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

Tantrums, hissy fits and pity parties - part 2

Photo by Justin Veenema on Unsplash

This is the next instalment in this "series" (you can read part 1 here), which I hope won't actually be a series, because that would kind of make me a regular when it comes to tantrums, hissy fits and pity parties, and that would just be, oh, excruciatingly embarrassing!!! Anyway, here goes...........

Another stepmum story (of course)
A few years ago, when we'd been a stepfamily for about 2 years, I had a thought that it might be nice if we could organise a (very) short "getaway" for our whole family. Just a couple of nights. All seven of us. It was something we'd never done, and while I knew it was a long shot, with such a big age range (at the time our "children" were 26 down to 14 years old), I was still hopeful. I discussed the idea with my husband, who thought it might work, especially if we kept it flexible, so that those who couldn't commit for the whole time would still feel that they could come for some of the time. We hoped the idea would be sufficiently appealing for them each to be willing to give up some of their weekend to join in a fun family event.

And so the planning began (and that's often my downfall..........)
I spent some time that night searching for just the right accommodation that would comfortably fit up to seven of us in at least three bedrooms (with hopefully a fold-out couch or two), preferably a couple of bathrooms and a good-sized kitchen for self-catering. I thought I'd found the perfect place, in a holiday town a couple of hours south (not too far for anyone to drive, so no excuses there), with plenty of options nearby for entertainment to suit all ages.

I thought it could be lots of fun, and was looking forward to making it so for everyone, and I was hopeful that we would get at least a few takers, if not all (at my most optimistic). I even went so far as to start planning a possible menu for the weekend, so that the cooking wouldn't be too burdensome for anyone.

Are you getting the picture that I'm a planner??

Broaching the subject
Next I gave some consideration to the best way to broach the idea with our various children. At the time three of them were adults who didn't live with us, so I wanted to check that they would be, firstly, available that weekend, and secondly, willing to give up at least part of their weekend for a "fun family bonding" experience. We had one definite taker - the only one who had no choice!! My stepdaughter, who would be with us that weekend, was happy to enjoy whatever we had planned. It was the last weekend of the school holidays, so no homework to be done either!!

I knew my youngest son would be a long shot, although it was possible he might be a "surprise entry", but I felt confident my middle stepson would be willing if given adequate notice so that he could request days off from work. Older stepson would also need notice so that he could plan it into his social life. The one I wasn't so sure about was my older son, the oldest of all of them, simply because I wasn't really sure how he would feel about spending his weekend in this way.

Early success.........
I called him first, prepared that his response would give me either a "red light" to just can the whole idea, or a "green light" to move ahead with the planning. I was ready for a less-than-enthusiastic response, but he was a YES, to my surprise and delight. And not a reluctant one either! He checked his calendar, he was free that weekend, and so he was in. I told him I'd confirm once we'd pinned everyone else down. He "pencilled it in"!! My enthusiasm for the idea was further fuelled, and I felt grateful to this boy of mine for his willingness to be an active participant in our new family.

...... followed by a fail
I happily shared the news with my husband, and asked him to check with his boys. He sent them both a text message, couched the idea in fun, fun, fun terms! And we waited. And waited. So he followed up with a phone call.

And that's when everything fell in a hole. And I felt incredibly disappointed and resentful.

My younger stepson was decidedly unenthusiastic, and couldn't be persuaded. He said he didn't really want to miss work, and he didn't really like "that sort of thing".

What sort of thing exactly?? Going on an all-expenses-paid holiday???

Dummy spit
I didn't exactly spit the dummy, but I did let the disappointment get to me. I cried, just a little, and I expressed my disappointment to my husband. I ranted a bit. I'm not proud. Eventually I shrugged and waited to hear from the other son. He wouldn't commit. He would "let us know". And at that point I gave up.

Okay, I guess you could call it a mild dummy spit, but I just completely lost my momentum. I didn't want to do it any more, and I also felt really disappointed for my older son who had been so (unexpectedly) willing. At that point I didn't even bother asking my younger son. My plans were in tatters, I felt disheartened and deflated, and pretty sure I probably wouldn't do that again in a hurry.

I was retreating, for sure. Self-protection at its best.

