Wed 8 May 2013
Lissie shares her story with us today. She had one of those “light bulb moments” that changed her life and her perspective. Her honest outlook will draw you in and her insight and heart will leave you feeling blessed.
A Stepmom’s Heart: Love is What Matters by Lissie
I read somewhere recently that it takes 2 to 4 years for a stepfamily to mesh and feel integrated. Part of me wishes I had read this, say, 2 to 4 years ago, and saved myself a little heartache, but there is a bigger, wiser part of me that understands it was the journey I had to walk.
I look back on the genesis of our little family and I remember so much pain, so much adjusting. I was so hard on myself then. My stepson would push and push and my stepdaughter was this tiny little enigma and I just kept thinking something had to be wrong with me that I didn’t feel this overwhelming sense of love and that every other weekend wasn’t this picture of domestic bliss, full of arts and crafts and cookies straight from the oven. Becoming a stepmom is hard under any circumstances, but because of my husband and I were rebuilding his relationship with his kids just as much as I was building one from scratch, there was just so much pressure to get everything right and to be perfect.
I honestly don’t know how I survived those first couple years. The kids’ mom was doing everything she could to stop my husband from getting his time with them back and to ruin what time he did get. My in-laws were so resentful of me being in limelight after years of playing parents to the kids while my husband struggled to put the shattered pieces of his life back together. My husband was trying to dance that dance of moving on and moving forward while being pushed down every other weekend and sometimes most of the days in between by the very person he was trying to move on from. The kids were just being kids, confused and scared and wide eyed and wanting so much for someone to just put the pieces together for them. And I was in the middle of all of this, trying to help everyone and feeling like I was failing with every single step. I was hanging on by tattered threads a lot of the time, defeated by the chaos that seemed determined to keep me from making a family out of the mess that was loving this man. I remember thinking over and over again, “this is my life now??”
But one day, something clicked. We were taking our first family vacation and my stepson, fraught with anxiety at being away from his mom and knowing she didn’t like it, had a major meltdown that at the end found him hiding under the bed in shame and me laying on the ground looking at him and crying, giving in and realizing I couldn’t be perfect, I couldn’t ever be a replacement mom, but we were still a family, for better or worse, even if the parts didn’t look the way I expected them to. I couldn’t tell you what exactly happened that day or what words I said, but I can tell you that from that day forward, the dynamic changed from four people trying to learn to occupy the same space to family of four, who experiences challenges, disappointments, happiness and sadness, but loves each other all the same. We settled into a little routine and I let go of expectations and instead started to learn what were real smiles and what was anxious and forced and what exactly it was I liked about each child and how to love them and what kind of stepmom I wanted to be.
And it’s a good thing, too, because before I knew it, they were ripped away from my husband and I, moved across the country with their mom & military stepdad and suddenly we were all alone again and living every divorced parent’s nightmare, struggling with how to be long distance parents.
There was a lot of grief to work through. We had just watched the closest thing that either of us have had to perfect slip right through our fingers like sand. We had to rebuild our lives all over again. We packed up and moved a few hours closer to family and waited for the kids’ return. I don’t know how many sleepless nights before that first trip back I spent wondering if that short time of happiness was enough, wondering if they would forget that they loved me, wondering if what we had built was lost forever.
For the longest time, I thought that the gift of being a stepmother was all about the gift of learning to love someone else’s children as my own, but that isn’t it at all. From that first trip back and every time after, when they step off an airplane and meet my eyes and love me without having seen me for months on end, I realize the gift all along has been their love. Their love tells me not only I am enough, just as I am, but I am living the life I am meant to live. It’s still hard work and it will never be perfect, but it is our life.
I was lost in my life, before I found them. I thought they would be this thing I would have to overcome or adapt to, something that would bring pain, but came along the side of finding and loving my husband. But it turns out they are my whole reason for living, the destination my life has been walking towards all this time. I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be but one smile from my stepdaughter, one laugh from my stepson, and I remember, I want to be their stepmom.
I am their stepmom. Through better or worse, they have me, but better yet, I have them
Lissie has been stepmom to her two wonderful kids, age 9 and 11, for almost 6 years. Her and her husband have been married for 2, but have been a family from the start. No kids together (yet), but incredibly blessed already. They live in a peaceful, rural town on the west coast and look forward to each and every trip the kids make. You can find more of Lissie’s story at http://exceptthat.wordpress.com/ and twitter.com/exceptthat
Share how Lissie’s story touched you? Did you ever have a lightbulb moment that changed your perspective?