Permission to Love
Then it happened, a thought, a little ray of light breaking through the black clouds of despair. “Why don't you give yourself permission to love them.” What? What was that? Permission?
Permission to Love
If you've ever had a child of your own then you know the great love that begins to grow inside of your heart with every kick, every ultrasound, every preparation for this teeny tiny human. The 40 weeks of pregnancy created not only a full term baby but also a full blown mother's heart. By the time you finally held that baby in your arms you would do anything for them, give up your very life, it was a no brainer you were in LOVE!
Bonus children don't come with that kind of love lay away plan. They are usually the part of the package deal that you could have done without. You would have preferred if the man of your dreams was sold separately not part of a family kit. But what can you say you're in love with him and so you reconcile your mind to the fact that he comes with ex and children included.
I personally had a very hard time adjusting to having 3 children now when I was used to only having one. I felt very put out by having to raise someone else's children. I never really felt like the very maternal sort of women in the first place not even desiring a child until 7 years into my first marriage. Now don't get me wrong I loved being a mom after it finally happened but signing up to live with kids that I shared no DNA with made me feel like I was babysitting kids that were never going to go home. Thank God for shared parenting, I loved the shared parenting agreement we had in our early marriage because it meant that every Sunday these freeloaders were going to leave and I wasn't going to see them again for 3 whole days. I remember encouraging myself with," just 1 more day, Jackie, just one more day." I dreaded Wednesdays like some people dread Mondays because that was the first day that the kids would come back to stay at our home.
Now were they bad kids, you may ask? No, not really, they were just a regular 9 and 11 year old. They were trying to adjust the same as I was and they had moments of sass and attitude but for the most part they were good. But that didn't matter, it was the very fact that I had to “deal” with them. Of course as the woman I felt responsible for them, like I had to mother them and see to their needs and I resented it!
After about a year I thought we had gotten into a nice routine. We had seemed to iron out all the rough spots and things were going along pretty smoothly. I didn't feel particularly close to my new offspring but there was no drama and I thought that was enough for me. Every now and then I felt a pain of guilt that I didn't really feel very loving towards my bonus kids. I had tried, I reassured myself but every time I tried there would be a bump in the road. They would act out or I would feel rejected or have an issue with their mom and we would get set right back into our formal relationship of caretaker and dependents.
Then it happened! I had my game changing moment. I was standing at the sink washing off a dish and noticed it was nearly time for the school bus to arrive. I was working from home at the time and had gotten in the routine of going up to my room right about this time to take a shower and get cleaned up after working in my pajamas all day long. Yes, this is what it really looks like to work from home. It always surprises the UPS guy when I open the door at 1:30pm looking like I've just crawled out of a box somewhere. You can see the question in his eyes. “Are you sick?” I always want to say “Hello, this hairstyle is called, and I didn't brush my teeth either.” But this day was different I had what Oprah calls an A-HA moment. I realized that I was waiting purposely until it was time for the kids to come home to go get cleaned up so that I could put a bedroom door between me and them. I wanted to hide from them, withdraw, so that I didn't have to interact, I didn't have to figure out what to say to them and I didn't have to feel that guilt I always got when I realized that I just really wished it was any day but Wednesday. I had this sinking feeling in my stomach now that I had to come face to face with the truth about my situation. I dreaded my own life. I dropped the dish in the water and began to cry. I can't do this, I hate feeling this way. I wish I could just love these kids. Then it happened, a thought, a little ray of light breaking through the black clouds of despair. “Why don't you give yourself permission to love them.” What? What was that? Permission? And then it hit me, it was me, not them that was keeping the relationship from progressing. They weren't holding back, after all they were kids, they wanted my attention, my approval and my love. It was me. I was afraid of them. I was afraid that they wouldn't love me back because I'm not their “real” mother. That they might reject me as they got older in favor of people that shared their DNA and it scared the hell out of me. Don't get close, just keep your distance was the solution my unconscious mind had come up with to solve the problem. And up until this moment it had worked.
Love is always a risk
No matter how safe you feel in any relationship, loving someone is always taking a risk. People change as time goes on and sometimes not for the better. The relationships that you once thought were so strong begin to show signs of weakness and fragility and sometimes they even fall apart. I had experienced this all of my life, watching as the grownups in my life came and went. Never really feeling like I could get close to anyone in case they wouldn't be there tomorrow or even worse they would be there but didn't want me there anymore. I never thought that these childhood experiences with my own parents would affect me as a parent myself but they had and I had to do something about it.
I made a choice that day, a choice that has changed my life forever. Not just as a blended mom but in all the obstacles that I face everyday. The choice was that I was no longer going to give myself permission to be a loser. To be someone that is losing out on all the beautiful gifts that God has given me, the second chance at marriage, the opportunity to raise a beautiful family in a loving home. NOPE! I was going to love these kids, not just half heartedly but with everything I've got inside of me. Well it's fine and dandy to say you're going to do something but execution is everything. So instead of going up stairs to hideout I stayed in the kitchen that day. Sat down at the table and waited, after what seemed like an eternity three fifteen finally came and the first and oldest of the children came home from school my bonus son, Jaren. You could see his surprise to find me sitting there (or it was the hair do and pajamas) I began to engage him in conversation about his day and joke around about this and that before long the other two were home as well and we all sat around and talked before they headed off to do homework and chores. I wish I could tell you that was it and after that day everything was different but I can't and it wasn't. I had a couple relapses and retreated to the safety of my room but then I tried again and again and now I can say seven years later that I'm comfortable in my love for my bonus kids. I keep giving myself permission everyday to love them and they keep loving me right back. In fact, today as I was coming up to my office to finish this blog my bonus son now almost eighteen years old said, I love you mom.” I said well, what's that for? He said I don't know just thought I should tell you that today. And that my friends makes every Wednesday the best day of the week!