Of all of the titles I’ve had in my lifetime, by far the one that I’ve struggled the most with is the title of step-mom. Tom and I got married almost 14 years ago when Kendra and Matt were 9 & 11. I don’t have any wicked, evil step-mom stories to tell. I have been truly blessed in SO many ways by these two. (You’ll often hear me refer to them as the “big kids”) Kendra was there when Tom and I met. The kids went with us on our first date, Kendra picked out my wedding ring and when he proposed, he asked if I would marry the kids and him, with the kids right there (oh, and our parents:-). In our case, the kids weren’t just something that “came with” Tom. I can honestly say that they were a part of what I fell in love with. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE TOM SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much. But, I have never known him without knowing Kendra and Matt. And when I fell in love, it wasn’t with Tom, it was with them. All 3 of them.
Does that mean it was always easy? No, of course not. Parenting is never easy. And parenting in what I call a “support” role is even harder. I think that every family has to figure out what works for them in parenting roles, but especially in step-parent situations. At our house, my role was to support and love Tom, while sometimes talking some sense into him:-) Never once have I regretted it though.
I’d love to tell you that I got it all right and was the best step-parent ever. (HA! – not even close – but I did it with love:-) Or that I’m the person others come to and ask advice of when they are in the same place. (um… that’s not happening either:-) Or that Tom and I never argued because of discipline concerns. (now that they are all grown up, and we’re raising the “little kids” I have to say I can kind of chuckle at this one!)
Truth is, I think I messed up often. I know I cried alot, bit my tongue alot, and prayed more for wisdom in this role than I ever imagined I could. If I had a dollar for everytime I said to Tom – “someday they’ll be 30 and have kids of their own, and they’ll thank you,” we could probably take a nice trip! I’ve said things I shouldn’t have said, and had to apologize more than I care to admit. I’ve gotten worked up over things that were SO insignifiant, but that made me feel like I was “lesser.” (I know – typing it out makes it seem all the more silly, but reality was, that’s how I often felt)
I’ve worked hard to try to keep my wits and to maintain perspective. Let’s be honest, as a step parent sometimes figuring out what your role is and where you “fit” is just plain hard. Their isn’t a manual or a how to book. Each situation is SO different, that I can’t imagine any cookie cutter approach working. So, you do your best and you wait and see.
Sunday was Mother’s Day. The kids have always been great on Mother’s Day. Kendra stopped by after seeing her mom, and Matthew called from North Carolina. I was thrilled that I was able to hear from them both. In all honesty, I can’t imagine the degrees of ackwardness they have felt over the years on Mother’s day. They have a great mom who has taught them so much, and they both have a great relationship with her. And yet, they find it in their heart to acknowledge me on Mother’s Day. To say I am blessed is an understatement.
If you are a step parent, or know a step parent well, this will make sense to you. I always assumed they were calling or stopping because they “had” to, or because Tom told them to. Satan has attacked my thoughts in so many ways when it comes to the big kids. He figured out early the insecurity that I had and used it to his full advantage. I can’t tell you the number of times the thoughts in my head told me – they have to Love Tom because he is their dad, but they don’t have to love you. Don’t mess up, or they won’t love you. Be careful cuz if you turn them against you they will never talk to you again. Bleech…… he sure did have a hay day. Good thing is, my God is SO much bigger than Satan. I can recall specific times when God clearly told me to keep my mouth shut (if you know me, that isn’t always easy!) I can recall specific times when even though I wanted to have an opinion and to have it count and to give input, I knew my role at that moment was to hold Tom’s hand and to trust him as their dad. (and to press into the heavenly Father). God was so faithful in so many ways, when I listened. In the times that I responded in my own accord, it didn’t go so well. (and still doesn’t) I’ve learned a dependence on God that comes from a place deep in my soul.
So why all this today? Well, because I was completely undone today. Like, without.words.undone. Shortly before lunch, this…
showed up at my door. With a note that said “Happy Mothers Day” – love Kendra and Matt. An accountability group of ladies had just gathered here for lunch, and I fought back the tears the entire time we met. And then…. well, they came. And they came, and they came.
Because Tom didn’t make them send these. He didn’t call and remind them to call me, or hint that they should stop by. They did it just because they care. And this one bouquet of flowers rocked me deep to my core. As I jumped on the mower to finish up my “task”, God opened my eyes to some things that I needed to let go of. He reassured me of something I thought I had failed in, and he showed me new depths of HIS love, in what it looks like in His eyes as we journey on in this title of “step-mom.” He bought me back to when Tom and I first got married and I told the kids – don’t worry about what to call me, just call me Jen. That’s who I am – just Jen. And today, with these flowers that will bloom into pure beauty, God reminded me that all he ever asked me to be was just Jen. I didn’t have to be perfect. I didn’t have to do everything right or say just the right things all the time. I just had to be me. Just Jen. And in being myself, they would love me as me, flaws and all. Just like he does. Just like their dad does. Just like their siblings do. And I cried. What simplicity in that message, and yet, with their ages at 25 and 23, I still worry and pray and fret and think what if or how I can I impact them. Truth is I can’t, and it’s not my job to think I can. I just need to be me, and let God use me as he sees fit. He’s got this covered. This verse came to mind – actually, verse 33 came to mind. And I chuckled, because I prayed verse 34 ALoT over the years, and missed verse 33. Seek first His kingdom and righteousness!
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33-34
If you are a step-parent and are struggling with whether you are doing it “right” my prayer for you is this – seek first HIM -His kingdom and HIS righteousness – If we chase after HIS heart, he will guide our footsteps. And really, what more could we ask for?
I can’t count how many tears I have cried over the years as a step-mom. Today, those tears were tears of joy and a realization that maybe, just maybe, I don’t stink at this as bad as I thought I did. Thanks “big kids” for loving me, imperfect me. Just Jen. Mucking it up trying the best I can, Jen. You have no idea how much I love you, or how much you touched my heart today!