Sunday, October 3, 2010

Child support and my favorite movie

I love those moments when two aspects of life come together! Last week my husband and I paid the monthly child support; and this weekend I watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Unrelated?

Denethor: Steward of Gondor and a second-tier character I hadn't related to in the past.  Ding ding!

I guess every couple finds their own way to handle finance. In our home, my husband handles money by aligning expenses with his larger goals. In a more methodical philosophy, I prioritize things that we're required to pay, regardless of whether they align with my emotional priorities.

To illustrate: my husband is a chef and owns a tree business. In my mind, a parking ticket with a threatening late charge would take priority over a Cook’s Illustrated or ISA Arboriculture subscription. To him, the benefits of learning more about his occupation are worth the city’s late fee.

These things come and go, but child support is a fact of life. For the most part, I’m lucky that our rates and arrangements are fair. They provide for the kids, leave enough for us to live on, and require that the other parent contribute financially. Just three points cause distress for me as a stepmother:
  1. Do the kids benefit from the support that we pay? Mommy can do whatever she wants with the money—drink, shop, gamble, enjoy $150 haircuts or cosmetic dental procedures.
  2. “The system” is right that my stepkids’ mothers need to have larger homes...and so do we. Some standard adjustments (based upon how much time we spend with the kids) allow for us to provide food, clothing, transportation, etc. when the kids stay with us. But there is no provision for the rather major requirement that our home accommodate five people.
  3. In a home like ours where my husband’s income is not fixed—it’s based on business profits—there will unavoidably be months when that fixed child support amount is no small burden. If the kids lived here full-time, then during tough months we could choose inexpensive items and make other sacrifices to reduce expenses, but with child support, we pay the same amount no matter what.
There’s not much we can do about the first, and fortunately, I can think logically through moral decisions. Financially supporting my stepkids is our obligation and our joy.  The sentence ends there.  It's our obligation regardless of whether or not the other parent also does the right thing.

That we also have to have a bigger home at less cost is also fairly easy to deal with emotionally, although it will always be more difficult to find the right home. I just have to accept the kids as part of my family (a good thing!), and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. My parents are very generous with me, and it's a joy to pass that along.  Sure, it’s a nice fantasy to think of moving to a cozy condo at a swanky address (my husband and I enjoy small spaces and downtown St. Paul). But the kids are a blessing and realistically we have to keep this home, which is farther from our ideal neighborhood and accommodates them.

Two down. The last is the tough one for me. It’s hard to watch what sometimes is a huge portion of our income divert into the hands of someone who may or may not spend it on the kids.

This is where my weekend break-through comes in.  I didn’t realize it—I’d sit through homilies and innocently nod my head—but I was looking at the money we earn as mine and my husband’s. The truth is, all of it belongs to God.  It’s His money and I’m the steward of it, like Denethor was the steward of Gondor.  My talents, my job, my husband’s business…all are of God, and my job is to pass the proceeds along to wherever they will do good for our home or another.  My husband and I were just a stop on the way.  If some of it helps to take care of another woman (not the kids), then it’s up to God to ensure that it works some good in that other woman’s life and by extension improves the kids’ lives.  That kind of thing is a cinch for God.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I wonder if parents have a similar experience? All preparations and classes and workshops tell us that the marital relationship is the core of every family, natural and step, and it must be the first priority of a couple to care for their marriage above all.

Kids have needs though, and adults should be able to put emotions on hold (for a reasonable time) while more immediate needs are taken care of. I wish it was as easy as it sounds. This summer my stepkids were with us for a month, and as a newlywed, this was by far the longest I’d been together with them under one roof. If the kids could be with us for much of the year, as my oldest stepdaughter is, then I like to hope family life would be “normal” enough with their presence that our natural marital priorities can be kept in order. By contrast when the younger ones come, which is for longer, fewer stints of time, my husband has to (also wants to, and it’s right to) cram a lot of attention, reassurance, learning and teaching into these chunks of time. Every time that they come and go, he worries that a tragedy will make this the last time.

It’s humbling, a real challenge for someone like me who lived on my own for 12 years, to realize that in our home, I’m just not always that important! It’s very good for me spiritually I know, and probably long overdue. i’m sure parents feel the same challenge in other ways. I guess God found His way to remind me that I should be more humble, not presuming or expectant. Now to live down to it.

