I’m not a last word kind of girl. I tend to avoid confrontation as much as I can. The six other people and two dogs I share my home with are highly opinionated and stubborn, so this is a challenge. My role growing up was that of Peace Keeper and it still is today in this new family, though many times it is enough to simply try to keep the peace within myself.
I love Christmas more than anyone in the house. I wish they all loved it as much as me, but I understand how complicated it can get when you have a broken family history and things aren’t quite as you would like them to be. I don’t let anyone else’s feelings about a holiday bring me down anymore. I can enjoy Christmas all by myself if I need to, by marking the sacred in everyday life. Baking is a mediation, sending Christmas cards is transmitting a little bit of love and energy to every person I write, and I enjoy creating a festive atmosphere. When I enjoy the season just as it is, sometimes my enthusiasm is contagious.
Recently I was worrying. The kids’ mom missed two birthdays this fall and I was projecting about Christmas. By “missing”, I mean that she didn’t send them a card or a present – she hasn’t visited in over two and half years now. It brought me back to the first Christmas we had after the kids moved in with us. They were all still so raw. I took them shopping and bought gifts for her from them and shipped them out Priority to make sure they arrived in time. She didn’t call. She didn’t acknowledge their gifts until they asked her directly, close to New Year’s.
One thing I’ve learned since becoming a custodial stepmom is that worry is fruitless. Not only is it fruitless, but it’s damaging. It takes valuable time and energy away from a hundred other productive things I could be doing. But I can’t stop worrying by thinking about it; I have to take action. Even if it’s folding laundry or cleaning a toilet, I’m better off doing those mundane tasks than sitting around trying to think up solutions to my perceived problems.
Up on the top shelf of the pantry is a set of cookie stamps. The kids’ mom included them in a Christmas box a few years ago. From a Scandinavian gift shop (she’s of Norwegian descent), the stamps have never been used. I pulled them out and read the directions, seasoned the stamps and picked a recipe, hoping to get the kids involved.
Cookie Stamp Shortbread
1 ½ cups butter
¾ cups sugar
4 cups flour
Cream butter and sugar, add flour a cup at a time. Roll into one-inch balls, place on ungreased cookie sheet and stamp. 350 for 15-20 minutes.
No one was interested in making them. I did get the youngest to do some of the stamping at least, which lasted all of 45 seconds.
The cookies came out really lovely, and were even better the second day. Of course, the kids hated them. Not overly sweet and completely devoid of chemicals, there was nothing in there to hold their interest. But I enjoyed the process, and had warm cookies for my husband when he got home from work.
I had reached out to try to interest the kids in acknowledging (by using) their mom’s gift. They didn’t even remember she had given it to them. I felt a strange obligation to use it at least once, and then suddenly it felt like she and I were having an argument, even though we have never spoken and she hates me and blames me for everything.
When they didn’t bond with me over baking, I felt like it was her dig.
My retort was to persist, because who can say no to a cookie?
When they hated them, I felt like she got the last word and I honestly felt a little defeated.But my husband and I like the cookies, and after all, they’re just cookies.
If I have a last word it is this: peace. I don’t want to be her friend and our lives are all easier when she’s not trying to be a part of them, but I do wish her peace. I will continue to demonstrate remembering the sacred and the simple, acknowledging and being thankful for gifts of all types, in hopes that some day one of the kids will find this meaningful in their own life.
Plus, every cookie someone else hates is one more I get to eat.
JM Randolph became a step-mom in 2006, when her boyfriend at the time got temporary emergency custody of his five (yes, five!) children and she moved in to help out. Temporary turned permanent when they were married in 2008. She and her husband both work as stagehands and enjoy (most days) their houseful of teen girls, one 11-year-old boy and two Puggles. She blogs at accidentalstepmom.com. Facebook: https://www.