Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oozing in Gently

"You hear a lot of dialogue on the death of the American family.  Families aren't dying.  They're merging into big conglomerates."
--Erma Bombeck

I think one of the best pieces of advice I received about being a "stepmom" (quote marks 'cuz I ain't one officially) was from my mother--a stepmother herself.  She told me that it was important to sit back & watch & not push myself on Xing Fu's kids.  For me that is extremely difficult--I want the most important people in his life to like me & accept me--so anxiety over that translates into the need for over-interest.  I've fought mightily against that trend & I think I've done pretty well with it, but I remind myself often to sit back & let the situation unfold.  So it was interesting when I came across a section in a book titled The Courage to be a Stepmom by Sue Patton Thoele where she discusses just that.  The book was given to me by a co-worker way back in March or April & has been sitting by my bed gathering dust as I've decided recently that many "stepmothering" books are evil.  More on that in a sec.

What Thoele says is that as a stepmother I should "ooze in gently" like introducing a new cat or kitten into a family. "Lovingly let 'em alone to sniff out the new house."  Stay in the background--be there to provide what is asked for & let them come to you for what they need/want--or set out a food dish & water in the case of a cat...let them set the pace (cats usually do).  Expecting an instant family just won't work--first of all, unlike having your own children, you & your _(fill-in-the-blank)____ have each other's children as "unnatural alliance of your kids & my kids."  Additionally, Thoele says that often these children are beyond the "cuteness" stage & bonding over the long term just hasn't happened.  There's just no shared past history.  In fact, I often feel VERY left out when Xing Fu & his children discuss past events that shaped them as a family--very exclusionary & difficult--yes, we are making new memories now (beach vaycay, e.g.), but those are very few as everything is so new in the grand scheme of lifetime events. All I can do is sit back & allow our connections to unfold.  We are getting there--slowly but surely.  Sometimes it is pretty hard--sometimes I have to grit my teeth, remain calm, & remind myself that I'm the adult.  And sometimes it's pretty wonderful--like when one of the kids mentions that they wished my son were with us at the beach so he could enjoy the big raft at the water park with us.  Actually, I think most of us involved really want this to work--even the kids.

     Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
 Where neither ground is for the feet nor any 
      path to follow?

 --Walt Whitman

Back to the evil book thingy--all of these books except for the one I'm currently writing about just paint the most negative stepmonster pictures for our future as a blended family--I need affirmations, a shoulder to lean on, understanding, answers to why a behavior is know--support.  That's why I've set most of these books aside and was reluctant to open this one.  I'm glad I have cracked the binding open because at least this section of the book has been very affirming. 

1 comment:

Incognito said...

Hey there! I know I've said this before, but the way you stay on top of this potential "step-parent" relationship has really shown me how good a thoughtful approach can be and that it can work, given the time and patience necessary.

You're on a good track and having the understanding from your partner that things may not always be great is a good thing, too; that way, the expectations can stay on the level they need to be to survive. Keep on truckin'.