Tag Archives for " Step-Family "

Dec 23

Christmas: The Birth of a Step-Family

By Rebecca Townsend | Connection , Encouragement , Faith , Family , New , Step-Family

© Sing Lok Che

Because Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1: 19-20 (NIV)

The last couple of years, I’ve allowed myself time on Christmas Eve to sit quietly and reflect on the story of Mary. It is difficult to imagine the social scorn she and Joseph must have endured during the pregnancy of Jesus. When I really start to think about the depth of their faith…their conviction and belief in God…it truly takes my breath away.  

I am sure they were rejected and ridiculed by people they believed to be their allies and confidants. They must have had felt as deserted as Tom Hanks in Castaway – even though they were together.

While Mary was likely mocked and taunted by her peers, Joseph must have had several of his friends trying to talk some sense into him.

“Joseph – you need to get away from her…she’s going to drag you down. It’s not even your kid. Run, man – fast! You have no obligation to her – she’s broken the relationship. You’re crazy if you marry her.”

What deep love and loyalty Joseph must have had for Mary. Otherwise, how could he have had confidence in Mary’s story of an angel coming to tell her that she’ll be impregnated with God’s only Son?

Joseph did not listen to the naysayers. He stayed true to his heart, his faith and his love for Mary and the unborn child she was carrying. God confirmed Joseph’s heart and sent an angel to him to reassure him of the Immaculate Conception. And Joseph became a step-father to Jesus.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus were a step-family.

For those of us who are a step-family, it always gives me strength to realize their were probably times when there was tension at the dinner table or discord amongst Mary and Joseph about what consequences Jesus should have for separating from the group to hang out in the temple.

As a step-mom, I’d be lying if I said that when I look across the dinner table at my step-sons chewing with their mouths open and their elbows on the table that I saw young Jesuses. In those moments of trying to instill life-long skills for the 900th time in the last six years, I feel like Cruella de Vil rather than the patient and loving step-parent I envision Joseph to have been.

Surely, step-parenting for Joseph had to be easier than it is now. I mean they didn’t really have to co-parent with other people…well, unless you count the Almighty God. But shouldn’t that be whom we are all co-parenting with?

They didn’t have to split time with another set of parents…

Well, actually, they did. When Jesus was 12, he disappeared from the large group his family was traveling with on their return trip to Nazareth from the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem.

Mary and Joseph had been frantically searching for Jesus for three days. If I lost one of my step-sons for three days…oh my goodness, I cannot even imagine the panic, the guilt, and the shame…not to mention the anger from my husband and the boys’ mom – and rightfully so.

But, it was in that story when Jesus made it clear that there was a change in custody. That is when co-parenting, shared custody, moving between houses became the reality of this step-family.

When Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, Mary confronts Jesus.

I find it interesting that Mary is the one to confront Jesus. In a step-family, it is often a function of biological parents to discipline their children before a step-parent does. But in nuclear, biological families of origin, the father is typically the one to confront and implement the discipline for large infractions.

Perhaps this tells us that Joseph was functioning as many of us step-parents do – back-up coverage, the quiet position, or the support role.

Exasperated, and I’m sure a bit perturbed, Mary says something along the lines of, “What were you thinking? Why would you do this to us? We have been worried sick looking for you!” Apparently, all parents take the behaviors and choices of their children personally.

Jesus responded, apparently surprised they didn’t know where he was, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus’ time in His Father’s house, doing the work His Father sent Him to do would mean less time with Joseph, who had raised Jesus as his own.

Biblical scholars have noted that following the incident of Jesus in the temple, Joseph is not mentioned any further in the Bible. It is not clear when Joseph died.

I wonder if he died with a broken heart. After raising Jesus with the love, passion and integrity, as he would have his own biological children, it must have been painful for him to accept the new co-parenting arrangement with God.

Sometimes, step-parents will suffer silently. We are reminded often, through media, legal red tape, and unfortunately by some biological parents that as a step-parent we are merely an accouterment, an accessory, in the lives of our step-children.

