“Eddie, wake up… Come on… it’s all over,” I said in the most nurturing voice that I was capable of mustering. I’m not great at those sweetsy voices. But I was trying to persuade Eddie to leave his medically induced sleep to come back over to the land of the living.
My son was 5 and he had just had his tonsils out. I totally got it was a very routine surgery, but it wasn’t routine for me. Nothing could make me happier than getting that kid awake. His little eyes fluttered and the color returned to his cheeks. He’s waking up! But, before I knew it, I woke up a sleeping demon that wanted to attack everyone because his throat hurt. Hmmm… maybe I should have let him stay under a little longer.
We made our way home and Eddie calmed down in the backseat. He seemed lulled by the movement of the car. As we pulled up in the driveway, Michael (the man I would eventually marry) was standing in our driveway with a care basket for Eddie, full of cherry popsicles and the 1970s version of Pete’s Dragon. At this point, Michael and I had only been dating a couple of months. I mean, it was so early in our dating that I made sure I had mints in my purse and refused to eat certain foods in front of him.
Oh, gosh, I’m so happy he’s here, but a little nervous because Eddie is in rare form. However, Eddie perked up when he saw Michael and that was good enough for me.
We made our way upstairs and got all comfy on the couch. Eddie was wrapped up in a blanket with his head in my lap enjoying his frozen treat, one tasty lick at a time. Michael put in the movie. Eddie and I had never seen it, so we were really excited to see a new movie, plus the chance to see one of Michael’s childhood faves. Michael came over to the couch and put his arm around me as the movie started. I took a moment to let it soak in. Michael was so thoughtful in coming to help Eddie through his recovery and spend time with us. It was like I was living an episode of Little House on the Prairie — well, plus the technology and the cherry popsicles. But, you get the point. The moment was happy and serene.
Until … Eddie projectile vomited all over me.
Our Little House on the Prairie moment turned into a horror movie in seconds. I screamed. It looked like I had been shot with an oozy because the cherry popsicles had made their way back up. I was shocked. Michael was out of there in lightning speed. I admit, I couldn’t blame him. It was way too early in our relationship to admit parenting is for the certifiable crazy.
Single moms have to strip away at the expectations slowly. We can’t just push people into the parenting pool or they’ll drown. Michael was shoved! We had these Norman Rockwell dreams, but in reality, we were more like The Simpsons. It was all just too soon.
But, now I was stuck. I couldn’t move. I was a prisoner of vomit. HELP!
Just then, Michael came back, armed with a change of clothes and several towels. He picked up Eddie and stood him in the tub. He threw me a couple of towels so I could navigate my way to the bathroom without creating what looked like a murder scene on the cream-colored carpet. After I had cleaned Eddie and myself, I opened the bathroom door to find Michael cleaning the couch. I just couldn’t believe it.
Being a single mom, I was used to doing things on my own. Something broke? I fixed it. Someone sick? I took care of them. I wasn’t use to having an extra pair of hands. That continued after Michael and I got married. I still had a single mom attitude. I gave baths, practiced softball, and helped with homework without thinking a second about including him in this whole “parenting” thing. It had been my routine for a long time.
A few months into our marriage, Michael approached me, “Shannon, I’m here. Not just to be your husband, but to be a dad, too. I want to be part of this family, not just watch you live it out.” It never occurred to me that I wasn’t allowing him to connect with the kids because I was doing it all. He was missing what he had signed up for.
I had prayed for help for so long. But, now that I finally had it, I didn’t know what to do with it. However, after some time and lot of trial and error, I’ve learned the best way to handle help is to accept it.
It takes time for new families to grow. Here are a few things to remember when developing relationships:
- Pray. Allow the Lord to show you how to love and connect with your child. This is an awesome privilege you have been given. Pray that the Lord will guide you as you navigate it.
- Allow relationships to happen naturally. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and relationships need time to form.
- Find opportunities to connect. It doesn’t even have to be anything that the stepparent and child have in common. It’s good to invest in one another’s interests. That’s how we learn about each other.
- Allow stepparents to parent. Parenting isn’t just baseball games and Christmas morning. Let them get their hands dirty. They can help when the kids are sick. They can help with homework and, yes, they can discipline, too. Participating in all the parenting responsibilities builds respect.
Shannon DeGarmo is a “Keep the Faith” national radio featured contributor, author of The Bounce Back Woman, and most importantly, wife to Michael, and mother to three children. She’s had her share of hard times. She finds purpose and joy in encouraging women to discover their true identity and divine destiny through the same faith in God that rescued her.
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