My step-daughter and her boyfriend have been in town visiting for the past few days, 6 days total tomorrow when they leave and the longest visit yet for them. It has been a really nice visit with adventures and giggling. It wasn't always this way though.
When my husband and I married, I was 18 years old and she was 9. By today's modern standards that gap really isn't much of an oddity....but the mental maturity / or lack of provided lumps and bumps along the way. In the beginning, she was struck with admiration and devotion for me. Things were so easy and sublime. She was like my personal cheerleader as I learned the art of being Mom and Wife to a ready made family while attempting to grow up myself. But I noticed a change when her teen years set in. Maybe it was her own way of coping with her parents divorce and being a teenager, maybe it had to do with her dad and I having our own children, maybe it was a bit self inflicted on my part with my own waves of growing up and heart dealings.....but there was a silent defiance that rose up between us. It was a cold and indifferent shoulder presented to me over the next several years that waved in degree through her mid-twenties. Whenever she was visiting, I got the hugs and hellos but felt like an invisible extra in my own home much of the time. I tried to create the atmosphere that was needed to give her and her dad time together along with her new siblings while fighting back my own feelings of being the expendable house help. I never wanted or tried to replace her mom but it was apparent to me and others around me that I was to replace nothing at all. My husband, not realizing the label of his own need to make up for lost time with his first daughter, remained mostly unaware of my struggles.
I would gear up for visits, trying to put my heart on my sleeve with a layer of protective covering for the inevitable. I would try to make myself available just in case but then retreat to my room when hurts got too close. I would counsel myself that me being my husband's most important....until she was around was just part of being a blended family and I knew that before we got married. I ached for that father daughter relationship in my own life and knew how wrong it would be to get in the middle of it. As time went on, I could tell that the small armor I used was getting bigger and bigger. I stopped trying to arrange visits for her to see my family that live just a few miles away because it hurt to wait for her to decide to remember to hug them hello or even say good bye. I stopped making my schedule clear for her visits. My life went on and if I had a free hour or two here and there....well that was okay. They had fun with or without me anyway.
Now she is 28 years old and the past couple of years are showing to be heart felt changes for her. Maybe it is called being an adult, maybe it is life for her with this nice young man, maybe she and I both are at places in our lives where we are silently dealing with instead of running from our feelings. Whatever the reasons, I am so grateful for this new season.
She gave me a rare glimpse into her heart that I have not been privy to in many years recently and it made me cry. We were sitting down to dinner, a dinner that she had virtually put together on her own with only my verbal direction as I was running out to help my hubby with an errand, and her eyes got glassy red. Her dad asked if her allergies were kicking in again and she replied with a smile and said she was fine......then quietly excused herself to the restroom. When I tapped on the door, she let me in as cool sink water dripped from her flushed face. She could barely look at me as she whispered, "I am sorry. I just really want you guys to approve of "J" and things don't always go the way I think they should and I worry that you will never really like him."
Wow....I was stunned. In the short seconds that followed before my response I saw a new world, a world thru her eyes. Nothing had happened. We had all been getting along wonderfully. But she had been keeping herself in pressure all this time...wanting the acceptance that all daughters crave. As she walked through our home with each visit with outward confidence and assurance, she hid her insecurities inside under armor just like me.
I hugged her and held her, a bit too long for her comfort as she gently tried to pull away a couple of times. But I couldn't let go. I wanted my love and acceptance to flow through me to her, imparting confidence and security. My words told her that we are always grateful for her visits, their visits, and he is the best guy ever. Not only does he make her happy but he is a man of good character and her dad looks at him like gold. She thanked me, smiled, and then the moment was over. It was time to clean up and make like nothing happened or people would wonder. We went back to the table and enjoyed our dinner and everyone took their turn at jokes and silly stories.
I am so grateful for changing seasons. God says everything has a season, we just don't know the time table. But when I am discouraged, I must rest assured that everything has a season of change. It is how the people around me grow....it is how I grow.