Apples and bananas are two very different fruit.
I love bananas and I always have loved them. I love banana splits, I love chocolate and bananas, I love bananas in smoothies and I love peanut butter and bananas. I love a perfectly ripe banana (with no mushy spots or any bruising).
But, apples are pretty special too. Nothing beats a caramel covered apple (dipped in skor bits), or apple slices that you dip in caramel. I also loved apple covered with sugar when I was little. Apples can be perfectly paired with cheese as well and it is darn tasty. Then there is apple pie, apple crumble or crisp with lots of cinammon and brown sugar…
Apples and bananas are two different fruit. You can like them both. They both are tasty and yummy. They both are nutritious. But they are different fruit. You can like them both. You don’t have to choose. They both can be thrown into a fruit salad and be good (although not great – so maybe they aren’t the best fruit for a salad example).
Where am I going with this?
I struggle with being a step mom.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being a step mom. I love my skids dearly. But, it is hard. Because I am not a banana like I am used to being with Zach and Josh. I am an apple.
Being a mother, there is a natural connection with your children. Initially biologically, but more importantly, you have a history with them. You know every tiny detail of their little lives. You have the memories, you have the background of every bruise, scar, picture, or story. You have a level of patience that only a parent has. You were the only one they relied on initially. You comforted them, hugged them, loved them, disciplined them; you read them the stories, did all the “firsts” with them and essentially shared every moment with them. You attached to them like no other person could. You were their lifeline. You were called “Mommy” and you became their most favorite fruit (if we get back to my analogy); you were the banana.
Along comes a change in life circumstances. You are now presented with more young children. But you have no history, you have no connection, you have no memories or traditions to rely on. However, you are essentially, expected to do all the things that a banana would do – but you can’t say you’re a banana – because you are not. Nor will you ever be. You are an apple, thrown into doing the work of the banana. And everyone says that apples are rotten.
We had soccer last night and Sam played first. I sat and watched him by the sidelines while the other kids went and played soccer with Rob and my ex husband (more on this relationship later) on the adjacent field. I sat and watched Sam play and cheered him on. When he saved a goal, I cheered. When he let one in, I reassured him. He called over to me to show me his moves, to get reassurance, to just plain make sure I didn’t miss a thing.
After 40 minutes of playing, his Mom arrived. The moment she arrived, his attention went to her. He went running over to her and sat on her lap and immediately asked for her phone so he could play some games on it – which he did and soccer was pretty much forgetten. But I was pretty much forgotten too.
Now the point of the story is that his banana arrived. Even though I had acted like his banana and the people around us would have assumed I was his banana – there is no replacing bananas. It doesn’t matter what I do or say, or how much I love him or cheer for him, I would never, could never be his banana. But…I was his apple! I wasn’t trying to take over from the banana, because I don’t need to take over from his banana! I am his apple. And apples are good too. (Afterall, it’s pretty good to be the apple of someone’s eye!). He knows I am not trying to be his banana and is content with me being his apple.
I finished watching the game, cheered him the same way, then quietly left while he celebrated the game results with his banana. But my attention was diverted across the field where I watched Zach and Josh play soccer – with both their Dad (their banana) and their step dad (their apple). These men know how to make a fruit salad, and know how to let the children that they both love enjoy feasting in both fruits. At the same time. With very little competition.
Unfortunately, my skids aren’t able to enjoy tasting both fruit at the same time. If they are eating banana – it’s the only thing they can taste. There is no option of a fruit salad. And this is pushed on them. They know who’s a banana and who’s an apple – there is no competition for them. But they can’t enjoy the deliciousness of both fruit because the banana hasn’t sent them the message that “it is ok to enjoy both fruits”.
And that to me is sad, disheartening, and just plain hard on everyone. Kids need permission to partake of the fruit salad. They need to know that tasting other fruit does not take away from the pleasure of the banana, or the importance of a banana. Having an apple does not spoil the taste of the banana. The two can co-exist at the same time, and both can be enjoyed in their own special, unique ways.
As much as this is my way of thinking, I have to sit back and just accept things being the way they are. But that’s what makes it hard being a step mom. There are many roles to take one, while being careful not to take on others. I need to be the banana for Zach and Josh, but need to be an apple for Gabe, Zandra and Sam. And I need them to all feel that they can partake of many fruits and it just makes a tasty fruit salad.