For those of you out there unaware and wondering who the three beautiful children that have shown up on my blog are let me explain. I am a step-mother. Olivia is 7. Isaac turns 6 next week. And Grace turns 4 next month. Most people are pretty shocked to discover that my young-looking husband is very nearly 30 and the father of three. The kids have been living in Utah for the past year with their mother. They are the main reason why Jared got a gig teaching out here this summer. So for the next 2 1/2 months, the kids are living with us in Provo. Jared begins teaching on Monday--a rigorous intensive Biblical Hebrew course that meets for 4 hours every day. And I have jumped head-first into the role of stay-at-home-mom. Oh boy!
We've been in Provo for a week now. This is the first time that the kids have been with us 24/7 with no other family around since we've been married. I would be lying if I said this isn't a hard adjustment. I am 24 years old, less than two years out of college, married for less than 4 months, and suddenly I am acting as mom to three children. I feel like suddenly 7 or 8 years have passed without me knowing it. I have moments of disbelief that this is my life.
I have always known that being a mom is the toughest job out there. I watched my own mother raise 5 children. But knowing something intellectually and experiencing it are two very different things! Plus, most moms get one kid at a time. They get to adjust slowly. They get nine months to prepare for the birth. They get the experience of feeling that baby grow inside them. They feel the pain of birth and then get to watch that baby grow into a child seeing each stage of development and getting to learn, as their child grows, how to be a parent. And through all this they develop a bond with their child is like no other. It can't be replicated. There is something magical in hearing a child call for his mother. Seeing him reach out to her and say "I love you, Mommy."
That is where what I am doing is different. The day to day tasks are the same. I hug and kiss and clean and cook and discipline and talk and laugh and play. There are highs and lows. I deal with whining and disappointments and messes and tantrums. I brush away tears and wipe bottoms and draw baths. I snuggle and listen and pray.
But I am not their mother. I didn't bring them into this world. I didn't change their diapers. I haven't been there for all the birthdays. When they call out for me, it's not "Mommy" but "Katrina" that I hear.
And while I do love them dearly, I think that there is still a part of me that holds back. Because they already have a mother. A mother who loves them very much and knows all the favorite songs and foods and memories of their short lives. And I'll never be that or have those memories. These children can never be truly mine no matter how many meals I make or messes I clean up or tantrums I weather or hugs I give or get.
And since I'm being honest, I'll tell you that sometimes when Grace is crying and Isaac is whining and Olivia is angry with the world I wish Jared didn't have three kids. Why couldn't he have had just two? Wouldn't that be so much easier? This is where I get selfish. This is where I cry because I wonder how I'll be able to handle having my own children when I already have three to take care of who aren't even really mine. This is where I get angry at Jared's ex-wife for being the mother of Jared's kids. For having those three children in just 3 1/2 years even when their marriage was far from good. Yes, I have these thoughts. I'm not proud of them and when I'm not tired and emotional, they are rare.
But (and here's the gratitude part) I am grateful for the memories we are making now as a family. I am grateful for Olivia's cuddles and Isaac's kisses and Grace's hugs. I am grateful that I get to play on playgrounds and swing swings and run around in the grass without looking stupid. I am grateful that when asked by a new friend if she could come over, Olivia said she had to "ask her parents." And I am grateful that occasionally it is me Grace wants to help her with something even though Jared is near. And I am grateful that tonight Isaac told me, "I don't like you. I love you and like you!"
I am grateful that these children have accepted me not only as their father's wife, but also as a parent. I am grateful that they listen to me at least as well as they listen to their dad, though both could be improved! I am grateful for the laughter and joy they bring into my life.
And mostly I am grateful for my husband. I am grateful that he lets me cry without explanation and just holds me until I'm done. I'm grateful for the meals he cooks and the dishes he cleans and the trash he takes out. I am grateful that when he holds me close I feel rejuvenated and know that I can do this. I am grateful for the respect he shows me always. I am grateful for how appreciative he is of all I do. I am grateful that yesterday he prepared all three meals and let me spend most of the day reading a novel until I finished it. I'm grateful he didn't mind that when I took a trip to Wal-Mart (a store he refuses to shop at) to stock up on my favorite cereal (Great Grains Crunchy Pecans), I also stopped at Old Navy on the way home and spent 45 minutes perusing the store and picking out some new shorts. I'm grateful that he went and changed the laundry so that I can work on this post. I am grateful for all these ways and many more he shows me he loves me and appreciates me.