It takes time to get used to living with someone new.
Most newly weds have that time – that time that questions: Who are you? Who am I in relation to you? How do we relate to one another? How do you organize your clothes? Wow, is that really how you eat trail mix?
It’s quiet, with countless evenings at home, working out the kinks in your new marriage. You only need to worry about one person when it comes to your evening plans.
Add three kids to the mix, and there is hardly time to ask those questions. When I think back on those first days, I laugh. I had to get used to living with four brand new human beings. Though they weren’t brand new to each other. I was the only thing new.
My husband knew what his oldest daughter, O, was really saying when she asked a question. He understood the space the middle child, M, needed when she was upset. He was more patient than I could have imagined when the four year old boy, Z, had a tantrum on the floor. Because he’s known them since the day they were born.
I’ve known them since the day they were 8, 7 and 4. Which is great, but challenging.
Israel and I never had a moment to sit back and just learn about each other in that delicate, slow dance sort of way that people without children get to experience. I remember my first Saturday morning, living here. I heard what sounded like an elephant running down the hallway, toward our bedroom, and then a little but LOUD voice asking “if it was morning.” Lord, help me, I thought. (And the Lord did help me, more than I ever could have guessed.) Sometimes my husband would already be down in the basement working out. Therefore I was all alone when Z entered the room and asked, “Is it morning?” That is a lot of responsibility, deciding if it’s morning, I remember thinking.
When Israel and I were trying to learn each other’s rhythms and habits, three kids were playing outside, wanting and needing attention, and I was still buying all the wrong things.
“Did you know they make family size Triscuits?” Israel asked me after the first time I made the grocery run for a FAMILY. It had never occurred to me. I bought the box of butter with two sticks, not four. I bought the small box of crackers. I bought the 8oz jar of specialty mayonnaise. I had never loaded up an entire cart before. I wanted to scream in frustration with these little mistakes, these little “norms” I was so unaccustomed to. Turns out buying the wrong sized box of crackers can evoke tears and a lot of strange, mysterious emotion.
We were trying to learn to relate, to communicate, and to build on love and trust, with our energy being pulled in every other direction (it sometimes seemed) than toward each other.
This is not to say that people without children have it easier — okay, maybe that is what I’m saying. At least in some aspects. At least for this blog post.
As a woman, I have yet to experience the excitement of a pregnancy, the thrill of wonder as I guess at what my child will look like, or how I’m going to set up their room. I’ve never bought a pastel colored blanket. I’ve never had the responsibility of naming a human being.
I did, however, marry someone with three kids, all of whom came with names already assigned to them. They already had the facial features of two other human beings. Their rooms were already messy with childhood – not one pillow in place. They already had a world of memories I knew nothing about.
The beautiful thing, and what I’ve learned the most in my first year of marriage, is that before I met these four humans, we all experienced a certain kind of brokenness, and a certain kind of loss. I think even these children I met at such young ages recognized that in me, too. None of us knew quite what to do with one another. And because of that, we have now experienced a building up and a bond that is unique and different than anything else I’ve known. It’s pretty amazing that the love and trust DID build up in such a way. Actually, it feels even deeper than I could have imagined, given all of the interruptions and distractions. Every time Israel showed me he loved me, he did it on top of loving his three children. That man has a big, big heart. His children do, too. I’m so thankful that God placed me where HE knew I should be, not where I thought I’d end up. The cracks in our individual pasts have let in a whole ton of extra light, that’s for sure.
Like the quote (at the top), I want this blog to illuminate freedom with every word: the love in our house is free. It’s free to grow, free to expand. Free to live in two different households and free to have confusion and frustration and grace and joy. I’ve seen this love grow with my own two eyes, and felt it in my soul.
Some women get to have a baby. I got to hug three kids and hear one of them say with a smile, “Now you’ll never leave!!!” when we announced our engagement. I got cheers!
I chose to be their stepmom and they chose to accept me.
I’ve come to realize that neither situation is better or worse. In fact, you can love for better or for worse in either case.
I’m so thankful for the life that found me, that came and grabbed me – and the way God calmed my heart and told me to be still when I maybe should have been running the other direction.
Now, I have a lot more responsibility than just telling a child when it’s morning, but I also have a whole world of new memories with these beautiful people I can call my family. I understand the questions they ask, and when they need to be left alone vs approached with a hug or a conversation. I can breath during tantrums (sort of!) It’s the building up of memories and experiences and laughter that keep us moving forward. Now, I know that the kids eat trail mix the SAME way their dad does. And poor Israel is still dealing with my clothes all over the floor (but I’m working on it.)
Everything is brighter!