks, waking up early and getting to work late to get them on the bus, packing lunches and filling water bottles. While I am cleaning their dirty clothes, sorting their closet, tickling them and flipping them over my shoulders. I am parenting them, but it’s not enough.
It is hard to find a balance of where we as the steps should belong. It’s hard to be heard. It’s hard to explain our viewpoint without getting overly emotional about it-sometimes I can’t speak because I know all I’ll do is cry and sometimes I can’t speak because I’m too shaken from being irate. I may not have carried these boys, but the imbalances in emotions are very similar to those of a natural, new mother. Only ours isn’t accepted. I am trying to learn to blend, trying to learn to give pieces of me when I can and to encourage parts of Prince Charming when I know his voice is needed. I never discount mom, they’ll never hear me say a negative thing about her- I don’t even let me husband say too many negative things about her. I won’t allow myself to gossip and I won’t allow our irritations to fuel the tension that is naturally involved.
I am trying to learn to blend but it can be so hard to feel like there is enough to put into the mixture. Sometimes there’s too much, while others there is simply not enough. Finding the balance is an art. How can others blend and balance while on this journey?