Maybe step-families should view the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus with hope and optimism. Rather than accepting the status as a faux family, step-families may wish to view Christmas as a reminder that faith, love and hope can create miracles in any situation…even those that may have a social stigma attached.

Believe. Hope. Love.

© Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC 2015

This blog first appeared on Rebecca's site in December 2014.

 

Jul 14

The Legend of the Step-Mom

By Rebecca Townsend | Communication , Connection , Encouragement , Family , Step-Family

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent ~ Eleanor Roosevelt 

I adore my 6 year-old nephew, Ben, and his sister, my 4-year-old niece, Anna. They are as close to mine as I’ll ever have.

My sister and brother-in-law invited me into the birth room for both of them. That is a gift I will always cherish. I’ve known these two since they gasped for their first breath in this world.

As much as I delight in spending time with them, they would just as soon be with my youngest step-son, who is 11. Ben and Anna idolize Connor.

If Connor isn’t with me, they want to know why he isn't with me...and what he is doing... and when they will see him.. and what will they play with him when they do see him... and when can I make that happen….

Figuring it out without a filter

Ben and Anna have always known that I am Patrick and Connor’s step-mom. They didn’t understand it at first and bombarded us with questions.

“Why do Patrick and Connor have two houses?”

“Why is Uncle Andy their daddy, but you aren’t their mommy?”

“Why do they not get to be with you all the time?”

“How come they don’t live with both their mommy and daddy?”

Ben is pretty savvy and he soon caught onto the idea that Patrick and Connor may not be with us every time we see them. He may not have understood the WHY, but he accepted it the best his developing brain could. And, he leads the way for Anna to comprehend the blended family her Aunt, Uncle and cousins have.

Step-Mom circa 1950

A few weeks ago, I spent the day with Ben and Anna. It was just the three of us, giving my sister a few hours to take off the mommy hat.

We built Lego creations, looked at photo albums, and Anna and I put a big Disney Princess puzzle together.

As Anna and I were finishing up the puzzle with six different princesses, Ben came in to supervise. One of the last princesses we pieced together was Cinderella.

Ben said, “Aunt Becca, we watched a Cinderella movie and it was scary.”

“It was scary? Cinderella isn’t scary. What did you think was scary about it?” I retorted.

Anna jumped in quickly, “She had an evil step-mother who was so mean to her.”

Ben couldn’t let Anna finish before he inserted, “The evil step mother was so bad!   She made Cinderella do everything and then made her sleep in the basement!”

Anna talked over Ben, “The mean step-mother locked her in the dark place. And when the birdies and mice made her a dress, the evil step-mother and evil step-sisters ripped it up.”

“It was so mean!” “She was so evil!” “The evil step-mother was bad!”

They went on for a few minutes and I let them rant and express their disdain for the evil step-mother.

When they finally took a breath, I said calmly and with a little giggle, “You know, I’m a step-mother, too. I’m Patrick and Connor’s step-mom.”

They became very still and quiet – for what seemed like an hour. Ben spoke up, “But Aunt Becca, you aren’t an evil step-mother. You are a nice one and you aren’t mean to Patrick and Connor.”

Anna chimed in, “Yea – Aunt Becca, you are the good step-mother – not the evil one.”

And we finished the puzzle then scurried into Ben’s room for the Lego building and an afternoon filled with fun.

Would she use her power for good or for evil?

Although the afternoon is stored as a joyful memory for all of us, it could have ended up in the pain part of our memories.

After reflecting on the conversation, I see how I could have led this discussion south - in a heartbeat.

I could have defended myself, my role, my fellow step-mommas and quickly shut down the kids.

I could have had my feelings hurt.   All of my insecurities, feelings of being a second-class parent, hurt and anger of not being a biological mom could have easily welled up inside of me and spewed out onto my innocent niece and nephew – or it could have leaked out of my eyes with heavy, painful, salty tears.

After six years as a step-mom, there are still days of hurt. Times of frustration. And, moments of jealousy.

But, in that moment with Ben and Anna, I saw it as an opportunity to slay the dragon of the evil step-mother. I jumped on the occasion to deflate the long-standing media projection of a step-mother as being selfish, immature and self-serving.

