Saturday, August 22, 2009

The step-dad

I'm probably too tired to write this, but tomorrow we have our final guests (my beloved baby brother and family) of the summer coming, so it's tonight or who knows when...
We spent the day down at the family cabin on Whidbey, with a subset of my family of origin (namely, my two brothers, their wives and a couple of sons), sprinkled with a couple cousins, and an aunt and uncle. We'd all gathered because Baby Brother brought his wife and her sons out to see his homeland, which includes people, places and all manner of frenetic activities.  BB is nothing if not frenetic, a great big boy at heart.  The way he plays with those two step-sons, the way they respond to him.  It's something to see, alright.  This is a man who set up a compass-point Easter egg hunt for them the first year he knew them.  He sets up a tent in their backyard and takes them camping, made a sunburst pillow on the sewing machine (without ever having taken a sewing lesson, as far as I know) for his wife because she likes them (both pillows and sunbursts, I think), and has made this trip west the adventure of a lifetime for these boys. The rest of us may laugh, roll our eyes and wonder if BB will ever grow up, but when I watch him, when I see how these boys respond, delight in him, I wonder if the truth is that the rest of us actually grew up too fast, having forgetten what it's like to be a kid.  BB hasn't, and it's making what might have been a difficult, tenuous relationship with step-kids healthy and fun.

That's not to say there aren't some difficult moments along the way.  Every journey has such moments.The three I carried for nine months and have known since they first opened their eyes have sometimes seemed inhabited by aliens and I'm pretty sure they think the same about me.  We stare at each other across an abyss of generations and cultures and sometimes need a translator in order to understand each other.  The other day we decided that E is fluent in Beve, and SK is fluent in me, so they have to help each other understand what their dang parents are saying.  So I guess it's a good thing they have each other.  But if this is the case with these young adults Beve and I actually had a hand in raising (and I say a hand, but often I think they grew up to be the amazing people they are in spite of our best intentions), step-parenting must be a mine-field almost impossible to navigate without losing a limb.  It takes a lot of thought to step into it, if you'll excuse the pun.

I guess you have to know it's what God wants for your life.  And He certainly understands step-parenting.  After all, He allowed a simple carpenter the task...er, the privilege, of raising His only Son.  So BB, and all the other step-dads and moms out there, have quite a heritage, straight back to a man who went to sleep one night, thinking the best thing, the noble thing, would be to let his pregnant fiancee go, and by the time he awakened the next morning, was ready to be a step-dad for life. And what could be more noble, more honorable, than loving, caring for, and raising someone else's child? BB, when you get right down to it, is just following the giant footsteps of a man from Nazareth, the same footsteps that Jesus Himself followed, because I'm betting Jesus tried on His daddy's sandals a few times as a little boy.  Boys do that.  And when Jesus needed to laugh hard, play wildly, it was Joseph, the step-dad, who got down on the floor and wrestled with Him.  Or crawled around on his hands and knees, letting Jesus ride him like the donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem.

Joseph, the step-dad. And  BB, following hard after him.  And all the other honorable, noble ones who crawl around with the children God gave them to parent.

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