- Michelle Gracia

P.S. I write from Las Vegas, where I’m staying for a business meeting this week. My husband’s food is light years better than anything I’ve tasted at the restaurants here!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The opportunity to build virtue

Deacon Jim Meyer, who we were lucky enough to have receive our vows at our wedding Mass, opened an RCIA class with an interesting thought. The gist: pray for virtue. But if, for example, you pray for patience, don’t expect traffic to clear up and lines to feel shorter. Expect more traffic, longer lines, children slower to obey. God builds our virtues by giving us the opportunity to build virtue.

This week I made the mistake of praying for a peaceful, clear mind. I’ve since been overwhelmed with the chatter of 5 beautiful kids (6 including my great-with-kids husband); answered so many questions that my stepson has nicknamed me “Google;” and hit my head in a football game leaving a dull ache for two days and counting.

Thank you, God, for the opportunity to try to keep my mind clear of clutter!

“Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.”


- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1804: Human Virtues (available from Ignatius Press)

Also recommended: Aquinas on the Cardinal Virtues (Ignatius Press)

-Michelle Gracia

Monday, July 5, 2010

"You're So White," says my hubby

Usually there's little difference between my husband's Puerto Rican outlook and my European perspective.  We're both American.  We enjoy each other's cuisine.  Then my husband will surprise me with what seems to me the most random laughter followed by "Honey, you're so white."

That happened yesterday when I asked him if we can have a quick meeting with his mom, and maybe his dad, before the kids arrive for their month with us.  Since my husband & I both work, the kids will be spending most of the mornings with my husband's parents.  I've been gathering ideas, info on hours & admission prices at museums that the kids like; free concerts and family festivals; etc.

What a novelty in Hispanic culture--a sit-down meeting about the summer plans!  His laughter increased when I told him I have a binder of info for his mom to go with it!  It contains coupons, restaurant clubs, my art museum member card, etc.

I have to admit, I've never been quite this organized myself before.  Usually I'm much more spontaneous.  Perehaps my level of juvenile nervousness about having a houseful of kids for 4+ weeks is making me obsess just a little.  More.

Well, what's the downside?  It's really just about getting my thoughts together.  It doesn't matter if the kids end up doing the activities that I've gathered in the binder.  After all, my husband is right.  I'm so white.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tender conversations

I've beeen doing a lot of introspection recently, because the kids are coming!  They'll be here for a month straight, and I can't wait! 

Along with the excitement and planning and home arranging, I'm also reminding myself of the things that my husband does to help the kids adjust to having a stepmom.  One accusation that stepmothers constantly face is that we shouldn't be.  That's true.  It's important that my husband and I somehow communicate the value of an intact family while still encouraging admiration for our own marriage. It's humbling and difficult to admit that something fundamental to our situation is wrong.
The tendency to look down on second marriages is natural. The quirk that many of us, myself included, forget to consider is that the second marriage might not be the one that is unnatural.  Our marriage is Sacramental; my husband's first marriage was not.
How can we explain that to the kids?  Child psychology surrounding separated parents is so tender.  Logical though I am, the presence of the children is helpful in forcing me to look at things in a tender-hearted way. They love both of their parents; it's natural to want a family to be all together; why should theirs not be one of them?  It was years before my middle stepdaughter stopped wanting her parents to get together again...and I'm sure that desire has been repressed, not truly removed.

In answering the biggest "why?" of their young lives, my husband has a talent for articulating things that are very abstract.  He understands the heart of people's actions.  While I am able to analyze and explain the progression of things in a logical way--for example, I can explain the differences between legal & sacramental marriage--he has a much cleaner, simpler way that connects with his children's hearts.  In fact, two of the kids have inherited minds like his.  They have a little more difficulty with logic, but are very insightful when it comes to moral concepts.
Here are a couple ways that seem to help the kids.  These are all more organic, sentimental things, but I can't help putting them into a list! 
  1. Proactively explaining what Sacramental marriage is, while being reactive about legal marriage.  It may be difficult to explain the emotional and spiritual turmoil surrounding a divorce, but it's fairly simple to explain God's role in a marriage.  Once understood, the difference becomes obvious. 
  2. Providing an open door about the past, and giving only good consequences when they talk about their parents across town.
  3. Example.  My stepkids are so perceptive, and tension is one of the things they pick up on the best.  I know that they notice when I'm nervous, impatient or rushed, or shy when they first arrive.  That's OK I guess.  I think a lot of step-parents put emphasis on showing the kids who's "in charge."  This is a bit more combative than my pesonality though--I'd rather let them see when I'm nervous, or hurt, or unsure, so that they can also see how I handle it.  I may not always handle it fact I rarely that also provides an opportunity to show them how to correct my mistakes.
Wish me luck this summer--I can't wait to have a whole month of family activities!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Our little goddaughter!

