I get it now. Being a parent is tough.
But being a step-parent? That’s a different kind of tough.
Disclaimer: I know how unbelievably blessed I am. I have a soon-to-be 11 year old daughter who started calling me “Mom” within in the first six months of marrying Dan. We have an amazing relationship – we talk about the hard things and laugh over the silly things. Some stories of step-parenting aren’t like mine. I know I’m blessed.
Mackenzie stole my heart from the moment I met her. Dan invited me to his parents’ house to meet his family a few months into dating and she was the first person to open the door and greet me. She greeted me with a huge smile and the Game Of Life board game. I knew instantly that we would hit it off.
And we did! We became snuggle buddies, me her confidant, and she entwined herself permanently in my heart. At that time, I was falling in love with her father, and I was also quickly falling in love with her, too.
Fast forward to marriage and living day-to-day, things have gotten easier and more complicated all at the same time. Let me explain:
Loving our daughter is easy. Sure, we butt heads and deal with attitudes at times, but no matter what, we love and practice forgiveness.
Co-Parenting is complicated. Dan and I see eye-to-eye in regards to our parenting style about 95% of the time. This is the complicated part: while there is mutual respect between us and his ex, we both parent differently. Which is why we encourage family devotions and personal Bible study to help her discern God’s way, rather than our human ways.
Living with each other is typically easy. Sure, we have spats, crankiness, discipline, and having to humbly say “I’m sorry.” But living together is a joy and an encouragement! Investing in a child takes HARD WORK (amIright?), but seeing fruition and the “a-ha!” moments make those tough moments so very worth it all.
Stepping up is complicated. For the one who is stepping up, it’s crazy complicated. Emotions and fears of failure (Am I going to permanently screw up this kid?! Where is the Parenting Handbook for All Occasions?!) along with figuring out how you fit in as a mom-figure AND what about discipline AND we have to teach her the birds and the bees way too soon AND trying to be mommy in every aspect when you haven’t been mommy in every aspect of their life… whew! It’s exhausting!
I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve had emotional breakdowns. You know the kind – the snot-running, hiccup-inducing, blotchy-faced ugly cry. But through it all, God has offered guidance and comfort, and He has provided me with my wonderful husband, who has supported, encouraged, and allowed me to simply be me.
So, yeah. Parenting is tough. And each of us have very similar situations while also having very different situations all at the same time.
Be encouraged, parents. There’s no Parenting Handbook for All Occasions (goodness me, that would be wonderful!), but we have a loving Father who meets us in our tough with grace, mercy, and tender love.
And when a little one wraps their arms around you, revel in it. God is showing Himself through your child(ren).