More than anything, I want to do right by those I love and to myself. I push, I pull, and boy do I struggle.
I was gifted the opportunity to be a step-parent over 21 years ago. I was only 22 at the time and had no clue what it meant to be a parent. In fact at that point, I was so certain that I would fuck up any child I had, that I swore I would never have children. Then I met a man who I fell in love with, and he had a young son who I came to adore. This child came and went from our life several times a year and was a sweet blessing in my life. The coming and going was very confusing to me. His dad had little contact with him when he wasn't with us, and I had no contact. I would think of him often, but I was just an extra in his life at the time.
But because of him, I found space in my heart to try this parent thing. All I knew was I had a great deal of love to share and it seemed that I was the only one worrying about my future imaginary children and the damage that I would share with them. So I brought two children into this world.
The two I physically pushed into this world will always be mine, as I will always be their mother, I will always count. But when I divorced their father, I found that slowly I lost my step-son. Being a step parent is so weird. I count when I am the only parent around doing the day to day, but I am an extra. At the time I didn't feel like I had a say in how he was raised. Now I sit back and chuckle that I had all the say in the world as the only parent on-site for his high school years. Having him in my life full-time made it painfully obvious that my husband and I had extremely different parenting styles and concepts of what a parent's job is.
This quote hangs in my bathroom and I sit and read it every day, "Our role as parents is not to mold our children but to create enough spaciousness & simplicity around them so that they can stay true to themselves and follow their soul whispers." Hollie Holden wrote this and posted it on Facebook a while ago and when I read it, it resonated with my heart.
I believe children come into the world who they are. "As is," so to speak. I believe that we teach them through being our true selves. They learn what they see and feel in their world. The lectures and endless analogies we feel the need to express are our attempt to guide them through situations where they may not have a good example of how to act. Our words and actions either click with them or they truly go in one ear and out the other.
I have tried not to involve my step-son in the chaos of the divorce. It was hard to not want him to tell the courts all of the meanness he had to endure, especially when I knew his brother and sister would be facing the same problems down the road. I stayed in the same area as their father at my step son's plea. He was right that we needed to stay. I didn't want to. I knew it would be painful for myself and the kids. But I knew he was right.
Then he pulled away and stopped connecting with me. I didn't see that coming. I know my ex's family is very cut and dry, you are either in or out. But I had secretly hoped I was special. I have told myself that in order for him to have a smoother time with his family, that I would not be able to play a major role in his life, but I really didn't think through how much it would hurt to be removed. I am struggling to make sense of this empty space. I have seen this happen to friends and family, but I never imagined a day where I didn't know which state he was living in.
If he finds a partner and decides to settle down, is there a place for me at the wedding? Will someone contact me if he is in an accident? Will I know when he had children? Do I just sit quietly and try and at least keep Facebook open so I get glimmers and glimpses of his life?
Out of left field, he began putting out very public comments on my personal Facebook page. I don't know why he is choosing such a public forum to swipe at me. I keep trying to make sense of what he wants me to feel or know, but I can't.
I heard this song, Burning House and found myself crying on the drive down today. It made me think of my step-son.
I am reliving so much of the parenting struggle I lived when my step son was a teen all over again now with his younger siblings. My ex is bragging about all of the very stern measures he is taking to force change in our unruly, undisciplined children. De ja freakin' vu! His brother said to me the other day after a fight with his dad, that he understands why his brother moved out when he turned 18. I told his, "dude you have no clue how painful that day was for me." I remember sitting on our front porch watching him leave after explaining to his dad that he was moving in with another family until graduation. I remember that as a really powerful experience of having to sit quietly and just watch life play out.
I feel the hardest part of being a parent is when you really come to terms with the fact that your children (or spouse, or parents, or anyone) have their own lives to live and their own lessons to learn through, that they actually have to make some painful and stupid mistakes in order for them to have the history to fulfill their work here on this earth. Our children are creating their history, their story. Their stories, like our own will have some really hard times, some bumpy times and hopefully some grace and ease.
My hope and loose knit plan, is and was to fill my children's lives with interesting people, books, movies, music and places. To feed their imagination and souls with connection. My ego is not and hasn't been tied to what they chose to do or not with their lives. My work is to help them as I can, to stand beside them through their struggles and remind them how wonderful they are when they forget. If I have done my job right, they will always know where to find arms that will embrace them, gentle coo's of love and empathy, and eyes that see's how brilliant and capable they are.