Images don’t always tell the entire story. I feel this is especially true in the area of stepparenting. We have such a societal vision of the “ideal family”, and we work desperately hard to uphold this vision, that I don’t think we acknowledge what a stepfamily actually involves.
My stepchildren love me, yet they struggle to fully understand me and truly include me. It’s as if their lives, having been so torn apart and needing attention, do not permit the possibility of adding one more thing. Plus, no one truly wants a stepparent. It is a role never created in the original family dynamic.
At our family dinners, I am frequently ignored. I am not exaggerating or kidding. But the kids always want me present at dinner. They will talk over me, around me, sing while I try to speak, etc. It’s as if the children so need attention, that there is simply no space for my life at this table.
My time is important to me, so at times, I feel this family dinner places me in the bind of determining which means more to me- their needs or mine?
The poem at the end speaks to why I am there. I see my stepdaughter and I feel her pain at trying to create a family dynamic, so she can get what she needs- time and attention. And, she knows, if I am there, she will receive it. Once again, I see how the needs of others (good or bad) drive my actions.
“The ‘Family’ Table”
“Are you coming?”
The invitation sent with regularity
The “family” table is the marked destination.
Someone else’s needs have always been
a homing beacon for me-
Giving me sense and direction where I had none.
I follow a swerving, serving course. Needs, requests,
and wants pop-up as guideposts so I do not lose my way.
At your setting of “family”,
I am the interloper.
My part never writ in the original composition. The
screenplay set before my arrival.
I am never the understudy, though you bill me as such.
An understudy implies a role, of which I have none.
I come and I sit and I dutifully play my part.
While you, my sweet younger self,
with equal desperation,
holds together the fantasy in your tiny, tiny hands.