Let's talk about theory. According to my graduate school professor, there is nothing so practical as a good theory. After a wild weekend in my stepparenting adventure, I have this to say about that: ppppppppsssssssllllllllltttttttt.
The problem with theory is that it's idealistic. It looks good on paper. But when you start to test it, reality hits right between the eyes like a 3 year old with a tinkertoy and poor motor control.
Here are a few theories that got tested and are now in revision from this weekend:
T1. It is better to ignore messes around the house for the weekend so that you can spend more quality time with the kids.
REALITY: I AM 500 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE 500 TIMES LESS PATIENT WHEN MY ENVIRONMENT IS TRASHED. I mean, seriously, it's embarrassing. I don't know what it is about piles of childmess everywhere that sucks the kindness lifeforce out of me, but it does. And then whatever I think quality time is totally suffers. So I've decided that a modicum of neatfreakiness (that same quality that used to drive me insane about my own mother) is a necessary evil if I am to maintain some sense of humanity during the kid weekends.
T2. I was MADE to be a stepparent.
REALITY: It is hard work sometimes to move beyond feeling like a teacher or a babysitter to the role of parent when you did not squeeze the children out of your business. More than once this weekend when K1 was testing the control waters, I simply stopped feeling responsible for him. I said in my head, "his dad can figure this out when he gets home." My head then propped up its feet, raided the Lay's fridge and popped in Adventures In Babysitting while the children danced naked on the roof. Does this mean that I don't love those kids? NOT AT ALL. I love them with as much heart as I can. But maybe just maybe it will take me some time to bond entirely? I think I expected to feel ownership the way JR feels ownership right out the gate, but the truth is...it comes in waves and that's ok.
T3. I will be prepared for and will not take it personally when I hear the words, "You are not my mother". I am a mature adult.
REALITY: oh, that hurts. It just hurts. I know that I'm not their mother, but I was kind of hoping they would miss that fact and let me in. The truth is that they have two primary parents and their dear little heads would spin if they had more, so it's fine that I'm a secondary parent...but these may be my only children in this life and the thought that the closest I can get is FUN AUNT NINNY...well, just, sigh. I know, I know...I just got done saying how I sometimes FEEL like the fun aunt babysitter instead of a parent, so why wouldn't they feel that way about me too? I get it. I just wish it was all different.
THe point it this: I'm awesome in theory, moderately okay in reality and with time and some serious grace from God, I may be able to create a reality that blows away theory at some point. I think what marriage and stepparenting are teaching me right now is to wash away expectation, to accept the reality that is now, to love myself in the moment and to trust that goodness is present in me and my new family. I don't think I will stop thinking up theories that make me feel wise, but maybe I will be less attached to the successful defense of such theory in the face of contradicting evidence. And just have fun with what we've got?