What if Ben or Anna found themselves in a position as a step-parent in 25 years and only had this negative perception of it?

Would they miss out on an opportunity to love and experience a fulfilling life?

Would they shy away from personal and interpersonal growth because of Disney’s 1950 portrayal of a now growing role in our society’s families?

What if I wouldn’t have reminded them of my role as a step-mom? What if my moments of shame about being a step-mom had overtaken my pride in the family I have been called to be a part of?

If I had chosen silence, hurt, or anger that afternoon, I would have only given more power to the historical and distorted view of step-families.

Step-Families can be amazing

Instead, I wanted to plant a seed for Ben and Anna. A seed that gives them optimistic views of hope, grace, and love in situations that may not always be viewed as promising or fruitful.

My experience has not been evil. It has not been easy, either.

I know there is no perfect family – biological, adoptive, step. There is no flawless parent. There is no impeccable child. We are all second-class compared to the Perfection of the Divine.

There is Goodness where you decide to see it. I choose to see love in our imperfect step-family. You can choose that, too.

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2015 Rebecca G. Townsend

 

Dec 25

Christmas: The Birth of a Step-Family

By Rebecca Townsend | Family , Step-Family

Because Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." ~ Matthew 1: 19-20 (NIV)

The last couple of years, I’ve allowed myself time on Christmas Eve to sit quietly and reflect on the story of Mary. It is difficult to imagine the social scorn she and Joseph must have endured during the pregnancy of Jesus. When I really start to think about the depth of their faith…their conviction and belief in God…it truly takes my breath away.

I am sure they were rejected and ridiculed by people they believed to be their allies and confidants. They must have had felt as deserted as Tom Hanks in Castaway – even though they were together.

While Mary was likely mocked and taunted by her peers, Joseph must have had several of his friends trying to talk some sense into him.

“Joseph – you need to get away from her…she’s going to drag you down. It’s not even your kid. Run, man – fast! You have no obligation to her – she’s broken the relationship. You’re crazy if you marry her.”

What deep love and loyalty Joseph must have had for Mary. Otherwise, how could he have had confidence in Mary’s story of an angel coming to tell her that she’ll be impregnated with God’s only Son?

Joseph did not listen to the naysayers. He stayed true to his heart, his faith and his love for Mary and the unborn child she was carrying. God confirmed Joseph’s heart and sent an angel to him to reassure him of the Immaculate Conception. And Joseph became a step-father to Jesus.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus were a step-family.

For those of us who are a step-family, it always gives me strength to realize there were probably times when they experienced tension at the dinner table or discord amongst Mary and Joseph about what consequences Jesus should have for separating from the group to hang out in the temple.

As a step-mom, I’d be lying if I said that when I look across the dinner table at my step-sons chewing with their mouths open and their elbows on the table that I saw young Jesuses. In those moments of trying to instill life-long skills for the 900th time in the last five years, I feel like Cruella de Vil rather than the patient and loving step-parent as I envision Joseph to have been.

Surely, step-parenting for Joseph had to be easier than it is now. I mean they didn’t really have to co-parent with other people…well, unless you count the Almighty God. But shouldn’t that be whom we are all co-parenting with?

They didn’t have to split time with another set of parents…Well, actually, they did. When Jesus was 12, he disappeared from the large group his family was traveling with on their return trip to Nazareth from the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem.

Mary and Joseph had been frantically searching for Jesus for three days. If I lost one of my step-sons for three days…oh my goodness, I cannot even imagine the panic, the guilt, and the shame…not to mention the anger from my husband and the boys’ mom – and rightfully so.

But, it was in that story when Jesus made it clear that there was a change in custody. That is when co-parenting, shared custody, moving between houses became the reality of this step-family.

When Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, Mary confronts Jesus.

I find it interesting that Mary is the one to confront Jesus. In a step-family, it is often a function of biological parents to discipline their children before a step-parent does. But in nuclear, biological families of origin, the father is typically the one to confront and implement the discipline for large infractions.

Perhaps this tells us that Joseph was functioning as many of us step-parents do – back-up coverage, the quiet position, or the support role.

