Being a young teen in a split family in which one-half has remarried and acquired additional kids stinks. At least it does for my young teen in our split family in which the-other-half has remarried and has acquired additional kids. Nothing untoward has happened, and nothing crazy, and I can actually say that I like his stepmother fine, but my 13-year old has a predictably small view of the world and is devastated by his dad’s choices on a daily basis. Yesterday, post-baseball game, after sharing that he was annoyed that his step-brother (younger) wants to be a character from his (B’s) favorite Xbox game (Destiny), he was surprised to have both me and Mom2 (his friend’s mom and his mom’s friend) say that this annoyance was classic big brother/little brother stuff, and that he should reframe it, because this kid and he might do well to support one another in a situation for which neither asked. He argued briefly, then, clearly outnumbered and out-communicated, he dropped it and moved to something else, doing so with relative ease: resignation, perhaps.
Several hours later, though, I was sitting quietly in my armchair when he draped himself from one arm of the chair (on which he laid his head) to the other arm (on which his curled-up legs rested), snuggled the rest of himself in the fetal position down into my lap, and began to cry. He said, “Dad promised me he wouldn’t marry her, then he did.” Keep in mind, dear reader, that his father and stepmother will have been together now for several years, and married for at least a year. I listened to what he had to say, and then I told him that I hadn’t been there to know exactly what was said or meant, but that, regardless, the whole situation was not his fault, nor was it particularly fair, nor was it going away. I told him that I hoped that he could work on forgiving his dad, not because it was his job to do so, but because I thought that he might someday really want to have a relationship with his dad, even if he didn’t feel like it just now. I stroked his hair back from his face and told him that I loved him.
Eventually, he untangled himself and got ready for bed. He then re-joined me (standing this time) and asked me for what I was thankful. I glanced towards the kitchen with a grin, and he said, “Oh yeah – the dishwasher – of course!” (a new one, having been delivered the day before). I returned the question to him, wondering what he’d say after this stressful day. He paused, looking off into the middle distance for a moment, then he said “My game, and that you helped me get it”, referring to an apparently epic Destiny update he’s had for a few days.
This is heartbreaking stuff for a momma. The job of setting your own emotional reactions aside and looking out to the future to what you hope your circumstances might evolve in order to inform your current responses can be daunting. And while it’s daunting, it is the grown-up thing to do and is a hell-of-a teaching moment with your child about how to handle disappointment, disagreement, and a feeling of rejection. And so I do it. I’m really, really, thankful that he doesn’t dismiss his moms’ thoughts and advice, and I’m equally thankful for the Mom2 back-up. This won’t be the last I’ll hear about this, but I think he will at least think about, and will trust, our words and our love in offering them.