When Don and I married almost five years ago, I knew that there would be difficult times ahead but I don't think I really understood what those might be. And I'm still a little fuzzy about it all. Yes, twice in the second year or so, apparently after the honeymoon period between the boys and Don wore off, Matthew told him that he wasn't his 'real' Dad so he couldn't tell him what to do, and once, Matthew asked me what "step dad" meant. But we really haven't had other issues with the boys. I'm not sure if I'm just blind, but life in our house has transitioned more easily than I ever hoped.
However, what has been challenging for me has been letting go to let someone else 'parent', too. Letting Don step in and talk with them calmly when I wanted to light in to them with both barrels blazing. Letting Don explain something to them in much more detail than I ever would. Or having to consult with someone else about what might be best for them when I'd made that decision without him for so long. And I won't even try to describe how Don has felt through all of this, parenting from 4 and 8 instead of infancy. But I do ask him every now and then how he's feeling and how he feels about what is happening with his 'new' responsibilities. It seems he is taking it all in stride, growing with us and holding his own.
Every once in awhile something happens that reminds me that we weren't always together even though we feel like we've always been married, and I am reminded of the tremendous blessing it is to live without the stress many blended families seem to deal with. On Saturday, Matthew and I went out shopping for Father's Day. We first headed to Home Depot - a sure bet when shopping for Dads - where we scored a 'Bucket Buddy', and then to Marc's for cards. We had several to select so I let him get the one that would be from all three of them to Don. I hadn't even read the first card I was looking for when he handed me one and said "This is it, Mom. We'll give him this one." I started to protest, telling him he needed to take time to choose the one that fit the best but decided to read it first. It was indeed 'the one'. Matthew had found just what he wanted to say and it was definitely from the heart. What surprised me the most was that it wasn't a 'kid card', but it fit. Perfectly. I put it in the cart and just rubbed his back for a moment before going back to my tasks at hand.
Moments later he was back, another card in hand. It was a 'stepfather' card and I felt my stomach plunge. Immediately I began praying so I would handle the situation correctly both for him and for me, as well as all of the other people who had procrastinated and were shopping at 8:30 PM the night before. I reached out to take the card and read it but Matthew stopped me. He said "I know that my friends would say that this is the card I am supposed to buy. That Dad isn't my real Dad. But I'm glad that I don't have to think of him as my Stepfather. He's just Dad." and with that he took the card and put it back. I would like to think that I was smiling but it was probably more akin to relief. There was no need to explain what being a Dad really meant, no need to talk about how much he loved them, unconditionally, and that he'd chosen them along with me because we came as a package deal and Don knew that upfront. No need to even touch on why I divorced in the first place. Just acceptance because Don is Don, he loves them and he takes care of them. And isn't that what fathers do?