Tolerance

Sometimes I troll social media to see what is going on in my two stepson’s (S & C) lives. Eric, my husband, and I have been unable to obtain transparency from S & C or their mother through the years. It’s not the kids’ fault; they have learned by example. Their mother has taught them to keep many secrets from us. When S & C are stressed, run down, or acting out I check out the internet to see what sort of chaos is going on in their lives. I’m unapologetic about it. When we know what is going on in my stepsons’ lives, we are able to deploy our prayer, time and resources to help them cope.

Recently, on one such mission, I reported to my husband that the boys were just hanging out with their cousin Mike.  Eric informed me that the boys do not have a cousin named Mike. “Well, there sure are a lot of photos with S & C and their cousin Mike on Facebook,” I replied. My husband was annoyed. He came to the computer to take a look. In shock and disbelief, he informed me that the male Mike in the photos was actually the boys’ female cousin Michelle.

Upon discussing this with S & C we learned that Michelle identified as trans-gendered and had started the process of transitioning from female to male about two years prior when our sons were 13 & 9. We asked the kids how this was presented to them and were saddened to learn that they were simply told to start calling Michelle by her chosen name of Mike and to start referring to her in the masculine. We asked the boys how they were feeling about this new reality (which they had been dealing with for almost two years before we found out). Our oldest expressed being uncomfortable with having to share the boys’ bedroom with Michelle while on family vacations (especially while she still had breasts). Our youngest asked Eric and me how they removed Michelle’s breasts. These were difficult conversations to have.

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My Plan Vs God’s Plan

Got-a-Plan

The reading (Gospel Mk 1:14-20) from last Sunday’s Mass really got me thinking. In this Gospel story from Mark, Jesus is asking Simon and Andrew to drop their plans and follow Him. Now, Simon and Andrew had a pretty good plan for their lives; they were fishermen. Fishing was their vocation, family business and livelihood. Christ says, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The Gospel reveals: Then they abandoned their nets and followed Him. Additionally, James and John drop their plans to follow Christ shortly thereafter. Not only was Jesus asking them to modify their vision, but He was ultimately asking them to do something that required a new skill set. He was taking these men out of their comfort zones.  These guys had their entire lives figured out; they had big plans which they abandoned for Jesus’s plan.  As a person who can struggle with God’s will or plan for my life; I find this truly AMAZING.

About 18 months ago, my husband Eric and I realized that we needed to sell our home and move closer to my stepsons. They are getting older and their schedules are busier. Their mother is single mom with an additional toddler whose father is absent. Additionally, my stepsons have experienced chronic health needs which require regular physician visits. It was getting harder for us to manage this dynamic from across town; we needed to move closer to the custodial parent. We sold our home and moved into a rental 5 miles from the kids in their school district.

We had GREAT plans for this move. It would allow us to see the kids more. They could spend more time in our home. We envisioned our home being a quiet get-away from the chaos of their home. We would meet for ice-cream or a quick movie on the weekend. The kids could come over and watch football with their dad. Eric and I would know about (and attend) school functions because we would be just up the road. The boys would come to see our home as their home and not just a place they visit every other weekend. Yep, that was OUR PLAN. It was a good plan, surely God would approve. Continue reading

The Vacation Mirror

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Sorry I’ve been away. We have been in a post vacation coma of sorts. When we woke up it was back to school time; which meant neglect for the blog. My boys are currently watching the Ohio State football game with hot homemade submarine sandwiches in their bellies. This leaves me with some time to write.

For vacation this year Eric and I returned to the house in Emerald Isle, NC where we spent our honeymoon. The beach house is owned by a friend and a weak long stay was gifted to us when we were married. It really is a special place filled with warm memories. This is our first return since our honeymoon and this time we had my mother and my step-sons S-man and C-man in tow. The kids have affectionately named my Brooklyn grown mother “MeMaw.” It’s funny because that name encompasses the antithesis of who my mom is. My mother is a cosmopolitan woman who would prefer her grandchildren call her by her first name Chris in public. My boys think she is a hoot and very different from any grandmother they know. They call her MeMaw; even my mother appreciates the irony. Continue reading

Step-parenting is REALLY hard (but not for the reasons you might think)

I have the privilege of step-parenting two boys. I’m unable to have children and I was lucky enough to marry a man with two. I love these kids. They are one of my greatest sources of joy and they are one of my greatest sources of pain. I imagine, in that way, step-parenting is very similar to organic parenting. For the sake of this blog post I’m defining organic parenting as a child living with a custodial mother and father who are either biological or adoptive. Organic parenting involves a child being in your home full-time and decisions (good and bad) are made by both mom and dad. Organic parenting is natural. It’s never perfect and it’s not always successful; but it is the best parenting model. It’s been tested; it’s the old tried and true. Organic parenting is the only parenting model which unites children with both their mother and father.

Step-parenting is none of these things. It’s not organic. My step children are not in our home full-time; they split their time between two homes. Decisions (good and bad) are not made by both mom and dad. My step children do not get to experience a parenting model which unites them with both their mother and father. My step children have to live with a parenting model in which mom and dad are split. It’s not natural; nothing organic about it.

What makes step-parenting difficult is that there is nothing a step-parent can do to rectify this situation for their step-children. Many adults are unable to acknowledge that this problem even exists. Just the mere mention that step-children do not get to experience an organic parenting model angers many adults. We have created soft phrases to describe split parenting such as “co-parenting” or “modern family.” Continue reading