My role as a stepmother isn’t a subject that I have blogged about much. My stepson is 16, and I remember being pretty embarrassed by just about everything my parents said and did when I was sixteen. I especially hated it when they talked about me to their friends.
The truth is that to be a non-custodial stepparent who is religious is lonely. There are almost no forums, communities, books or resources. Much of what applies in the non-Jewish world doesn’t translate, and most of the books I have seen address being a custodial stepparent. When I wanted some help navigating the road I am on, I looked in every place on line and in the library that I could think of. Nothing.
It is as if the publishers out there make the same mistake as a lot of other people that I don’t have to parent much, or work hard, or focus energy on my stepson because he doesn’t live with me.
Of course the opposite is true! There are many times where more patience, energy, work, skill, communication…. in short parenting, is required because he doesn’t live with me. And of course I don’t love him less than my other children. I do love him differently, but I love each of them differently. Each relationship is unique.
The difference isn’t in my unconditional love – it is that my unconditional love for him is one way. His loving me conditionally is a result of lots of different factors. I could say that it is “normal” for a stepchild, but I don’t think one can generalize in this case. There are stepchildren who freely adore their stepparent. Hold on to them as a buouy of sanity in their lives. There are stepchildren who simply don’t love their stepparents at all. And everything in between. But the love, conditional as it may be, is just that, LOVE. And sometimes I am amazed that he lets himself love me, given loyalty issues and other factors in his life.
At another time I would like to describe all of the ways that I think the one-way unconditional love makes me a better parent for my whole family. It has made me a better person. Loving, and giving with no illusions of control is freeing. It is a challenge, but it is freeing, and strength-building.
I cannot sum up the complex relationship filled with challenges and love that I have with my stepson in one blog post. In fact, it is a book’s worth of stuff that I will try to write someday. (Maybe when he is old enough to not be mortified by such a thing.)
Most of the parenting issues we have now are 99% about being sixteen and 1% about being a step-relationship. Which is great! But I never know when it is one or the other, and I am often insecure and don’t have enough confidence in that ratio. I keep learning the lesson over and over again.
Tonight there was pushing away, and pushing away, and pushing away: ” I don’t want to commit to following up with that. I can’t come that day. I don’t want to talk about it. Nothing new is in my life, I mean it. I don’t know when I will have them. Yeah yeah, okay, etc.”
…. and then “Yeah, I would prefer it if you packed me a lunch for school tomorrow, if it is okay.”
And in one instant, I feel needed, I feel loved. : )