And then the pity party
I did get over the disappointment. Or at least I thought I was over it. That was until I saw some photos on Facebook of my stepchildren enjoying outings with their mum and nana, up into the hills, walking to waterfalls and enjoying the bush. Now please don't get me wrong. It's not that I resent them enjoying time with their mum, but I have to say I definitely felt the sting of rejection.

It's HARD being the stepmother!!

I know it's not logical but feelings rarely are. And it felt as though my stepson, the one who declined and couldn't be persuaded to reconsider, was happy to do "that sort of thing" with his mum and his siblings, but not with us, his stepfamily. Perhaps that's true, perhaps not. And as a stepdaughter myself, I can certainly understand how that might have been the case.

But it still hurt.

Desires and disappointments
At the time I wanted so much for us to start feeling like a family, like we belonged together and could have fun together, even though we didn't yet share a long history. And I guess I was pushing harder than everyone was ready for. And when I get excited about possibilities, and start planning something that I think will be nice for everyone, and then things don't go the way I hoped, well.......... I find that HARD.

I read something on a blog not long after:
........... remember, you are dealing with wounded people who do not have the maturity and life experience to handle the mess and decisions made by their parents. They are grieving for their original family - even if they are crazy about you, they grieve, and for many years respond from their place of wounding.
And I realised that it's not just my stepchildren who are responding from their place of wounding.
I am too.

I wondered how much this was true for my stepson, and even if it wasn't, I knew that I needed to have the maturity to better cope with the messy situation that none of these children had asked for. As the wise writer of this blog said, I needed to "love through the wound".

Grace
My stepson arrived a few days later for his week with us, and for a while I wasn't at all sure how I'd respond to him. I resented his capacity to spoil my plans, and his seeming unwillingness to value our stepfamily. But by the time he arrived, I had better perspective, and I'd been able to remember a few things.

One thing is grace. I have received so much, and I knew I needed to give. I needed to take the time to bring the issue before the Lord and allow Him to give me His wisdom, His heart and His grace that covers sin - mine as much as anyone's - grace to forgive.

By the time he arrived I had remembered that my battle is not against flesh and blood, and in God's strength I'd been able to discern the voice of the shepherd from the voice of the enemy. And when the time came, I was able to respond from a place of supernatural strength, and not from my own wounds.

I'd written in my journal about this issue at the time, and even as I wrote I could feel the power of the struggle just dissipating. And the following day, as I'd sent prayers heaven-ward during the day, as I'd cooked and cleaned, planned the menu and prepared for our family night, and as I'd sat in the lounge room to pray before everyone arrived, I could tell that it was going to be okay. That when my stepson walked through the door that evening, I would, by God's grace, be able to greet him with a smile, with interest, with warmth. That I would not feel bitter, and I would not hold his lack of enthusiasm for family gatherings against him.

Not my battle
And although, even that night, he didn't want to hang around long after our fortnightly family dinner, and was keen to rush off to a mate's place, and even though he was not particularly interactive, I'd been able to let it go. I wished it was different, but I could confidently leave it in my Heavenly Father's hands, knowing that He knew, and deeply loved, this young man and had him in the palm of His hand. It was not my battle, but the Lord's.

And when my step-daughter proceeded to tell me about their day trips that week, and how nice it had been that they were ALL able to go, I'd been genuinely pleased for her, legitimately interested in hearing about their time with their mum. I was able to ask questions and be happy for them. All of them.

By God's grace I was able to forgive this stepson's indifference towards our step-family. I still hoped it would be just temporary, just a stage as he enthusiastically grasped his independence, but I knew that in the supernatural strength of the Lord, I could show him grace. 

And move forward in love. 

2 comments

  1. This is such a beautiful story of the work God is able to do in a person's heart. I can hear how hard it was for you to experience what would've felt like rejection from your step-son and then have to move past it and treat him in a warm manner only a short time later. What speaks to me more still, is that not only were you able to behave in a godly way, but God actually gave you the feelings to go along with it. He truly is a great God to work such a miracle! (being an experienced tantrum-and-hissy-fit-thrower myself, I know this for a fact ;-)) I found this a really encouraging post, so thank you. xox

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    1. Thanks for your kind comment. I'm grateful that God can work in the ways only He does, and not only that, but He can also use my experience and the lessons I've learned to encourage others xx

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