Two words describe the most recent developments at our house: Moving. Again. (Or should I more accurately describe it as U-Haul? Or you, haul? Sometimes I think I ought to go into business for myself.) Here’s the update.
We gave it a good run (two months.) However, in that time my husband’s daughter made some good choices (again) and some seriously poor choices (again)…so she moved in with her mother. I’d assumed we’d let her experience the consequences of her choices and try it again, but before I even knew there was a plan, the new plan was implemented and she’d made arrangements to live somewhere else. Had I had any say in the matter, had it been up to me, I would have insisted my husband’s daughter stay with us; I would have allowed her to experience the consequences of her choices and we would have given things another shot. But, I’m not in charge; I’m just my husband’s wife.
From my perspective, that’s one thing that makes divorce and the stepparent role so difficult: watching kids you like and care about make choice after choice that complicate their lives and put their futures at risk; you’re ready and willing as their friend to assist their parent in helping them learn self-control, honesty, personal responsibility, fiscal responsibility, family values and other important lessons you know they’re going to need to be successful adults—and not only are they not interested in those things, they have another option, another parent, another “culture,” an entirely different and opposite set of values and lifestyle they can turn to. On top of that, the additional challenge (and biggest concern from my perspective) is the effect the poor choices and lives the children of one family choose to lead can have on the children of the other family.
Honestly, sometimes that aspect of remarriage is almost overwhelming. But one unexpected part the situation has reminded me of again, however, is that everything has an upside. You just have to look for it and find it.
Here’s one. When I divorced and my children’s father went to prison to serve his 12 year sentence, I thought that was a hard and terrible thing for my children to experience. And it has been, to some degree, at least it started out that way, but it has also been a blessing too. For instance, my children don’t have to deal with two parents leading two different lives, fear of showing “loyalty” to one versus the other, the disruption in routine of moving between different parents and different rules, etc…It has also turned out to be good for me in an unexpected way—in my ability to parent my children as I see fit. While I believe my ex-husband would support my role, my philosophy and my efforts in raising our children were he near us, the “upside” or bright side to their father’s incarceration is that his absence guarantees it.
It gives my children no other option. I’m it. If they don’t like my rules, parenting philosophies or what I’m raising them to be, if they make a wrong choice, they still have to stay with me, experience the consequences of their choices and learn from their mistakes. There’s nowhere else for them to go. There’s no one they can run to, no one who will pity them or enable them to continue their wrong choices and inappropriate behaviors. And given the many divorce situations I’ve been exposed to since the demise of my original family, I now see that prison has actually been a blessing for my children and their growth and learning.
Who EVER would have thought? Certainly not me! When I think back to that dark day in 2009 when my world crumbled in one moment, one conversation, and I thought prison was the most incomprehensible thing in my world, I never saw it coming, I didn’t see an upside, if you will. But it is what it is: ”What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” (Oscar Wilde)
It reminds me again that if you’ve got a challenge, even a very bitter one; if you’re enduring your worst nightmare, even something so terrible you never could have imagined it would ever be your nightmare; hang in there! And I know that in time (if you can’t already) you’ll see a bright side. You’ll be able to recognize something good that came out of it, even if it’s a very minuscule good thing. Eventually you’ll see a blessing in even the worst situations. That’s the unexpected life. And I’ll say it again: I’m living proof.
“A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It’s a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.” (Jean Chretien)