"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

Tantrums, hissy fits and pity parties - part 1


Tantrums and me? We go waaayyy back. My mum can attest to this fact. After all, when I was small she was usually the one on the receiving end of my childish fury - about socks that just didn't feel right, or having to wear my uncomfortable school uniform (honestly, who makes a child wear a tie to school???). I thought I'd grown out of all that some time ago. But then I became a stepmother.

Oh dear. I guess I wasn't as "mature" as I'd thought.....

Zero to a hundred
No, the truth is that some time ago, unfortunately, there was a tantrum in our house. There was petulance, there was whining, there was (just the one) raised voice, there were tears. And of course the culprit was me.

I'm not proud of it, at the time it felt totally out of my control, like something had taken me over. And although I could see what was happening, how childish my responses were, how quickly I went from zero to a hundred, I felt powerless to stop it.

And it took quite a while, and much tender loving-kindness from my gracious, patient husband, before I could even put words to what the real issue was. The issue that the little trigger had uncovered. The deeper issue that had been poked by the minor misdemeanour of............. pilfered chocolate.

If it sounds petty, well that's because it was. Here's how it unfolded.

Unguarded moments
It was the end of a typical work week for me - frustrating, tiring, and all the other "-ings" that I'd been contending with. It was about 18 months into our stepfamily journey, and I was still finding it difficult at times to come home to a house that didn't always feel completely like home. Especially when I'd arrive to find my man and his kids engrossed in their familiar brand of domestic chaos, all cheerfully happening without me.

But this day I was greeted by my beautiful husband and his smiling face, a warm hug, and obvious pleasure to see me. I was looking forward to our planned evening without the children, knowing that - bonus! - he'd already taken them to their evening events. The next few hours were ours to enjoy, as planned, over dinner with friends. So in spite of a tiring day, things were on the right track. That was until I opened the fridge............

And saw that the seven chocolates I'd put in there the night before had shrunk to four.

Immediately, I could feel the annoyance and irritation (that too often lurk just beneath the surface) rising way too quickly, my first assumption being that my chocolate-loving husband had eaten all three of the missing chocolates. But not wanting to base my response on an assumption (progress!!), I asked (through slightly-clenched teeth) what had happened to them.

I could see instantly that his defences were up. He'd eaten one of them, he confessed, and had given one to his daughter when she asked.

Betrayed!!!
"Why????" and "What about the third one?? There were seven, now there's only four! I was keeping them to share with EVERYONE" I heard my raised voice.

And from there it had deteriorated rather quickly, to the point where I was furious that, firstly, my stepdaughter had asked her dad for something that actually wasn't his to give (instead of asking the rightful "owner"), secondly, that he'd given the chocolate (without asking the rightful "owner"), and thirdly, that he was giving away "my things" without checking with me (the rightful "owner") first.

BETRAYED!!! Yep, from specific to broad-stroke generalisations in just under 5 seconds.

And then the pity party
The whole thing sounded (and was!!) ridiculous, as the "discussion" continued, my voice louder, my emotions a confusion of anger, betrayal, and embarrassment. I could see the pain in his face as he tried to work out what on earth had just happened, and clearly he could also see our planned pleasant evening being hijacked by my emotions - again!!! In my defence, at least I fairly quickly worked out that I was just going to do more damage if I stayed where I was, so I stalked off to the bedroom to fume pout sulk calm down.

After a while he followed me there and asked if it was "safe" for him to come in. That didn't help!!! Eventually, realising that I needed more time, he went off to have a shower and get ready for our evening. I sat on the bed feeling both ridiculous and teary, and wondering how on earth we were going to recover from this hurricane that had blown in (courtesy of me) in time to make it to dinner with smiles on our faces.

When he returned from the bathroom, he had drawn a smiley face on his butt cheek with a whiteboard marker, to try and defuse the tension and get a laugh out of me. As much as I wanted to smile at this gentle prod, I wasn't yet ready to be placated, and so I pretended not to see it.

Yes, petulant, but not proud of it.

The underlying issue
It actually took me a while, and quite some talking through what had just happened, to get to the main issue. And it basically came down to this - a fear of being irrelevant, unimportant, shut out, and not worthy of consideration in the overall household scheme of things.

My stepchildren had been, naturally, used to dealing only with their dad when living in this house, for several years before I came along, and of course I understood that. But over the previous six months or so I'd also noticed my stepdaughter's attitude towards me changing. I didn't know what had triggered the change, but it felt to me as though she was tolerating me and my presence, and not much more. Every other female in her life was special, and worthy of her warmth, smiles, hugs and time. But it seemed I was not. And to be honest, it hurt, and I was feeling the unfairness of being treated this way just because I'd married her dad.

The result of all this, in practical terms, was that at the time she was avoiding asking me permission for anything, going straight to her dad, even about things that he wasn't necessarily able to decide.

