I know the same old stories about the hardships and struggles of growing up in a divorced family can get boring at times but to me they never get old. I talk with lots of folks on a day-to-day basis about their lives, issues and the problems that relate to the dynamics of stepfamilies and I do my best to get them thru same. Nonetheless, I never get tired of hearing those problems because I, too, have been in their shoes, and I feel it is my calling from God to help others thrive. Needless to say, I learn more and more about myself after each visit with someone else.
My parents divorced when I was six. Both of my parents remarried early on after their divorces and both of those remarriages ended in another divorce. However, my father remarried again later on when I was about 22. As a kid, what choice do you have really except to try to go with the flow and hope that things turn out for the best, right? Well, at 22, you have your own mind, your own skepticism, your own perceptions at that point about what marriage looks like and unfortunately, for a child of divorce, sometimes that view is skewed due to your own broken experience. With all of that, we forged ahead. Dean and my dad have been married for well over 20 years now and I have learned so much from her, actually, more than she probably knows or will ever take credit for.
My stepmom didn’t have the pick of the litter for stepkids. We weren’t kids when she came into our lives and we had our own idiosyncrasies already established. In our opinion, we didn’t really care because we had been down that road before without success. Our expectations weren’t high about marriage and remarriage but we hoped for the best for them and for us.
Dean had only one biological child whom she lost tragically at the age of 18 before she married my dad. Rightfully so, I wouldn’t have blamed her one single bit for not wanting to put up with any stepkid drama but that was never Dean’s attitude. Dean never wore her feelings on her sleeve. She is a strong woman. One of strongest I have met. She doesn’t know this, but when I was faced with my own tragedy, I thought a lot about her strength and tenacity and it helped me to know that if she could have faced something as unimaginable as the loss of her only child then I could stand and face what I needed to as well when I experienced loss and when my husband was diagnosed with MS. What I have learned from her I could write a book on and I have to say, most I never learned from my own parents. My parents are good people and each of them have taught me good things and brought different perspectives to my life. I love both of them dearly, but Dean has a way of making me “think” about things differently. She has an extraordinary sense of saying the things I need to hear most, right at the right time which gives me that little “umpf” to get to the solution quicker. She has taught me it’s okay to grieve for a time but then it’s time to get to the answers and move on to better days. She has taught me the art of focusing on solutions instead of problems. But, I think the greatest lesson she has taught me isn’t through her words, it is through her actions. Dean is a registered nurse and a very successful small business owner and at the age well….let’s just say….about 60 (but to me she’s no more than 40) she went back to school and attained her Masters Degree and is a dissertation away from her doctorate degree. All of this while dealing with a disease she has had since she was 16 years old. She recently had a stroke and when I called to speak to her I asked her how she is getting thru this and she eloquently said…”doing what I need to do and moving on!” Determination is an understatement in her vocabulary. When she accomplishes something, she finds something better and harder to strive for. When she is faced with something, she faces it with dogged determination and moves on to the next! Most importantly, she has taught me not to feel sorry for myself for anything that I have gone through but to know that road bumps are simply stepping stones to my rainbows and when I get to that rainbow, I may still get a few splinters sliding down along the way but that is God’s way of making me strong and sturdy for the next challenging hurdle that I will have to jump. For these lessons, I am grateful.
I tell my clients who are stepmoms and who are struggling that their efforts do not go unnoticed even if it seems like they do. Children live what they learn. They take those positive experiences and turn them into life qualities. They are watching even when you don’t think they are, even when they are being stubborn. Sometimes it takes into adulthood for them to realize the importance that you bring to their lives, but don’t fret, what you bring to the table is important and special. I am a stepmother now. I have my own stepdaughter and I hope that I can be to her a quarter of what my stepmom is to me. I hope that I can pass along those same lessons Dean has taught me and I hope that if she needs me when she hits one of those road bumps, that I can teach her how to use that experience to slide down that rainbow!
Thank you Dean for all of your love, patience and life lessons! I love you.
Peace & Blessings,