How many times have you heard yourself saying, in reference to your stepchildren, “That’s not the way I would (insert a multitude of parenting tips tricks and disciplinary actions)”? So often in our role as a stepparent we find ourselves making decisions for the kids day to day activities, supporting them at sporting events and in general acting like a parent. However, we can get so caught up in that role that we forget they have,in most cases, two parents that are actively trying to raise them. Those moments of reality sometimes hit us stepmamas square between the eyes and knock the wind out of our sails.
Just this past week there was an altercation with my oldest stepson which ended up with some severe punishment from his high school. Both my husband and his ex-wife believe in disciplining their children and correcting poor behavior, but their views on how to do that actually vary quite a bit. My husband believes in preventative discipline (ie – monitoring internet use, media influence, phone hours, etc) while his ex-wife believes in post-incident discipline. My husband thinks it is okay to make the punishment uncomfortable (ie – no phone, tv, computer for a week). While his ex-wife might take the phone away for a day. And then there’s me…I certainly have an opinion too. I invest in these children’s lives and want the best for them, but when it really comes down to it, I am a tree of support for my husband, not the childrens’ mother. This past weekend I found myself saying to my stepson in jest, “you are so lucky I am your stepmom.” – which is a way of pridefully saying I think I would do a better job, the sentiment is just cloaked in sarcasm. I also found myself anxiously asking my husband how he was going to handle the behavior problem and putting pressure on him to handle it a certain way. I thought I was being supportive, but really I was nagging and not taking time to respect and consider that this stepson whom I have loved for 5 years has a father and mother who have been parents for over 15 years. As much as I know and love my stepson, his mom and dad know him even more, and instead of being a support beam for my husband, I instead was making his role as a father even more difficult. Not an easy thing to admit, but it is the truth nonetheless.
I recently have been meditating on the 25th verse of Proverbs 31, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” How those words cut me to the core. I spend so much time worrying about how my stepkids will “turn out” when they start dating, driving, or applying for colleges if they don’t start behaving a certain way right now. I get myself so anxious and then I get frustrated and hear words coming out of my mouth lecturing my husband for not parenting the way “I would.” In those moments I am not a woman of strength, but am instead too frazzled to have a respectful and calm conversation with my husband and that is certainly not a picture of dignity either. And in no way shape or form am I laughing at the days to come – I’m dreading them. I’m sure many of you can relate to those moments of conviction and defeat.
The beauty of these gut-wrenching moments and this beautiful Proverb is the truth that the Lord can gently show us where we are missing the mark, pour out His grace, and we can grow from the experience. I challenge you to laugh at the days to come this week. None of us is guaranteed another breath – what a tragedy to only focus on the things we dread. I pray for you this week to be a woman of strength and dignity. Rest in the almighty God and his unfailing love and He will bring you peace.