I'm happy to share a blog post by my sister-in-law, talking about the Baptism of our beautiful goddaughter.

Monday, May 3, 2010

10 Things to Love about This Weekend

What a great weekend!  Let's get the downside out first:  no deep talks about anything.  Of course, that can be an upside too!  So many upsides... 
  1. I was honored to spend a great deal of time with my husband, including the entire day on Sunday.  The whole day!  He did work, as always, and he brought me and my stepdaughter with him as he drove around giving estimates for tree trimming jobs.
  2. My stepdaughter was with us, and she smiled practically the entire weekend.  I love how expressive her face is, especially when she lets the eyebrows do the talking.  It makes me wonder if she gets it from her which case, I hope my kids will be just as expressive!
  3. OK there was one semi-deep conversation.  Politics!  My husband and I talked a bit about the march for immigration reform that took place over the weekend.  It was invigorating to examine the details and consequences of various laws.
  4. I was tickled by the choice of petitions at Mass on Sunday (at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis).  One of the five:   
    "We pray for all of the cyclists on the trails in Minneapolis this spring."  (Perhaps it was my quirky mood that found this so amusing!  I never would have thought to pray for cyclists!)
  5. My stepdaughter spent a lot of time on her phone playing a business game.  Good for her.  Maybe she'll learn some tricks that she can teach to us, since my husband recently started a business.  We could use that imaginary $10k that she made in a few seconds flat.
  6. I'm reading The Bible and the Qur-an by Jaques Jomier (Ignatius Press, paperback or book-on-CD).  I'm learning from it.  I love that feeling of my mind accommodating new information.  Whether I retain what I knew before? gaurantees.  What can I say?  I'm getting old.
  7. I did another wedding calligraphy job, this time for a friend to be married this summer.  It may not be painting, but it still feels great to be creative.  Thank you Kati for the privelege of doing the calligraphy on your invitations!
  8. We enjoyed an immediate-family gathering at my in-laws' home on Sunday.  Yum.  And, I have a mother-in-law with a beautiful soul.
  9. The weather was brisk, sunny and fresh.  Perfect for my Ann Taylor LOFT green ruffle-collared jacket that my niece & stepdaughter helped me pick out last summer.  It's no longer available online, but it's basically a green, thigh-length, empire-waist version of this one.  It was the first clothing purchase for myself all year and I am taking good care of it.
  10. God gave me 10 whole things to be happy about this weekend.  I'm glad He gave me time to stop and count.
Incidentally, check out the new blog at begun by Maureen and Chilton Williamson.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Talking "objectively" part I

Bear with me while I think aloud.

I think to when I was my oldest stepdaughter's age--just three months older than she is now--and a Morality class at school defined objective vs. subjective.  It's the kind of distinction that most people instinctively know is out there, but popular social leanings squelch that instinct before most people can articulate it.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

objective, adj., ... 2. Having actual existence or reality. 3.a. Uninfluenced by emotion, surmise, or personal prejudice. b. Based on observable phenomena.

subjective, adj., ... 2. b. Particular to a given individual; personal.

Simply, "objective" is the statement of the moral law (what does God say about doing this in general?).
"Subjective" is the law applied in a certain situation (is this wrong for me under my particular cicumstances?).  In America our legislatures make objective laws, and the courts judge individual cases subjectively.

My stepkids have been educated in secular schools.  All of their everyday authorities tell them not to "judge."  My husband and I see them only on weekends or longer visits.

My older stepdaughter is at the age where sexuality is an everyday challenge--her own sexuality, her friends', her boyfriend's, characters' on TV and in movies, etc.  It's very important to show the appropriate level of trust to her.  So how do we talk to her correctly, and with clarity, without appearing to unfairly accuse her or her friends?

