I think it’s easy to get so wrapped up in our stumbles through step-motherhood that we lose sight of the others who are actually walking alongside us on this path.
I can sometimes be selfish minded. It’s not that I relish myself a victim, but rather that I let my own feelings on certain things overpower my sense of logic. I have, on more than one occasion, permitted thoughts of inadequacy and uncertainty to penetrate my brain and control my attitude.
I don’t know how to do this.
This is so hard.
No one understands.
Basically a bunch of ‘poor me’s.
And in those moments, I tend to forget, as a stepmom, there are also step-children involved whom this (being in a blended family) can’t possibly be easy on either, and a partner: a man who is juggling all the expectations that come along with it: communicator, peacekeeper, mediator… to name a few.
Eric will be celebrating his 50th birthday in a few days, and I wanted to take this time to express my gratitude for this amazing man who has so generously shared his and his daughters lives with me.
When Eric brought me into their picture, that was exactly it- It was ‘their’ picture, not mine. They had been a trio for many years before I ever set foot into Eric, Krista and Kylie’s lives. All they had known to that point (post-divorce) was simply “just us three.” It took courage to take a leap of faith in bringing an outsider into an already comfortable and cozy family setting, as it would be quite natural for anyone to feel hesitant to risk unbalancing the scales. Yet Eric brought me into his "just us three" in spite of the knowledge that things would never be the same.
Over the past several years I have watched him grow as a father. With two girls, one almost 15 and one almost 12, it has to be challenging for him to find ways to relate to them. An only child, and one who primarily enjoys sports and the outdoors, he seldom understands ‘girly stuff.’
But, he tries.
It can’t possibly come easy to empathize with a situation you have practically zilch experience in, but he still tries.
I’ve watched him wipe away tears, and attentively listen to the girls as they rant off their pre-teen and teenage dramas that, to him, probably make zero sense.
He stays up far later than his desired bedtime to tuck in the girls while awaiting them to finish their nightly beauty regimens of lotions, potions and hour long showers and bubble baths- all of which are completely foreign concepts.
The next morning he’ll get up even earlier than he needs to ensure his girls are awake, breakfast is ready and school lunches are packed.
Who wouldn’t rather have an extra 30 minutes of sleep if they could?
Yet, Eric wakes up each morning to play a unique song for the girls to rise and shine, with no shortage of eagerness to cherish these extra special moments with his littles.
He is at every one of his children's functions, even if that means sacrificing a live viewing of a KU or Minnesota Vikings game. He’ll instead, record it, turn his phone on silent (to avoid spoilers) and actively be the loudest parent in the bleachers leading the Speedy Turtle softball chant, “When I say turtle you say power!”
I’ve seen him nurse and bandage booboos that were hardly a scratch, that, had it been him, he would have just rubbed some dirt on it and shook it off.
I’ve giggled as an onlooker while he permits the girls to paint his nails and face in the brightest shades of neon colors and part his hair down the center with little piggy tail sprouts.
Though generally pretty frugal, he will still hand over a $20 bill for two Pink Drinks at Starbucks every now and then. He may think it one of the most ridiculous ways to spend money, but he does it for his girls.
ANYTHING for his girls.
These simple things probably seem insignificant because it’s easy to forget that he is a human with his own wants and needs aside from being a daddy. Just as I sometimes feel that I’ve made more than my fair share of compromise as a stepmother, it is equally so for him, if not even more.
While he already has a toppling-over full plate at the office, he is also the liaison between Biomom, the girls and me. Creating the schedule, explaining it to us and keeping everyone abreast of what is going on and who has who when and who needs to be where and when. He has to communicate certain issues to Biomom on my behalf and visa versa. He is the lone man in a sea of his life’s female counterparts, but he somehow manages to keep his cool while keeping the peace.
Gosh darnit! that has to be so stressful!
He goes to work, pays the bills, and keeps us clothed and fed, sure, but he also finds time to do all the extras to make our household a happy one.
He takes us out on adventures and excursions, gifts us little tokens of affection, and will patiently sit through car rides of screeching girls singing One Direction and Disney songs at the top of their lungs.
Saturday mornings he reserves for pancakes and bacon.
At dinner time, he ensures we sit as a family, asks about our day, and engages in the conversation.
He helps with homework, and attends school functions while cracking eye-roll worthy dad jokes with the teachers.
He will cut mangoes and melons and strawberries all simply to appease each of his three girls’ fruit preferences (myself included).
He shoots hoops, kicks the soccer ball around, plays catch and learns cheer routines.
He emcees our living room dance parties and fashion shows.
He'll pose for a thousand photos until we get the angle juuuuust right.
He'll wear matching Christmas jammies and even let us pick his halloween costumes.
He'll carry ALL of our bags so we don't have to.
He holds our hands, listen to our dilemmas and encourages us to chase our dreams...
Oh, how the list goes on and on...
And, yea, those are all pretty standard expectations for a dad, right?
Yet, so many DADS don't do those things.
So many PARENTS don't do those things.
So many PEOPLE don't do those things.
In addition to all of that, he's got all his own things he's balancing too, like a high-demanding career, hobbies like running for fun (shout out to my 7x Ironman), and basic human needs like relaxation and sleep. Somehow he still manages his time to be the ringleader who keeps our shitshow together.
It would take me an eternity to list every little thing that he does, but ultimately it all adds up to one BIG conclusion:
If it were up to me, the Man of the Year award would go to none other than my very own, 'Prince' Eric Michael-James-Elliott Young.
(Yes he has that many middle names)
It isn't always easy on us as step-parents, but it also isn't always easy on our partners either. Sometimes that fact gets shadowed through the midst our own personal turmoils, but when you stop and take a moment to reflect on all they do, it's hard not to feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation.
To all of the other WICKED AWESOME PARTNERS out there, being everything to everyone, holding it together, and absolutely killin' it ... I see you!
*anxiously awaits Eric to come home to tell him all of that, in person... or just say "thank you" and give him a hug and a big ol' smoocheroo*
~names have been changed to protect the innocent~