Exasperated, and I’m sure a bit perturbed, Mary says something along the lines of, “What were you thinking? Why would you do this to us? We have been worried sick looking for you!” Apparently, all parents take the behaviors and choices of their children personally.

Jesus responded, apparently surprised they didn’t know where he was, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus’ time in His Father’s house, doing the work His Father sent Him to do would mean less time with Joseph, who had raised Jesus as his own.

Biblical scholars have noted that following the incident of Jesus in the temple, Joseph is not mentioned any further in the Bible. It is not clear when Joseph died.

I wonder if he died with a broken heart. After raising Jesus with the love, passion and integrity, as he would have his own biological children, it must have been painful for him to accept the new co-parenting arrangement with God.

Sometimes, step-parents will suffer silently. We are reminded often, through media, legal red tape, and unfortunately by some biological parents that as a step-parent we are merely an accouterment, an accessory, in the lives of our step-children.

Christmas Step-FamilyMaybe step-families should view the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus with hope and optimism. Rather than accepting the status as a faux family, step-families may wish to view Christmas as a reminder that faith, love and hope can create miracles in any situation…even those that may have a social stigma attached.

Believe. Hope. Love.
© 2014 Rebecca G. Townsend

Dec 15

Happy Holler-Days

By Rebecca Townsend | Communication , Family

Like all the best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements

~ Queen Elizabeth II

The sidewalks are lit with bright candy canes, sparkling snowflakes and big red bows.  You see petite red berries under the blanket of frost and there seems to be smells of the season everywhere.  Gingerbread, pine, cinnamon – all tickling your nose and prompting memories to dart through your mind.

As magical as the holidays can be, they can also feel tumultuous, chaotic and draining.  Emotionally. Physically.  Financially.

So, why we chose to remodel our kitchen and family room between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year may forever remain a mystery.

Perhaps, my core has been missing the delight of my childhood dysfunction.  I grew up in a very loving, caring, and screaming home.  One to six of us would communicate loudly – with either cheer or complaint – every day.

The yelling wasn’t abusive.  Though it probably wasn’t necessary in most scenarios.  But, it was the norm in my family…and so, it became comfortable and expected.

At the age of 22, I came home from graduate school for Christmas break. It had been the first time I had lived completely alone.  Not in a dorm and not with a roommate.  I had been surprised by how much I enjoyed the solitude.  The quiet.

However, it didn’t take me long – 15 minutes would be a generous estimate – to revert to the pattern that seemingly ran so deeply in my family of origin.

I suddenly stopped myself between deep breaths (to gather more oxygen for a more boisterous response).  The thought hit me.

“We don’t have Happy Holidays here, we celebrate Happy Holler-Days!”  I said with a chuckle that quickly turned to a veil of guilt.  There was an immediate silence, surely to be followed with the biggest holiday hollering yet.

The stillness did not become censorship.  Instead, a snicker verified the lone observation I had made.  It was my dad’s giggle and grin confirming we were probably not the only family to celebrate the Holler-Days…but we may be one of the few to embrace the Holler-Days.

Since we’ve come ‘clean’ as a family and our ‘secret’ communication style is discussed openly, it’s allowed us to become aware of the pattern we have.

Once I identified my default mode of communication during stressful times, I was able to make some conscious and deliberate changes.  I may not be successful 100% of the time…and I’ve found other – unhealthy -  means of ‘hollering’ – sarcasm, passive-aggressiveness.  However, I know my triggers and my patterns, so I have the ability to pause and reframe the situation.  When I step out of the deeply rooted habits, it encourages others to challenge their own patterns.

remodel pic - 2014Although, I’ll admit a major remodeling during the holidays has pushed me closer to a rendition of my childhood Holler-days than I’ve been in 20 years…that’s not really my core’s default anymore.  I’ve almost spent as much time mastering a new means of communicating as I had invested in the holler-days!

I’m taking in deep breaths (of construction dust) and exhaling lots of love and gratitude…and sending holiday happiness to everyone!

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2014 Rebecca G. Townsend