This is the perfect situation where I think we should talk "objectively."  Moral law (objectivity) applies to sexuality just as it applies to science, math and every other pattern of life.  Regardless of anybody's situation (subjectivity), it's important to at least know what the moral laws are and what the consequences are for breaking them. 

Why not talk about her particilar decision?  Even in the rare case when a teenager shares everything about her actions and her circumstances, there's no way for any human to completely know another human's situation.  Not even the situation of your own child or parent, stepchild or steparent.

So we're agreed, we have to speak objectively, then let her make her own subjective determinations about when things are right or wrong, and let her make her own judgement as to what is wrong for her.  (Yup, she has to "judge" what's right or wrong).

It took me several paragraphs to explain that.  Men are so different!  A few weeks ago my husband said to her, "I know you have a boyfriend now.  You know what's right.  You make your own decisions, and I hope you'll make the right ones."  How simple he makes it sound!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Age of Reason

My stepson has so many questions!  He has no fear of saying or asking anything of my husband or me, and his insights are deep.  More so than both of his older sisters.  He instinctively connects complex moral concepts with everyday tasks, unlike the girls who have a few basic approaches ("Is this selfish or generous?" "Will it make someone happy or sad?" In the younger girl's case: "What have I heard before that I can rattle off now to get the right answer?")

It's no wonder that my nine-year-old stepson also shares our love of reading, and is already perusing literature such as Around the World in 80 Days. As another way to connect, he and my husband are reading The Portrait of Dorian Gray at the same time.  They're not too impressed and are both dragging through pages 49-52, so their bonding is more about commisery than excitement.  I'm sure they'll get through it...and maybe move on to The Lord of the Rings?  No?  They don't share my love of fantasy I guess!

I can now say with confidence that my stepson has reached the age of reason:  he understands right & wrong for their own sakes, not just for the sake of the consequences.  He's a brave kid, and he was very young when his parents divorced.  I know he was given answers at the time, but those childish answers don't suffice in his growing awareness of the world, so here the questions come again!

Friday, March 12, 2010

It was right in front of me!

I sometimes feel lonely or lost, like an outsider.  At those times I have felt as if there is so little prayer support around me.  Then I remember when my middle step-daughter asked me about St. Joseph:  "Why is he Jesus's 'foster' father and not his 'step' father?  What's the difference?".  Or when she excitedly realized that she can relate anew to Jesus:  "Jesus was a 'step'?!"

She's right!  We refer to St. Joseph as Jesus's foster father because he was responsible for Jesus's physical upbringing, unlike a step-father who takes second place to the child's real father, and because the foster situation is temporary.  Jesus was always intended to one day return to heaven with His true Father.

But in truth, St. Joseph was married to Jesus' real mother, so he is both Jesus's stepfather and foster father.  I have a real role model!  I can't tell you what a relief it is to know that there is a place for me in Catholic/Christian Tradition.

Here is an ancient prayer to St. Joseph, likely used by Jesus's followers while Jesus was still alive (and ever since).  We don't know exactly when it was written, only that it was found in 50 A.D., roughly 17 years after Christ's death and resurrection.  This prayer asks St. Joseph, who holds an important place in heaven close to Jesus, to join his voice to ours as we ask Jesus to protect the vulnerable and dying, and to mercifully welcome the dead into heaven.  At the time that it was originally found, this prayer was likely used as a plea to God to protect the new Christian people from martyrdom and torture.  This particular prayer has little to do with step-parenting (unless you consider step-parenting torture! I don't), but it's close to my heart because it is a direct link back to Jesus.

An Ancient Prayer to Saint Joseph

O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in thee all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, assist me by thy powerful intercession and obtain for me all spiritual blessings through thy foster Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, so that, having engaged here below thy heavenly power, I may offer thee my thanksgiving and homage.

O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating thee and Jesus asleep in thine arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near thy heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.

St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me.  Amen.

Now that I see a kindred spirit in St. Joseph, the line "I never weary contemplating thee and Jesus asleep in thine arms" touches my heart so deeply.

In gathering this sketch for the blog, I realized that the feast of St. Joseph is exactly one week from today, March 19.

