She peeled away her expectations of joyous connection to her husband’s children. She peeled away the unrealistic idea that she would fall in love with them like she fell in love with her husband. She peeled away the enormity of the extended family expectations that she would behave a certain way in any given moment and always look her best and always smile and always give. And give. And give. And she peeled away their shocked and upset look when she didn’t live up to their expectations.
She opened her hand and blew, like she was blowing the unrealistic idea of who she would be as a stepmother AWAY!
Then, she looked around. Sure enough, there were still dust bunnies of ideas of how she should behave under the couch, behind the drapes in the dining room, and along the edges of the hallway. The mass of stereotypes of stepmother and womanly behavior were as thick as her dog’s coat when it was shedding. So, she brushed and vacuumed and coaxed them out and put them in the garbage.
There was calm.
The expectations quieted down and time passed. Shoulders that had hunched in defense softened and furrowed brows smoothed.
Without warning, a space opened into what had felt like a battle zone. She eyed the space warily. It was definitely not to be trusted. What about that time . . . ? What about when they . . . ? Feeling cautious, she waited.
And, when after more time had passed with no negative events, no angry reactions, and no challenges, she calmed even more. It was then that she decided that even if something unexpected and negative and uncomfortable occurred in the future, she’d just stand there and let it swirl around her.
The calm grew and more space opened and the idea of being in the same room and sharing the same holidays seemed less challenging, less difficult, and less uncomfortable.
And, came a day when they DID do an activity together and it was fun. It was unladen with family politics. The day unfolded with enough tradition to keep it structured and enough unstructure to keep it spontaneous.
In the end, it wasn’t about everyone being close. It was about staying open to the group and the idea of being this group. It was about sharing the attention. It was about giving and getting, with every one of them contributing. It was about receiving the giving graciously and appreciatively.
It was a very simple day.
Uncomplicated, average, and fun!