Day 27:     30 Days in the StepMom Trenches

 “Because I said so!”

 “The best gift you can give me on my Birthday is to get along with each other!”

Two phrases my mother used with my brothers and I when we were growing up. Two phrases I didn’t like hearing as a kid. Two phrases I used today!  

It’s Sunday in late fall and that means Church, attending my son’s basketball game, and weekend chores. This holiday weekend, it also meant putting up Christmas trees in each of the kids’ rooms and trying to squeeze in some fun family time as four of our six were not with us the whole weekend.

Needless to say, it was a busy day. Church was wonderful and we heard a great message. Reggie Hodges, a player for the Cleveland Browns and member of our Church, spoke briefly this morning about the importance of being bold in your faith. He spoke with such conviction and meaning. One of our Pastor’s spoke about apprenticeship and how many of the moral lessons he learned in life were taught in his home by watching his parents and grandparents and by listening to their words and following their example. His message really reinforced how what we say and how we live our life has such a profound impact on our children and stepchildren. It was good stuff.

My son’s team played well and won. It was great to watch him play. And then the fun started as we arrived home.

When I was a single mom, I decided to put small trees in each of my kids’ bedrooms. When I got remarried, we brought our tradition with us and my stepdaughters loved the idea of having a Christmas tree in their room. We have fun decorating the trees. We put on Christmas music, make hot chocolate and talk about when we got certain ornaments. It’s a fun time.

This year was a bit more hectic. Over the summer we added two bedrooms to our home so that each of our four girls have their own bedroom. Two new rooms meant finding two new trees and it was quite the feat trying to find trees that were similar to the ones we already had…. just to make things fair.

As Murphy’s Law would have it, the lights didn’t work from last year. Ornaments got broken in storage. Trees were tipping over. Just seemed like everyone had an issue and everyone needed “mom.” Even though my husband was available and offering to help, it was one of those days when only “mom” would do.

I had to bring out the “because I told you,” a few times when I asked people to do something and was challenged on it.  There are just times when I want the kids to do simple things without the complexity of being challenged.

I reminded myself repeatedly while I was getting requests from every room in the house and finding myself getting frustrated because I couldn’t help everyone when they were asking for help that just 48 hours earlier I was very sad missing my four kids and wishing we were all together. We were all together today and I needed to appreciate the chaos that it brought.

It was just one of those days where it seemed the kids were just at each other. Not in a mean spirited way….. just a sibling we’ve spent to much time doing family stuff kinda way.  So at the end of the night when I was tucking my two sons in and they asked “mom, what do you want for your birthday tomorrow?” I replied, “I just want you to get along. That would be the best gift of all!” And as I spoke those words I smiled, remembering how on nearly every holiday my mom would make that request and I would always think “give me something easier please.”

I guess it’s inevitable that we use the phrases that our parents used on us. We were raised by them. And regardless of what type of family you live in, you are going to have challenging days. You are going to have kids who challenge you whether you are the parent or the stepparent.

While the day was non-stop fire drills I paused to take solace in the fact that my seven year old daughter was adamant about making sure I had two new Christmas trees to put in the new bedrooms so that everyone had a tree. She sees all her siblings as siblings…. no step involved and that is a blessing if I say so myself.

Lessons from the StepMom Trenches: some days are chaotic and other days are really chaotic. Whether you are in a traditional family or stepfamily, siblings can get on each others’ nerves and it’s the parents/stepparents who often have to play referee.

Challenge: are there any phrases that your parents used that you find yourself using? How do you feel when you use these phrases? Do you smile thinking back to your parent’s using the same phrases or do you think “I can’t believe I just said that?”

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