This morning I made Daniel a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. Haven't done that in a while. But it got me thinking about the social dynamics around this simple act.
When Chris and I were dating, I was a little horrified that he made his kids' lunches. Usually breakfast too. And though his mother, who they lived with, often made dinner, Chris showed himself more than adequate to take care of that as well. On one hand, part of me secretly hoped that after we were married he would serve me (and the kids) in those same ways, and sometimes he has. But I knew it was more likely that those kind of responsibilities would shift to my shoulders. As that happened I've received it with mixed feelings. I enjoy many of the tasks of housekeeping, but I'm a professional with a full-time job, too, and it's hard to do both.
In my family where I grew up, making your own lunch was like making your own bed - a sign that you were a responsible person - or deciding what to wear - not something you'd want to delegate to another. It was your lunch, not your mom's lunch, and you should make it.
Turns out, in the family I married into, making your kid's lunch was a way to say "I'm here for you. And I love you."
It's hard to let go of one story and accept another, or accept both of them as valid. I'm regularly surprised and disappointed how much my self-righteousness asserts itself to defend my preferences, my ways, my ideas about how things are done or what they mean.
But I love Daniel, and not just because I love Chris. And I've recognized one way of showing it is to feed him.
Family dynamics have shifted, and Daniel usually makes his own sandwiches now. But I've learned to make them the way he likes them, as I did today. A thin layer of peanut butter on both pieces of bread, carefully spread to the edges. Generous layer of jelly or honey on top of that. Some assembly required, but no slicing. (That surprised me: I remembered that my dad always sliced sandwiches on the diagonal, my mom on the horizontal. Yet here was another option!)
In her book, Loving Someone Else's Child, author Angela Hunt says that stepfamilies, despite their problems, can give kids some unexpected benefits. A larger/blended family includes "more people with diverse personalities and styles and backgrounds and so there are more sources of social and cognitive stimulation for kids. In the long run, kids in stepfamilies could be developing more effective ways of dealing with a greater variety of people..."
"Children with 'step-in' parents usually have multiple role models. They will observe different parenting techniques and will have more models from which to choose when they are parents someday... they learn that it pays to be flexible."
In the long run, set-in-their-ways stepmoms may experience the same benefits, too!