Oh I See!
Have you ever wondered how someone didn’t appreciate what you were doing when you saw it as an incredible contribution?
When I first met my second husband, I was shocked by the resistance I felt from his kids. From my perspective, I was bringing great things into their lives. For starters, their dad was happy. Furthermore, as a sensitive mom, I was more keen to some aspects of their needs than he tended to be without me. For example, they would tell a story and I would listen. I could understand what was being said as opposed to their engineer dad who has a bit of a hard time digesting things that don’t need “fixed”. I was willing and able to drive for them and be present in ways they were not accustomed to before. As a helper I brought margin into the life of their dad, so he wasn’t burning the candle at both ends. There were all kinds of opportunities to do new things that came along with my presence, but there never seemed to be the excitement to have me around. It was more than a lack of enthusiasm, it was, in fact, a very painful experience for all.
Recently, I have become keenly aware of how different I am as a person, on so many levels.
I would prefer to go to church than almost anything else. My kids didn’t watch Sponge Bob, we didn’t have Santa at Christmas or the Tooth fairy for lost teeth. We didn’t watch American Idol and I had no idea who One Direction was when I met Bryan. My step kids, on the other hand, were much more like most Americans. They were inundated with trendy pop culture, the latest and greatest TV shows, contemporary clothing styles, famous people, and a whole host of things I have never been interested in.
Furthermore, when Bryan and I began dating there were some things that were not going to work for me, as was the case for him with my sons, and we made compromises. What was a compromise for us was an all-out assault to our children, who whose normal was what they’ve always known. To have someone come along and be so different was not anything they even remotely felt gratitude about.
So while I thought teaching Bryan a table manner or two, because that was very important in my family of origin, it very likely felt, to his children, like a horrific change. No doubt they weren’t up for a new normal, after all, it wasn’t like they were in love.
Bryan and I fell for each other in such a way that making adjustments early on, to the way we had done things in our previous lives, for the most part, was easy to adjust.
As a result, I was relatively unaware of the drastic changes my precious husband made to accommodate me. I can now see how those changes did not go unnoticed to the four children he had been raising a certain way for the previous 21 years. No doubt his presence in my life was jarring to my kids at first, but ultimately I can only imagine that my four sons let go of their reservations, once they saw how happy their mama was, and what an incredible man Bryan is.
For some reason, lately, I see a lot of changes that have come about in my union with Bryan. One example is our vast difference in the number of paper products we find necessary for a task. I use maybe one roll of paper towels every 6 months. This is normal for me. It is normal for my kids, whom I raised to share my values. When I first met my stepchildren, it felt like they were going through one roll per day. When even minor differences get introduced under the same roof at first, a clash of worlds ensues. There can be considerable discomfort in the home, of all places.
I was raised by an environmentalist, whose mother lived through the Great Depression.
Wasting paper towels to me feels like taking a gas hose and spraying it all over the parking lot before and after you put it in your gas tank. I would imagine they were mighty perplexed as to why I am obsessed with limiting paper products. When I resorted to hiding the paper towels or putting a rubber band on them, it must have felt like I was taking away basic life tools. For this Austin girl, to blow through paper towels felt insanely wasteful, damaging to the environment and something I could not tolerate in my home.
My children were raised to be very independent.
They often cooked for themselves at a very young age. My stepchildren were raised to have a meal severed to them three times a day. When I realized that my stepchildren would ask, “What’s for dinner,” night after night I was concerned about their independence among other things. I’m sure I mentioned to my husband that they are plenty capable of feeding themselves from time to time.
Recently I have become aware of how that must have felt as a child; to have some authoritative source come into their lives, and destroy what they’ve always known as usual. Oh, how challenging it must have been for the man we all love so much.
Going into it, I wish someone had said, “Now Charlotte, be aware we all do things differently. We all get our feathers ruffled, especially when things get out of sync in our homes. They are young, and your presence will be an enormous adjustment. They will likely not welcome you, in fact, they will likely reject you. Do not take it personally, a lot of it has to do with things feeling out of control. Of course, as you know change can be a huge adjustment, especially for children who are already dealing with the aftermath of a toxic marriage, and the reality of divorce, or whatever trauma left them with unmarried parents. It will be tough for any of you to feel gratitude for each other, at first, but over time things will fall into place.”
I’ve been married a year and a half and on the scene longer than that. One of my stepchildren had a crisis over the weekend. I was led to offer encouragement from my heart, as only I can. I realized for the first time, that child may begin to feel a bit of appreciation for me being in the picture. I have a unique perspective that comes from the different way I exist in this world. My differences are perhaps beginning to seem less like a space alien and more like a perspective that might, just might, begin to be beneficial.
We all have adjustments in our homes.
I trust something has resonated with you. Perhaps there is a trial in your life where you might benefit from taking a moment and imagining what this situation looks like from the other person’s perspective.
It is assuring to know time indeed offers a new view.
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