I have come across a lot of things in my life thus far that I felt I definitely was made to do. Things that I was meant for. Things that I have mastered either all at once, or slowly over time.
In contrast, there are also many things in this life that I feel I’m ill-equipped to handle. One of those things is becoming a step-parent. It’s a bit terrifying for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is Disney’s portrayal of the step-parent role as “evil”. After getting engaged to my fiance and staring down the barrel of overnight parenthood I even noticed I’d developed a mole on my chin that has hair growing out of it. I’m not exaggerating. It happened. I pluck it every week. I, Brandi Abel, have grown a hairy evil step-mother mole. *shudder
There are days when it seems incredibly simple. The kids are awesome and 90% of the time up to now has consisted of playing, dancing, singing, driving, entertaining, and pouring cereal. I am a master cereal pourer. Some days I even get the amounts of the milk right 🙂
However, there are always moments that remind me that things will not always be that way. I usually delude myself into imagining what those moments will be like and being able to wade through each of them smoothly as they come along. I carry these delusions around so that I don’t have a complete meltdown, but they get shattered to bits when one of the three kids starts a sentence with: “Brandi Can I …?”.
It never fails. Every time. I freeze cause I never know what’s about to be asked but I know it involves me having to be a responsible adult and not totally screw up the answer. No pressure. Those sort of questions began in the spectrum of “Brandi, can I have a coke?” and “Brandi, can we stay up until you go home?” Those questions were really easy at first because all I had to answer was “Go ask your dad, that’s a dad question”. EASY BUTTON. As I have grown to love the kids, and have an invested interest in their well being I’ve taken on more confidence in answering those easy ones on my own. And I don’t always say “NO”…but I hear there is some sort of step-parent quota for that word so I should probably work on that!
Over the course of the 2.5 years I’ve known the kids the questions have become more personal, more insightful, and sometimes downright puzzling. I’ve been asked why my sister and I don’t seem to get along very well. I’ve been asked why their parents don’t love each other anymore. I’ve been asked why the methodist church doesn’t do communion every week but our Catholic Church does. I’ve been asked to help with math homework, go get ice cream, come to birthday parties, and show up to sporting events. And after all those questions I had developed a false sense of comfort. As though I might actually be able to do this after all.
And then yesterday morning, while cleaning up the breakfast mess before the kids headed out the door with their dad, Emily asked, “Brandi, would it be ok if I asked you a question about eating disorders?”. My confidence shriveled up like a raisin and I had to catch my breath before even looking her in the eye. I managed to timidly say “Yes, what is it you would like to know?” and we proceeded to have a very surface conversation about warning signs and if there were things she could do for someone she was worried about.
After she left for school it took me awhile to recover from the shock. I’ve been very hyper-aware that I’m about to become a member in a household with two pre-teen girls who are going to have very real encounters with things like Eating Disorders. But I never had really thought either of them would ever actually talk to me about it, especially from a ‘gaining my perspective’ type of question.
I should really stop underestimating how unknown the territory of step-Brandihood is going to be. I hope God is prepared for all of my “please don’t let me screw this up” prayers to come….