Head of Saint Joseph looking down,
with a subsidiary study of his features (recto);
Two studies of legs (verso)
Andrea d'Angiolo, called Andrea del Sarto
(Florence 1486-1530)
Purchased by a private collector in July 2005,
Christie's, London, King Street

Monday, March 8, 2010

Burden vs. Consolation

When people find out that I have stepkids, usually I get some sort of negative or sympathetic reaction.  The first comment is usually something about the extra challenges we'll have.  That's not the reaction I had when I first learned that Raul has kids--I love kids and I was glad to have the opportunity to have a bigger family!  And I was nervous to meet them.  I can't tell you how relieved I was to hear my best friend Alison have the same reaction that I did (her excitement is the title of another post below!). 

It's true that the step-parenting situation is always the result of something off-kilter that happened in the past--be it a divorce, untimely death, abandonment, or unmarried parenthood.  Even in the case of an adoption, "something off-kilter" is related to the biological parents.  It's important though, to assign rights and wrongs to the correct column!  Perhaps there was never a sin at all, or perhaps there was a sin somewhere in the past.  But the presence of children is never wrong.  On the contrary, it shows that the parents made the right choice in bringing a child into the world.

The step-parenting situation, where an increasing number of us find ourselves, is the embodiment of an important consolation for past wrongs, and an even more important hope for the future. Out of every bad situation, God offers an opportunity for joy: the kids.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"He has kids?? How great for you. More people to love!" -Alison Snook (my best friend since age 5)

Hola from Madrid!  My husband and I are on our honeymoon.  We had a layover in Amsterdam, three days in Madrid, tomorrow we travel to the Canary Islands, then 2 days in London and 1 day in Oxford dedicated to C.S. Lewis. 

We spoke with our eldest yesterday, and the younger two today (international communication is much easier than it used to be).  I keep asking how my oldest stapdaughter is doing, and as soon as the words are out of my mouth, I remember that I've been with my husband nearly all the time and he likely knows no more than I!

Before our marriage, my mother, in her usual kindness and method, took out two books about step-parenting from the library.  Both of them warned stepmothers-to-be to expect their honeymoons to be ruined by the intrusion of the kids.  How wrong those authors were.  They wanted the ribbon without the gift!

I miss my oldest the most, since I'm used to seeing her pretty often and keeping in touch with her near-daily.

So for what it's worth, ignore the books!  Recognize the beauty of your new family.  I cherish the time alone with my husband, I need it, and I cherish the opportunity to miss my stepkids!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Starting at the beginning

Recently I found myself in a conversation about Baptism with my oldest stepdaughter.  I suspect I witnessed her very first religious question:

“What about people like me who haven’t been Baptized?” 

My husband was Confirmed Catholic in 2008. My stepdaughter was raised non-denominational with him.  Her personality predisposes her to say things she thinks people will be pleased with, so I was overjoyed to hear a real live question!

The best I can do is come at it from some angle relative to her; in this case, sin. We all sin, and it’s something she cannot help but observe in herself, so regardless of religion she knows that it’s true. Let’s start there.

I explained the three types of sin: original, venial and mortal.  The ritual of Baptism erases original sin.  We touched on Confession as well (Baptism cleanses original sin; Confession heals venial and mortal sins), and even nudged Communion. I'm very glad for the experience of RCIA at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, where they have a similar challenge of explaining complex topics, in a couple sentences, to a non-Catholic audience!

Since many of her friends were baptized or Confirmed just a couple years ago, I also explained why the Catholic Church baptizes at infancy—that it’s about cleansing the soul, not just choosing a religion. It provides a leg up on life, with extra strength obtained from membership in the larger Body of Christ. Then usually around the teen years, Confirmation is the Sacrament that signifies that a choice has been made.

Living in a cross-denominational family, it’s also important that I correctly, respectfully explain the other practices she may have seen in the past. For example, my younger stepkids were baptized at their mom’s church last year. They had a Christmas party with annual “communion” the previous year before their baptism, and at 8 and 9 they prattled that they’ve “accepted the Lord Jesus as the Savior in our hearts.”  Simultaneously.

It’s a little difficult to explain the differences between the Catholic Sacrament of Baptism and the Protestent concepts since there are so many variations, and non-denominational churches can vary minister-to-minister even within the same church. Again without the RCIA program, I never would have known that the Church does recognize any denomination's Baptism that is done “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and intends to cleanse the soul of original sin. That reinforces the fact that Baptism is about cleansing the soul, not about joining a church. But I cannot get around the fact that her brother's and sister's baptism is not recognized, either by the Catholic Church or by most Protestant faiths.  I wish so much that I could be happy for my stepkids, who are so illusioned.  But that's a post for another time. 

