A Healthy Stepmother . . . accidentally discovers a new dream.

The First Thanksgiving of 2011, successfully celebrated.

For my husband and I, there’s Thanksgiving dinner with the mom side and post-Thanksgiving with the dad side, later will come my side of the family. For the kids, there’s the dad’s dad side, the dad’s mom side, and the mom’s side. We will repeat all this at Christmas without complaint. We’re glad for the time together and grateful when everyone is gracious about which day we gather.

Waiting at home.

Of course, my husband and I were guilty of trying to make holiday gatherings super special and nice for the kids when we first got married, as if to help them adjust to the fact that their dad wasn’t alone any more. I look back on that newly-married couple with fondness. They were us, naive, even in our late 40’s. We were still holding on to a dream that if we shared our lives and our good intentions, then everything would feel good for the kids.

Sadly. It didn’t feel good. Not that first year, not the year after, not the year after that. The holidays were marked by an incredible amount of stress and things were never quite right, seemingly for anyone. I was overwhelmed about the fact that I was suddenly spending most of my holiday time with folks who either didn’t care about me or didn’t know how to incorporate me into the family. I grieved for my single life when I attended wonderful holiday gatherings with friends and relatives and we freely hugged and shared how much we meant to each other. Married, it was no longer an option for me to be with those others and I missed the warmth. Without that warmth, I struggled to offer warmth to others.

I withered inside and I almost gave up on them. The holidays, I mean.

Almost. This year I decided to reclaim my love for this time of year. No longer will I let myself be pushed out of my own life, and that this is my life now. I will remain by the side of my husband, the man who chose me and I’ll celebrate with him. We’ll celebrate that we are in love and loving one another after nearly eight years.

Welcomer.

There were years the holidays felt so painful I had to withdraw from him so as to not hurt myself or him. I ached that there wasn’t a magical way to make things feel better for everyone. And, of course, I blamed myself in those earlier years and was so distraught as to be depressed. After that, I spent a couple of years mad at the circumstances which naturally spilled over into being mad at the people. Gratefully, time and patience have given way to compassion and an acceptance of how things are and how they don’t need to be. And, most importantly, I no longer need to withdraw from my dear man when things become tense.

One thing that changed is that I’ve realized that it’s no longer up to just me. It never was, but I didn’t know that. It’s no longer up to just my husband either. It was never up to him alone, but he didn’t know that. It’s also up to his children to decide what they want and to recognize that taking the nourishment offered in our home means accepting that it comes from both of us. I don’t know if they know that or even how to go about showing it, but maybe they will understand over time.

In the meantime, when The First Thanksgiving of 2011 came off without a tantrum, without a silent protest, without blame, and without pouting and eye-rolling, well, my husband and I looked at one another with a slow smile. Thoughtful and respectful communication will always be enough to satisfy our community-minded yearning. It felt genuine and neutral, definitely enough.

It was. It is. The new dream.

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