And right at that moment it felt like they were in cahoots, eating MY chocolates without MY permission.

Gently, gently
As I fumblingly tried to put this into words to my oh-so-gentle husband, I felt clumsy, childish and very embarrassed. He, in his inimitable way, extended inordinate amounts of grace towards me, and we were able to recover from the storm. He said he would follow up with his daughter about the third missing chocolate. I was sure she'd taken it without asking; he wasn't prepared to make the same assumption.

A few hours later, he sheepishly reported to me that she had, in fact, helped herself to the third chocolate. He was disappointed in her, apologetic to me. Yes, I felt momentarily vindicated, but vindication is a hollow kind of victory and doesn't satisfy for long, so it was my turn to extend forgiveness and grace.

God's wisdom
I thought a lot about this incident over the following months, and allowed my understanding to be shaped by God's wisdom. Thank God for His wisdom, because without it I would be so lost (even more than I already am)!

And when I was ready He showed me that there was also a bigger issue at stake. An issue of "control" that I needed (and still need, repeatedly) to bring to the foot of the cross. The feeling that I have to be in control of everything that happens in our home. I've discovered that this issue is a significant one for me, as it trips me up often. Like I say, I'm a work in progress.

Fellow sojourners and walking in truth
I'm thankful for God's frequent, unexpected and perfectly-timed provision for me, for the gems that he uncovers and places before me when He knows I need them most. Like blogs written by fellow stepmums who encourage and inspire, and reassure me that I'm not alone in this stepmum journey.

And I know I can trust that He will continue to reveal to me the truth of my sin in the midst of my stepmum struggles, shed His glorious light and reveal the things that I need to give to Him, and strengthen me to move forward in grace, even in the midst of my challenges.

Psalm 73 reminds me that God is still holding my hand, even in the throes of my tantrum, hissy fit or pity party.
"When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory."
And then the line that always brings me back:
"Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." 
I am so glad that He is a patient, gentle and loving Father, who holds my hand always.

6 comments

  1. Isn't it amazing how the smallest things can trigger a complete over-reaction because they push a button that belongs to an underlying problem. One of the best things about getting older (and hopefully wiser) is being able to let a lot of that stuff slide off. You get better at recognizing your trigger and stepping back before things escalate. We're all works in progress and growing in the grace of God - so it's nice to know we'll keep getting better at all this hard stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's those underlying issues that trip me up Leanne, and they often don't come to light until I'm in a new circumstance (like getting remarried and becoming a stepmother). In the day-to-day I often despair that I'm making any progress at all, but when I look back over the past 5 years I can see God's transforming sanctifying grace at work. Very thankful for that!!! Thanks for your encouragement xx

      Delete
  2. Blended families are tricky. When my husband and I married, we had two teenagers apiece. I had to work out the emotions that come with being a stepmother and those of having someone else parent my children (children that he didn't give birth to or raise, so how could he possibly love them enough to get after them and not be just being mean). I wasn't perfect. He wasn't perfect. Certainly four teenagers weren't perfect, but somehow we made it through those years. Now they are all grown with children of their own. Larry and I have been married for 19 years and are blessed with 10 grandchildren that just see us as Grandma and Grandpa (no steps in there). I love that you were able to work out the underlying issue and therefore deal with that, rather than getting wrapped up in the chocolate caper. Of course, good chocolate is sometimes worth fighting for! :-) I found your blog on Bloggers Pit Stop. Happy Friday!

    ~Christie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tricky is an understatement Christie! Stepmothering is probably the most challenging thing I've ever done. All these imperfect disconnected people coming together to "somehow form a family" (in Brady Bunch speak)!! I love that you and your husband are now in such a great stage, with grown children and grandchildren who just see you as their loving grandparents. I'm actually looking forward to that time.
      And while you're right that good chocolate is sometimes worth fighting for, in this instance it definitely wasn't and I'm glad that no lasting damage was done (by me). Nice to "meet" you and thanks for your kind comment xx

      Delete
  3. What a wonderful post Sue. I probably laughed too much (a "knowing" sort of laughter, as I seem to have many of the same faults as you!) but I also just warm to your dear husband and his response to your "tantrums". I often struggle to work out the deeper reason for my outbursts over silly little things - like you, I feel ridiculous getting so worked up over them but unfortunately that doesn't immediately take the emotions away. It is encouraging to hear your story of similar struggles and the way God is working in your life to help you with them. Xox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so good to know that we're not alone in our struggles. Not only to know that God is with us every step of the way, but also that we have sisters (and brothers??) in Christ who struggle with the same kinds of issues (and are not afraid to confess), and desire in the same way to be sanctified, as hard as it might seem while we're going through the fire! Thanks for your encouraging comment. How about I pray for you and you pray for me?? xx

      Delete

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post. Please feel free to leave a comment!