A Healthy Stepmother . . . lets off some steam.

Have you ever used a French Press? If not, the basics include putting some nice coffee grounds in the bottom of a carafe, heating some water just-so, and pouring it over the grounds, setting the lid lightly on the carafe so that the plunger rests on top of the water and the grounds, and waiting. After the coffee has steeped the recommended amount of time, the plunger is pushed down gently and poured into a cup. A little cream gets added and voila, coffee!

The funny thing about a French Press is that if you press down too fast or don’t let the air all the way out of the gap between the press and the coffee, it will spray all over. And, I mean all over. As it did the other day. I was wearing my favorite white shirt and I pushed too hard without double-checking the seal and the coffee sprayed my shirt, the wall, the cabinets, everything within reach. At first, I was a little surprised, then annoyed, and then I just started laughing and cleaning up the mess.

I was laughing because I recognized the by-now-very-familiar over-pressured situations in stepfamily life and that they sometimes seem a lot like spraying coffee. When you try to put everyone together too fast, sometimes the feelings spray all over. When you push too quickly or forget to let the air out first, there’s too much pressure and you can’t move forward to the congenial atmosphere you’d like to live in.

French press coffee has to be made in a certain way. You can  make it using different types of coffee grounds. You can use water that is a little less hot. But in the end, it’s the process of waiting to let the coffee grounds mingle with the water long enough to bring the flavor out in the coffee. And it’s having the patience to press the coffee down in a certain way that keeps the coffee inside the carafe and keeps it from spraying all over the walls.

Most importantly, even the finest ingredients (aka good people) and the best water (aka more good people) still require a certain amount of time to become what they will become. Bottom line: there are no shortcuts, to making good coffee or to building a new community.

If a stepmother is to take care of herself and remain happy, healthy, and hopeful for a bright future with her husband, she might consider slowing down. She might find within her the patience to wait for the process to finish, the recognition that even when her husband makes choices she does not like he is doing the best he can and he’s a good person. She might acknowledge that she is not a bad person no matter who gets mad at her for doing helpful things that get interpreted as interference. And she might focus on other things while she’s waiting for everyone to calm down about her presence in the home.

I’ve heard it takes years. Years. That means what happened yesterday gets absorbed in the process that takes days and days, weeks and weeks, months and months, and years and years. It means that nothing is an emergency, unless it’s really an emergency. Pressure applied gently and over time improves most things.

I did get the stains out of the white shirt and still wear it and love it. Now, I need to go, I’ve got to make some coffee. And wait.

One thought on “A Healthy Stepmother . . . lets off some steam.

  1. Beautifully written and very true. In a world where everything is on demand, it is hard for many of us to realize that sometimes the best things take time and effort to come to fruition. You used the French Press to symbolize this, I sometimes try to remember how long it took me to make those ‘true’ friends – you know the ones, they are more then best friends. They are the people that are there no matter what. The ones you can go a year without talking to but when you hear their voice, it is like no time at all had passed.

    The truth is, the best of relationships take time and we would be foolish to not believe the same of our step kids. Whether we have temptuous relationship or no relationship at all, it is likely that consistency, time and effort will change that.

    It is a nice thought and one to keep in mind the next time I have the urge to throw in the towel.

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