surviving the holidays with kids that aren’t mine.

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It’s no secret that the holidays demand a lot of our time, even when we are singles without a spouse’s family to visit. The holidays have changed drastically for me in the last few years:

When we first started dating, the very first time we had spent any outside-of-church-time together was on Christmas Day. When I was single, I opened my home to anyone without a place to go. Or people who’s parties were over early. Or someone who wanted to help me be un-lonely. I didn’t cook (see Cranberry Relish in it’s Worst Form), I just offered board games and a friendly, well-heated space. Charming came. So did my gem of a friend and her husband (who have now become our closest friends, the parents to our God-daughter).

When Prince Charming and I were courting, the kids had already wiggled their way into my heart and I found myself wanting to spend the holidays with them. Knowing it wasn’t my place, knowing I had no leverage. But I desperately wanted to be around them. Lo-and-behold, Prince Charming to save the day with an invitation to the Charming Family Christmas! And I got to buy them things. I got to wrap their gifts and see their faces light up and have some excitement.

Our first Christmas as a married couple presented a lot of challenges: who’s traditions win? Who’s decorations go up? When do we even decorate? and the best one: WHO gets to put the topper on the tree?
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This year, my challenge is: keeping my sanity while their mom tries to take Christmas eve from us. I put in my specially requested date MONTHS ago, and it was granted to us. Now, as life goes, the threat of having it taken away is real. She is on her high horse right now and is not backing down. It’s a struggle to have uncertainty in planning. It’s a struggle to think that my kids won’t be with me for our family party (not even on Christmas day). My heart hurts thinking about it.

You get it. You as a regular, biological parent understand the pain that comes with dropping off your kids to someone else each week, even if it’s their other biological parent. What you don’t get, that us steps do, is that we invest the exact same amount of effort. We exude the same amount of energy (if not more) into these kids. We pour out our entire beings into these kids, as if they were our own. And then we send them off and we’re discarded.

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What you don’t get is spending hundreds of dollars on presents for your kids. Things that they have DREAMED over. Things that they will roll around on the floor in excitement for. Things that they actually want. What you don’t understand is how deeply the “thanks, DAD” hurts. (dad did not go shopping at 4am and wait outside in long lines for this special NERF gun. dad did not fight off other shoppers. dad did not wade through people in aisles, almost drowning, to pick out the right slippers for your kiddos.) What you don’t get is the crushing feeling of dropping them back off at their mom’s house, giant-long hugs and glowing faces for dad.. and barely a wave goodbye to thestepmomma.

I haven’t figured out how to survive the holidays yet. But I’m trying. We’re trying.

***disclaimer. no, hundreds of dollars won’t make the kids leap into my arms, i get that. i know material things are not the way to a kids heart. i know. but YOU know how much Christmas means and YOU know how much you hope that little gift will brighten your kids day, please don’t try to pin the materialistic label on me.***

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So. I imagine that there are other steps like me who have these struggles. Who fear the holidays. Who are developing anxiety in places it never existed before and might, almost, potentially may be crippled by it before Christmas even appears. How do you do it? How do you make it? How do you wave goodbye and send them off and hope that they remember that your name was signed on the gift tag, too? Or that you were helpful in painting their bedroom that was just redone for them or that you painstakingly wrapped each present, with each kid in mind?

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14 thoughts on “surviving the holidays with kids that aren’t mine.

  1. Wow! I do understand even though our blended family is older. My daughter and son go to their dad’s whenever possible, my son has come to visit me here in CO, but the daughter only uses their vacation to go to her dads in SD. It is very hard. SD is where she grew up, but I would love to show her what we have here. She has met my husband, but only for a few days at a time and always somewhere in between us as she lives in NC. So I understand all the disparity when it comes to kids. They will get better, but probably will take a long time to get there. Hold on all comes together eventually. I am still hoping!!