My oldest stepdaughter is too old to be carted off to any church to be baptized by her parents.  Parents and godparents are no longer in a position to fulfill the promises that we'd have to make, to vouch for her, etc.  I wish with all my heart that she would just request Baptism.  It hurts my heart every Sunday when she can't receive Communion with us.  But all in time.

My family provided me with a uniquely theological background, and together with my husband I can’t wait to share that with her. “Philosophy at the dinner table,” as my sister-in-law says!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Talking NFP

This family Christmas star was my eldest stepdaughter's idea. I'm embarrassed that my toenails aren't prettily painted like the girls'!

I was so surprised last weekend at how easy it was to begin a conversation with my teen stepdaughter about natural family planning (NFP). I spent the whole weekend worrying about how to begin, and then poof! we were mid-conversation. There wasn't much time before she had to go back home, so we started off with a bit of biology and we'll continue with philosophy and ethics next weekend, then conclude with how to interpret it all.

One step forward: as a Gen X girl, I'm a lot more open to discussing reproductive "stuff" than my parents were with me--this is not such an socially embarrassing topic! Second step: looking at my stepdaughter's generation (is she still considered a Millennial? She's 15 yrs), there is a great deal more openness to NFP than when I was her age. Even apart from morailty, there is such a trend toward the natural that I now benefit from an easy conversation opener. I've known an atheist and a Jewish friend who also have used NFP because they recognize some of the side effects of hormones.

At any rate, it was a real pleasure and true bonding with my stepdaughter. I'm nervous about the rest of the conversation... especially about repeating the moment when her dad walked in on our discussion... but I'm really looking forward to hearing her point of view.

Off to paint my toenails!

What should my step-children call me?

At the rehearsal dinner on the eve of our wedding (the best days of my memory!), my soon-to-be stepson asked me what he should call me.

When King Solomon was presented with a choice between two “mothers,” he suggested that the child be split in half. As a child I always took this story literally—I read about Solomon taking up a knife, and was properly horrified. As a stepmother, I see this lesson in a new light.

The Church’s First Council of Ephesus as early as 431 A.D. concluded that in truth, a mother or father is the parent of the whole person. A child cannot be divided in identity or in ancestry body from soul, any more than he can be cut bottom from top. Calling me “mom” would associate me with motherhood of his soul or his mind, even though I am not mother of his body. To treat a person as if he is divisible is not only false, it also sets the child’s “parts” against each other. And let’s be honest: any attempt to talk about a child in terms of divided parentage most likely is intended to be an insult to one or the other parent. It certainly isn’t intended to foster a complete, fulfilled child.

In light of this understanding, I see what a great offense it would be to allow someone else’s child to call me “mom,” no matter what percentage of the year they are under my guidance. If I am to truly love them, then I must love them wholely, for who they truly are, body, mind and soul.

Who would not cringe at the thought of a child torn in two parts…yet how many of us do exactly that?

So my stepkids call me by my first name. We took the first steps with honesty.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Introducing my family

A year ago, I read a book about step-parenting in preparation for my marriage.  I have three beautiful stepkids, two stepdaughters and one stepson, and I'm so proud of my husband.  We first participated in marraige prep (pre-Cana), and we took a Natural Family Planning (NFP) class.  I then took two stepfamily workshops through my employer, and I read up on the challenges of being a stepmom.

Notice the separation.  I tried and tried to find a piece of writing that combines the two topics: Catholic advice on becoming a step-parent.  The closest I came was a question on our marraige prep test that asked how we each feel about caring for other children.  That's it.

So, I returned to psychology and other writings.  Secular writings are well-meaning, and Christian writings are better although they don't approach the depths of this beautifully Catholic understanding of marraige.  Troubles are often treated in terris tones--well done, and completely truthful, but you'd think that the goal of every situation is "to make this step-family successful" until the kids are grown.  I say the goal is much deeper and longer-lasting: the goal is to get us all, lovingly, to heaven. 

So here I am!  I know love, hope, and frustration. I know the rosary and a few things about guilt and responsibility! If there are any other Catholic stepmoms and stepkids feeling bereft of Catholic advice, you and your insights are welcome.