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!
- 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.
- Providing an open door about the past, and giving only good consequences when they talk about their parents across town.
- 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 perfectly...in fact I rarely do...so that also provides an opportunity to show them how to correct my mistakes.