Spring break was rough for me. My stepson was with us for the entire week, my husband was working for most of it, a lot of extended family from both sides were at the house (hi mom, you were not at all a burden and I loved having you here), Easter came at the tail end of it along with some high expectations of which we were unaware until they weren’t met…
I realize that a lot of people would look at that list and be like hello every week of my life, and I totally get that. But I don’t thrive on having company or being company and that’s probably the understatement of the century. And doing all of this with a baby, and their unpredictable nature, is a bit harder.
And, probably most of all: when my stepson is with us for long periods of time, things seem to get a little cagey around here. I think there are a lot of emotions bouncing around, for all of us, and maybe we are prone to some kind of emotional entropy that is only perceivable when you let it go for a while.
But just as I’ve realized that long periods of uninterrupted time with him increase the stress level, I’ve realized that a break, even a short one, resets most of it. I do so much better when I have that break. Even just when I know that break is coming soon.
I don’t know how that sounds to an outsider. I really have no idea.
I don’t know how this is going to sound, either, but I’m going to try to say it in the most clinical way possible. When my stepson goes back to his mom’s, I feel a subconscious (sometimes conscious) relief. The relief has the taste of “oh thank god things are back to normal now.”
It creeps in quietly and I snap back and think wait what? who said that?
Because having him here is normal. He is our family and maybe it’s not everyone’s family, but it’s our family, and that is normal. And where did this “normal” thing come from anyway? Deep in my subconscious animal brain? Is this some sort of evolutionary biological thing happening here? Like, the child of someone else triggers some sort of very very subtle animal rejection?
Obviously not every stepparent feels this way because plenty of people consider their stepkids to be “like their own.” And I believe in that, I aspire to that, and I think that that will come some day.
But I’m still working on getting there. And we may have done all of this (meaning marriage, house, baby) a bit too quickly, which has created a vast ocean of difference between how I currently perceive “my child” and “my stepchild” (in quotes because I am uncomfortable with that distinction). Maybe we should have waited until one element felt “normal” before we moved to the next and the next. But we made these decisions consciously; we didn’t do it thoughtlessly or by accident or by default.
I have to believe that these are problems that come with newness and that as we grow, I will evolve.
Image credit: Brian Cronin