I remember thinking as I was growing up about my future family. I was going to be married by 28, and have two children (one boy and one girl) by the age of thirty. Sure it seemed rather fast, but 30 was officially old, so I couldn’t wait until after that. Plus, I was going to travel and go to school, so any earlier than 28 was just absurd.
It’s funny how when we actually reach that nasty “old” age of thirty how old it really isn’t. Looking back at my naïveté is also quite interesting, but minus some minor details I wasn’t too far off. I did get to travel (and hope to continue). I also earned my Masters Degree, which I am very proud of. Then married at 30 (gasp!) and had my first child at 31. I got my baby boy, and all I needed was the girl.
The part that wasn’t part of the plan was that I actually got my girl when I married her father. I think you would be hard pressed to find a young girl or boy who envisions becoming a step parent, especially given the poor reputation that step parents have received. Fortunately, I was blessed with a truly special step daughter. She is kind, caring, compassionate and thoughtful. We have developed a truly special relationship, and I feel as though she is my own. She treats me as a parent, but not her mother. I am her step mother and that in and of itself special role.
All of that being said, being a step mom during the holidays presents its own set of challenges. Like I said, she is my own and I will treat her that way forever. However, I met her when she was five, and I had her brother when she was 8. Holiday traditions were already kind of set. I slowly started my own with her, but now I have so many I want to start with her brother. Elf on the Shelf is a perfect example. We do not do one for many reasons, but one being I couldn’t figure out how to introduce it so late in the game for her. It felt fake, and I didn’t like that. We have started other traditions though, and so far everything seems to be receiving positive reviews, which is great.
Time is also a tricky thing during the holidays. My step daughter splits the holidays between both houses. There are pros and cons for that for her. For us, it can be rewarding and frustrating. I’m sure all families that split time feel the same way. It is great to spend the holidays with her, but disappointing to always be watching the clock. For her siblings (she has a sister at her moms) it means constantly waiting for her to come home. For example, if she is not here on Christmas morning, does that mean her brother has to wait to open his gifts until she gets here? That doesn’t seem fair to him, but having him open them without her doesn’t seem fair to her. We decided that when he gets older we are going to let him open his Santa gifts while he waits, and his other gifts when she gets here. This is a daily challenge, and there are so many more things we need to think about. We want her to feel welcome, as if this is her home, without neglecting her brothers needs at the same time. It is a very tricky balance.
Then there is the topic of scheduling. I am a planner through and through. My husband is not. It is hard enough trying to plan things with him, much less around and another entire family. I completely recognize that others do not plan ahead like I do, but it has been challenging for me to say the least. Luckily, everybody involved tries to be flexible, but it has forced me to let go of some of my control issues, which is good I suppose. That being said, however, this world will be a much better place when everybody agrees to just let me rule the world.
Lastly, my poor step daughter has two very different families. We are purposely frugal, and diy as much as we can. Not many people are like that, and for a kid who does not grow up consistently in that environment it can be confusing at the holidays. She may get the latest electronic at her other house, and a toy her dad made her at our house. Also, everybody has different financial abilities. How do you explain why Santa got one house twice as many gifts as the other house? On that note, everybody handles Santa differently too. I pretty much had a panic attack last year trying to figure out if stockings are supposed to be from Santa or parents. I still don’t know. If it were my kid I would make it up as I go, but with her I don’t know what pre-conceived notions she is coming in with. Luckily, so far so good. As far as I can tell she is still a Santa believer.
All in all, being a step mom has been wonderful. It’s like a hybrid of an aunt, teacher and parent. Some days I enjoy it thoroughly, and others I’m not sure what I got myself into. I suppose it’s not much different from parenting in general in that respect. It’s some what like watching a bad movie. You can often see the potential for things to happen, but often do not have the control or power to intercede. Luckily, I have a husband who trusts me implicitly, and values my opinions. As with anything, though, the holidays have a way of putting a magnifying glass on any difficulties we do have. We try to enter this time with flexibility and understanding. Advocating for our families needs is important, but understanding the importance of her other family is just as important. I’ve learned that every year will be different, and we will just have to make it up as we go, which often results in more fun anyway.
Merry Christmas all, best wishes to you and yours.
**Update! In July of 2017 our family welcomed a new baby, a little girl. This addition has completed our family, and we are truly thankful all of our beautiful children.