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  2. Your post made me do some thinking before I posted a comment on your post. Your just settling in for the long haul, and I say that and at the same time I want to give you a big hug.
    Your heart is at the beginning of a really LONG roller coaster ride. You are going to have some amazing times with these growing little humans. And I wish I had put my seat belt on sooner….I say that because the more fun u have, the more jt hurts when ur feelings take a hit. Please don’t hold back by what I say, just get ready for the bumpy ride.
    I could throw some examples out there but it would blow your mind……some long stories of total Truth.
    We might need to start talking through email.
    Do you have any court ordered visitation set up? Who is primary placement parent? If you already had the time approved by her that makes a verbal contract. Something that Charming needs to ensure happens….the biggest obstacle to this whole step parent thing is realizing the legal facts so u don’t get emotionally ripped apart and pretty much physically ran over. All of this I can explain to u via email.
    With the kids thanking Dad/Charming and u the evil step mom…..where is the prince charming doing HIS part. I say this only because I see how u see things, I truely so. This guy is sharing his life and kids with u. And to u it is all bonuses. Which I totally agree with u it is. But at the same time Mr. prince charming needs to treat u like his queen who rules beside him, and not this evil step mother these kids spend time with. It’s prince charmings job to make sure u are treated like an equal, not as an excesory. When the kids are thanking him for all of UR hard work, what does he say or do? If it is nothing, then u need to not do any of it for a year and save ur money. I say that because if he had any idea of all the extra work u do for kids that aren’t aren’t even your kids…. U love them more to do so much for them and Prince Charming should see that and the kids just thanking him should have already been handled. U shouldn’t have to sit back and be a second class citizen in ur life or home. I am not saying any of this to be mean or even mean sounding. But being a parent with no legal rights blows, and if if the parent with the legal rights isn’t paving the way, ur never going to be anything more then what he sets the tone to them u are. The kids look to him to see where you stand in the Dynamics’s of things.

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    • We have court-ordered visitation rights and we follow them pretty decently. We pick up some extra days each month and are grateful for those. Summer times we usually get them for a LOT more than what we are “contracted” to, and Charming loves it.
      The kids thank Dad because Dad is the one who has always provided for them. He isn’t big on “thanks.” If he’s complimented for things, he shrugs it off, he doesn’t really like direct attention- so if someone compliments “Us” it’s sort of the same thing. He is working (HARD) to get better about including me in things like this.
      The boys thank me for doing special things for them. They’ve started thanking me for washing their clothes. They thank me for treats I give them or getting to watch special tv shows.
      I am not a second-class citizen in my home. There are times that I may feel a little discarded, but I think that just comes with the role sometimes.
      The kids are working their own way through the adjustment of having a new person in their home- sometimes they are great and they sit right next to me and love that I am there and other times, it’s easy to see they just need some dad time.
      It’s a process. I’ve read before that it can take 7 years for a “blended” family to achieve what we would call normalcy. Since we aren’t technically blended ( i dont have any kids of my own), i don’t know where we fall in the statistic. I just like to think about the almost 2 years we have down and that we are well on our way to having a regular dynamic for us.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Praying for you! I know the struggle is real. My youngest once gave me a handprint in clay, it say MOM on it and had a ribbon to hang it on the wall. I had it up for a few weeks before his bio mom saw it. She commented on how pretty it was so he asked me if we could take it down and give it to her. It broke my heart. My point is, they are going to hurt you, but it’s not always intentional. They will also take you for granted at times, but it’s because they’re kids. They just don’t think about it. I used to always dread holidays, birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc. for this same reason. Co-parenting is just hard sometimes, but God will be with you through it all. Thanks for sharing your story, I look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They did this funny thing the Mother’s Day before we were married (Our anniversary is May 15, so it was RIGHT before it and they didn’t really know what to call me yet) and wrote me a “happy mothers day-ish” card. It was funny the first time and I’ve told them if they ever do it again, it won’t be funny, it’ll be painful. They did it the next year. We’re hoping this year they just leave the card off haha.

      Thank you for your words! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sure they love you. They are going to mess up sometimes. But try to remember this is new to them just like it is for you. They don’t know what to do sometimes either, so they do what they think is best. It’ll all work out according to God’s plan. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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