The Pendulum – Long-distance stepparenting
June 25, 2012 § 1 Comment
I live on a pendulum, swinging back and forth between the extremes.
Sometimes I have kids, sometimes I do not.
Their rooms gather dust in the months between their trips to see us; my memories of them grow dim. And just when I think that I have finally figured out how to cope with them living over a thousand miles away, there we are, picking them up at the airport and trying to learn how to occupy the same space and be this sometimes family all over again.
It wasn’t always this way. We used to live in the same state, see them every other weekend, approach some semblance of normalcy. It was always harried and fleeting and maybe only skin deep, but it was often enough that no one forgot how to be around each other. This change, now a year in the making, has not been an easy one.
I don’t know how to be 100%, all in, but for only a cumulative two months each year. If I don’t separate myself from it the minute they set foot on the airplane to go back to what really is home to them, it will rip my heart out, each and every time. And really, to separate myself so easily means that I have to hold back while they’re here, if only just a tiny bit, so I still have a piece of myself to go back to.
I don’t know that I can do that this time.
The summer stay is a longer one. Much longer. To the tune of a month, in fact. There isn’t anything about it that doesn’t terrify me. The honeymoon with the kids will wear off, their mom will grow increasingly desperate for external chaos to match the chaos she feels in heart as the stay plods on, and for me…well, what if I get tired of it?
What if I can’t do it?
What if I don’t remember how, or if I realize I just don’t want to? Last summer, I started counting down the days to get back to normal after about day 5. I can’t do that again this year, to them or to myself.
So the choice is really a simple one: No holding back.
Tell me this isn’t the dilemma at the crux of every stepmom’s heart. You know you have to give all of yourself to these kids, but to do so means to risk it all: getting caught up in the wrath of the biomom, becoming vulnerable to hurt when your stepkids reject you, the loss of the life you have when the stepkids are not there.
I guess that last one is the big one for me. It’s a selfish fear, but it’s very real for me. If I don’t hold back, just a little, what happens when they leave? Can I ever hope to get back to normal with just the two of us here?