Saturday, May 26, 2012

Do They Get Along?

If you are an avid reader of my posts, it has probably occurred to you that all three of our children are very close in age.  Alex and Adam were born 15 months apart as biological siblings and then of course when you throw Christian into the mix, who is exactly one month younger than Adam, you have a trio of kids that are aged very closely together.  Most folks think we have twins, as I talk about in my post "The Twins we Never Had.", which is usually the first question I get when I mention the boys.  When I explain our family situation, the next question I inevitably get is:  "Do they get along?"  So, do they?

The boys were the biggest reason that Roger and I started dating. As I've mentioned in the past, Christian and Adam were friends.  Friends hang out, and at their age at that time, the parents sometimes hang out too.  We all ended up hanging out a lot, and when we did, all of the kids played together and got along.  Our dating, and impending marriage was every child's dream, their single parent marrying their best friend's single parent. They become siblings and voila: Heaven on Earth!  Well, at least until reality sets in. 

When we were first married, there was definitely a bit of an adjustment period.  I think part of that was each of them trying to figure out where they fit in the family.  Christian had always been an only child. Even though he had 3 older step-siblings from his dad's previous marriage, they weren't around often, and he was very much an only.  If you don't have an only child, let me explain that they sometimes have a hard time sharing their own stuff.  They never really have to share at home, and although Christian was in daycare for a long time and then school, sharing is different when it comes to your own things.  Now, not only did Christian have to share his stuff, but his mom too.  Alex who was used to being heavily relied on upon Roger to help with this, help with that, tell Adam this, tell Adam that, didn't have those same tasks anymore. It was as if she was stripped of her responsibilities, but as we saw it, now, she just got to be a kid. Adam had to deal with losing his youngest child placement, and seeing a mother figure in the home who was very engaged with her children. This was something he didn't see regularly, and I think it was a difficult adjustment for him. What I mean is, Christian and I have a very strong relationship, something that happens when it is just two of you for so long.  Adam didn't have that same relationship with his mom, and I can imagine he must have felt a lot of envy for that closeness he saw with us.  It was often very hard for me too, as I didn't want Adam to feel badly, but I didn't want to take away from what I gave Christian - a fine line to walk indeed.

Having to deal with all these things:  what your role is in a new family, envy, sharing issues and the lot, can all lead to out right animosity.  I'll never forget one time Roger and I had gone to the grocery store on a Saturday morning.  We had left a list of chores for the kids to do while we were gone.  When we came home, things appeared OK, but we soon discovered that we had walked into the calm after the storm. Apparently, there had been an argument over who was doing what chore. Christian, decided that regardless of what everyone else wanted, he was going to do what he wanted - period.  So, when others resisted and things didn't go his way, shoving happened, fists flew, pictures fell, glass broke.  I was so mad and those boys heard about it.  It was right around the time in the news that there was a story about one step-brother killing another.  I don't remember the details of that news story, I just remember telling Adam and Christian that I could not live with one of them dead and another one in jail for life, because I loved them both, so they better figure it out now.  Needless to say, I am very good at blowing some things out of proportion.  I mean, they were 10 years old, I am sure that was the last thing they were thinking about.

My boys have never gotten into a fist fight again.  Probably because they feared my reaction  more than anything else, but hey, whatever keeps them in check.  As a matter of fact, my boys are very close now.  All of our kids are.  The boys have a lot of the same friends and hang out together frequently. They do things separately too, but all in all our kids do get along, and really always have.  I would say that most, if not all, of the arguments, incidents, disagreements and struggles they have had, have been normal sibling rivalry type of events.  I am not sure why we are so blessed and lucky with their camaraderie.  I'd like to believe it is because of our great parenting skills, but it might just be because we have great kids.  Either way, hearing them laugh together, play together, hanging out together, and just generally enjoying each other's company, even if they are making fun of us, it is all music to my ears.

Monday, May 14, 2012

It was a GREAT day!

As a follow up to my last post, I felt the need to make it known that my kids did a great job of making my mother's day spectacular.  It wasn't anything fancy or any big "to do," but I felt loved, appreciated, and not at all forgotten.

Christian made me a nice card and we watched a movie together in the afternoon.  He and Adam sat with me during church, which was a wonderful treat.  When I got home, I found a wonderful poem that Adam had written me.  Alex wished me Happy Mother's Day about a gazillion times Friday and Saturday and gave me hugs.  She had to leave early for church on Sunday, but I was pleasantly surprised by a nice note she left me in the morning.  She and Adam spent the rest of the day enjoying their mom, and when Adam and Christian came home after youth group I got Mother's Day hugs from both (requested, of course, but not forced).  It was a great day - one of the best.

