Dirt in the sink. Sand in his eye. A pinecone in her face. Yogurt spilled into the freshly prepped dinner. Swan dive off the top bunk. Doggy pile gone wrong. A slap to his face. A shove to her side. “It’s alllll YOUR fault!” A bucket of facial hair dumped on his head. (Don’t ask.) A pile of freshly mowed grass thrown on hers. “Don’t step on my PILLLLOOOOWWWW!!!!” Two tequila sunrises (For me, not them!). And all this before the day was half over.
Adulting is hard. Parenting is harder. Step Parenting? Off the charts. Like, 38 hour labor with no epidural coupled with explosive diarrhea and projectile vomit (Yep, both ends) HARD.
When my live in boyfriend (now fiance!) informed me that he would have his kids (whom we get to have over 3 nights a week) with him during the summer for two straight weeks, I was excited. The fact that I would be watching them single-handedly, along with taking care of my own three kids, while my boyfriend worked during the week, was minor. “I’ve got this,” I bragged to myself. “They are gonna be rock stars for me.” Never mind the fact that I’ve probably only had them alone maybe a handful of hours during our relationship.We spend lots of time together, of course. But Dad’s always there. He’s tough and strict, and I’m, well…not. I know they like me. But do they respect me? Will they listen to me and obey me? These are not questions I asked myself.
I should have.
As luck would have it, the first day I was to watch them alone started directly after we returned from the worst. family. vacation. EVER. Their Dad had planned an amazing weekend in Portland, complete with a stay at Embassy Suites, dinner out, swimming, FUN, a trip to OMSI, the Lego store, and lots of FUN, some FUN, and even more and more FUN. The vacation was to end with a trip to the jeweler to pick up my newly sized engagement rings. And then we would frolic off into a field of daises like the Brady Bunch. Well, as luck would have it, the kids decided to be urchins at the hotel, gremlins for dinner, and hellions at the mall. We ended up driving home in the morning, stressed and exhausted, no swimming, no Lego store, no OMSI, no fun. We got the rings, but I think on the way home we were both actually wondered (for a split second), do we REALLY want to do this?
The answer, of course, is YES, we absolutely do. But there’s no question, every day’s not gonna be like an episode of Full House. The issues have only just begun. Parenting Styles (He’s strict, I’m much too lenient.) and Sibling Dynamics (We’ve both got an “oldest” and an “youngest” who have their positions usurped every time we combine households.) are two of our main struggles, and there a million other things that pop up daily.
The advice I hear echoes: “Be consistent.” “Present a unified front.” “Make sure they know the rules.” “No playing favorites.”
Back to that first day I watched the kids on my own: I know I walked into it blind, and it didn’t go so well. But I also know it’s just the beginning. It’s going to take time, maybe even years, to build the bond I desire to have with my (future) step kids. In fact, according to a Focus on the Family article, (Find it here) realistically it will take anywhere from TWO to SEVEN years for a step family to truly integrate into what feels like a real family. Yikes.
I read a verse the other day that I found comfort in:
The verse tells me that a good inheritance cannot be rushed. Blending a family to make a beautiful whole from two halves can definitely be a beautiful thing, a good inheritance, but it will take time. Patience. Prayer. If you’re emotional like me, it will take some tears. Mistakes. Re-takes. Hugs. And more time.
Oh yeah, as for my title, Step Parenting in Three Simple Steps…I don’t know what those steps are currently. I don’t have all–okay I don’t have any–of the answers yet. But I know the key lies in LOVE. I’m going to love the crap out of my kids, my fiance, my future step kids, and my God, and I’m going to try, and try, and try some more. I’ll take all the advice I can get, I’ll implement what works for my family, I’ll have success and victories, and I’ll also make mistakes and fail. I’ll wipe off the tears and I’ll pray, go to bed, wake up, and try again. Because that’s what love–love for my family and my future step family–does.