A Healthy Stepmother . . . and the tender moment.

A softening, an expanding, a feeling of rushing around my heart. It was unexpected and I waited, as if to see if it would last. When it did, I looked around as if to see if others could see what I had just felt. How could they? It was a feeling not an action.

I’m talking about tenderness.

I’m pretty sure others can’t see tenderness when I feel it, or know that I feel that way in a particular moment, but maybe they can. Maybe my face softens too and my eyes expand to take in more of what is around me. I feel that way with friends that I care about a lot. I feel tender toward them and would never do things to rough them up or make them work at being my friend. That’s not to say I walk on eggshells, I’m not an eggshell walker kind of person.

My suspicion is that many stepmothers feel tenderness toward their stepchildren. Maybe there are times when they aren’t aware that is what they are feeling.

Tenderness in a stepfamily can be so easy to miss. There can be conflict on the adult level from home to home. There can be concern over reuniting each time the child leaves and comes back. Sometimes the reuniting is tumultuous and angst laden, often in the first hours it’s like welcoming a person from another planet.

Tenderness in a stepfamily can be covered over by busyness and competition and fatigue and ten other things that crowd out noticing feelings. There is homework to be done, kids to feed, beds to be made, dogs to be walked, and another full day of it tomorrow. When is there time to notice tenderness?

If you asked me, I’d have to say that in the days when I walked around with hurt and righteousness and urgency in my steps, I wouldn’t have noticed tenderness. These last few years of writing the blog and studying what I’m talking about with you and focusing on calming and soothing my hurts have given me a new level of awareness that has made space for me to notice the tenderness.

I love it that I can see tenderness and that I can notice it in myself for each of my husband’s children from time to time. That I feel tenderness today is no promise that I’ll feel it tomorrow, nor is my feeling tenderness an expectation of how they should treat me.

These days, I find myself fuller with tenderness. It’s as if the tenderness I used to carry around, that was part of me as a child, has come back.

I like it.

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