Here is a picture of the note, card and poem.

I hope your Mother's Day was equally filled with love.  If it was a struggle for you as a step mom, let me be the first to tell you that it can and will get better. Just keep doing what you're doing.  Keep loving and caring, because they might not admit it, but they see all you do and really do appreciate it you for it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Happy Step-Mother's Day!?

I love Mother's Day!  It's this coming Sunday, you know.  It's the only day of the year I can guarantee that Christian will hang out with me without complaining and do what I want to do. If he's really generous, he might even give me a hug.  That's called "life, with teenage boys."  I don't mind, I know he loves me a lot, even if he doesn't want to tell me as often as I want to hear it.

As much as I love Mother's Day for all the wonderfulness it brings from Christian, I loathe it just as much for how I feel that day with Alex and Adam.  It's hard, because even though I am not their mother per say, I do "all the things mother's do" for them, and often feel as though I receive none of the credit.  I certainly don't get a Mother's Day with them.  It breaks my heart just as much as Christian makes my day.

I'll never forget one of the first Mother's Days we celebrated together.  Roger (and maybe Christian) gathered some items...probably donuts and coffee to give me breakfast in bed.  I got to eat, and read the paper and all the kids came in to give me cards.  I felt like a queen.  As I was opening cards, Alex made a point of letting me know that she gave HER Mother's day gift and card to her MOM.  Phhhhhhhhhhttttttttttttt.  That is the sound of my deflated heart, because those words just burst my bubble like a popped balloon and boy did that pop sting!  I felt like the "evil and hated" stepmother.  Unfortunately, I have never forgotten what she said, and so on Mother's Day I am reminded that as much as I love my step children and do all the things for them that a mother does, I am not their mother.  I don't want to replace Alex and Adam's mother, she deserves all the love and respect they want to give her, I guess I was just hoping for a little acknowledgement, a little thanks, a little love in return. 

As the years have gone on, I have come to realize and accept that Mother's Day is for the mother not the step mother.   I have lowered my expectations.  Alex and Adam spend the day at their mom's, as they should.  If I'm lucky I get to see them for awhile in the evening and if I get a happy Mother's Day - great!  If I get a card - Super!  Hugs - it's an outstanding day!  I no longer, however, expect anything.   If I reversed the situation, as the mother, how would I feel if Christian spent the day with his stepmother instead of me?  How would I feel if he lavished her with gifts and hugs that I wished were mine.  I think if it were done instead of me, I would be hurt, but if it was done in addition to me, and he honored this woman out of respect for her, and his father, and for the respect and love she provides him, then I would be proud of my son. 

Not every step mother has the day to day contact with her step children as I am fortunate enough to have, but I believe that every step mother has a special purpose in the lives of their step children.  Maybe she is just a sounding board to listen to their woes. Maybe she is a true friend and caring woman.  Maybe she is a liaison and gives insight to their dad.  Whatever her role, it is not easy and she deserves her day too. Sometimes I think the role of a stepmother can be even harder than being a mother because a stepmother pours out the same unconditional love without knowing if she will receive it in return. At least a biological mother knows her love is reciprocated by her children.

As we approach Mother's Day, please take time to wish the step mothers in your world a Happy Mother's Day too.  Even if the step mother you know is only a step mother and does not have any biological children of her own, she still deserves the same praise and respect.  See, we stepmothers don't get a special day of our own to celebrate.  Our recognition is regularly forgotten and we often have to sacrifice our celebration on Mother's Day so the children we love can spend it with their mothers.  If you are the husband of a stepmother, bring her flowers, make her breakfast, let her know how much you appreciate all she does for you and your children.

If you are a biological mother, let me wish you Happy Mother's Day.  You are so important in the life of your child and they are so lucky to have you.  Enjoy every moment of every day - children are precious at any age!

If you are a step mother, let me be the first to wish you Happy Mother's Day!  Thank you for all you do, with little recognition.  I appreciate you and understand the difficulties you encounter.  You are important in your step children's lives and their lives wouldn't be the same without you. In fact let me say - Happy Step Mother's Day!  ( can hope, right?) 

To all Mothers - enjoy your day on Sunday!  It's our only break of the year!