It started with a trip to Flower World on Mother's Day to find a climbing plant for an empty pot in our yard. Three weeks later, we now have a trellis, built by my husband. This is no ordinary trellis. Not because my husband searched Pinterest for ideas and designed and built it himself, but because it represents what we're doing here. Growing things. Building things. Making a life together.
This is not extraordinary. Couples since the beginning of time have fallen in love and committed to one another to be best friends, partners and lovers. They've made homes and raised babies. They've grown gardens and worked on their old houses. They've worked and sweated and sacrificed to give their children a chance to do the same when it's their time.
These are universal truths. Perhaps where we differ from the ordinary is that we've committed to raising one another's children. We both brought two into this marriage. They're not cuddly babies with lovely smelling heads. They're teenagers. Smelly, moody, complicated. This morning, our youngest, 11, cried all the way to school because of friend angst. The older three have their own complexities, decisions, milestones.
Scary stuff like parties where kids smoke pot and drink beer. Do you trust me to go?
Decisions about college. Will I get in anywhere?
And SAT tests, raging hormones and a first broken heart. Waking to the news of a classmate's suicide. In 8th grade science class, the daily lesson was on how to use a condom for protection from HIV. The demonstration involved a banana. I'll leave it at that.
I mean this is the gritty parenting stuff. This is the real deal, not a Hallmark commercial. And it's scary as hell.
Cliff and I are committed to the long haul, knowing that although they look like adults, they're not. They're kids and they need us. They will for a while longer. We pray they keep talking to us, even when it's uncomfortable (for us). We pray for their safety and their dreams and their hearts. Because honestly, most of the time I'm terrified for them.
Anyone who has become a step-parent will tell you - it's a tricky business. Who are we to one another's children? We have the added the complexity that Cliff is a widower and I'm divorced. How do I honor the boys' mother's memory but also be their mother? How does Cliff become a father figure to the girls without stepping into my ex-husband's territory? How do we win their trust? How do you maneuver through all the change and come out on the other end as a family?
Neither one of knows the answer to these questions. However, we're committed to trying as hard as we can every single day to do what's right for these kids. Every day we get closer to building the trust and love with one another's children. It's not easy. It's hard. Some days I cry in the bedroom. But I always come back out to my family and give it another go.
We're building a home and a family one day at a time. Together. A trellis. Some flowers. A new grill for cookouts. It may not seem like much to some, but to us it's everything. These kids, one another - it's our everything.