Step Parenting – Sharing Memories While Splitting Time
The training wheels have been lying on the garage floor for months. One wipe out after another throughout the spring and summer. Tearfully surrendering over and over again, for the balance was just a hair off. Timing, coordination, and courage are the recipe for success, but each time he came up a little short of one or more ingredients. Then, it happened. And we missed it! Our little guy rode his bike for the first time over the weekend. And the weekend after all is, Daddy’s time.
The correct reaction to this news would have been to congratulate him on his achievement of a major milestone in life. The response that came out however was how disappointed I was not to have been there when it happened. Oh what a mixed message it must have been for a five year old to process. I found a way to suck pure excitement out of his huge moment by analyzing how I was affected. In a flash, the excitement was gone. Now I missed two magical experiences, the milestone itself, and the celebration of the accomplishment. Jerk and double jerk.
The harsh reality to joint custody of a child is that some memories will made in the presence of one and the absence of the other parent. The only thing we can do about this is to accept it. Lest we remind ourselves that ultimately we have created this situation in the first place. The kids can’t help where they are when the big moments occur because it was us, the mighty parents who put them there. Armed with that knowledge, what do we do about it?
As you can see from my stellar performance as Step Dad in “Sure you learned how to ride a bike, but what about my feelings” debacle, I too have some work to do. Self awareness is the key. By that I mean to know how, why, and when you feel whatever it is that you feel so your actions can be more thoughtful. If I had been more aware of my feelings and self, I would have recognized his joy and my disappointment as mutually exclusive elements. And, rather than reacting in a somewhat wounded manner, I could have enjoyed the celebration with my step son. Besides, it had nothing at all to do with me.
When we chose to focus more on what we have than what we don’t have we gain proper perspective and everything seems to make a little more sense. As parents and step parents we must remember that our time with our children is fleeting, and although it may be limited, it is too valuable to waste. Our children are constantly making memories for themselves, not for us. Sometimes we are lucky enough to help create them, and when we are not, I am quite sure they will be willing to share.
And finally, it is not a competition! If it were, we’d be up three teeth to one!Michael Conrad Kelley
is the co-author of the children’s book and parenting guide Zooch the Pooch, My Best Friend.