I’m sure you, dear reader, have seen the movie The Never Ending Story.
*If you haven’t, stop reading this now and go watch the movie because you have done your inner child a great disservice.*
To this day, I still find the part of the movie where the giant stone man is contemplating his own shortcomings to be one of the saddest scenes in any movie. The one thing that he has always been good at -physical strength- is the one thing that failed him when he needed it most. He just couldn’t hang on to his friends and they got sucked into the Nothing.
They looked like big, strong hands.
Lately, I feel like that stone man. You see, we have quite an unusual family situation. Our oldest (Dylan-17) is my wife’s son and his biological father has always been out of the picture and more of a nuisance than anything. He is a very negative, lazy person and always places the responsibility of he & Dylan being in contact with each other on Dylan. The last few times this has happened, he kept bothering Dylan about the fact that he hasn’t called and has given him a generally negative feeling about their time together. Due to this, Dylan continues to ignore his texts and calls and has pretty much written him out of his life. Frankly, Dylan doesn’t even really consider him his ‘real dad’ at this point. Unfortunately, he doesn’t consider me that, either. Dylan had another dad in his life – Mark. Mark was the man that my wife was with after Dylan’s father and her divorced. They were together for about 10 years and then he passed away suddenly and unexpectedly one night. Needless to say, Mark got the best years. He had the fun childhood years with Dylan. The years that a boy just gets to be a boy and play all day with little to zero responsibility. Now comes me. I am the evil stepfather that has to try and teach Dylan responsibility and how to become a man that can stand on his own two feet. I definitely pulled the short straw on this deal. Teenage boys have no interest in responsibility and Dylan is no different. But I am the evil demon stepdad and I will continue to show him the errors in his ways and try to teach him the things he needs to do to be a productive person because that is my responsibility – even if it leaves a generally negative impression of me on him. I am not a friend. I am a parent. And I am a problem solver.
They look like big, strong hands.
The other boy we have is my son Jayden (11) from a previous co-worker. His mother and I tried to make a relationship with each other for the first few years of his life, but it was never a good relationship and it has been pretty much the equivalent of being bound and dragged down a street full of broken glass and salt ever since. Yes, the last few months have been pretty civil, but previous to that, about 80% of our interactions have been through court proceedings. This has not created a great atmosphere for Jayden. She has spent much of his life trying to make her own perfect life and keep the image of what she has done as pristine as possible. She hates me because I actually want what is best for Jayden and that means we have to take responsibility – and responsibility is hard work. The blame is nobody else’s but ours for the problems he has and it is our responsibility to help him understand what is best for him, rather than what other people might think or say when he takes off his shirt to reveal a big belly when he goes swimming. Just last week, the school called us because Jayden told another child he wanted to kill himself.
They look like big, strong hands.
Our third child – Nyah (also 11). Nyah was the result of a relationship that I had with a friend. What I thought to be a ‘friends with benefits’ kind of situation, her mother thought was a ‘building a relationship’ situation. Miscommunication was the sneaky fucker that came in and manipulated that whole scene. Fast forward: Nyah’s mother is still struggling to get her life in order, so Nyah lives here, but all of the adults can play nice and work things out in a civil – even friendly- manner without having to examine the fine print of the custody papers every week. However, Nyah was not taught in her younger years to take care of things for herself (at 5yrs old, she still had never even fastened her own seat belt) and as I try to teach her responsibility, she has turned to lying and trying to hide things when she comes up short. I have even explained time and time again that it’s OK to be wrong and that she just needs to ask for help. She doesn’t like to admit that she didn’t know how to do something on her own and she forgot something. So, now I have found rotten fruit in her backpack that she apparently didn’t eat for lunch and forgot about it in her backpack and just two weeks ago, she made up a story of a friend that committed suicide. The suicide story was made to cover up the fact that she came home crying from school because of a detention that she was trying to hide from me.
They look like big, strong hands.
My wife and I are by no means perfect parents. We love our children. We love each other’s children. And we are trying to keep everything balanced and sane. Lately we have been a bit absent with the children due to a combination of a few things: the house fire last year, which has been an insurance documents and processes nightmare, Sara’s (my wife) newer job that can keep her on edge from the stress of helping a young company grow and finally, our backyard renovations that I have had my hands in as I prepare space for the family to enjoy while I try to get an organics business started. Even despite these things, we try to sit down for family games together and we have been making it a point to return to sitting at the dinner table together, rather than eating in front of the TV. We are making the kids join us in healthier eating and exercise habits and yes, of course they are resistant (what kid isn’t?), but when we go out for walks and bike rides, everyone still comes home happy and seemingly satisfied.
They seem like big, strong hands.
Despite our best efforts, the dynamics of our family situation is quite difficult, but my job in this world is to be a problem solver. Just like the stone man, I am not perfect at this and I will do everything within my power to keep the kids safe from those who would drag them down. It is the most difficult job I have ever had, but I will keep trying. I don’t know if my efforts are in vain, but I guess sometimes – just like the stone man needed Atreyu to set things right, maybe it’s time for us to get a family counselor to help us with the things we seem to be struggling to figure out. After all, our new, modern, displaced family isn’t exactly something most people have experienced. There just isn’t much advice out there from people with similar lifestyles. This isn’t a Leave It To Beaver world anymore and it hasn’t been for such a short period of time that we may have to be pioneers on this journey. Hopefully, we can be the ones that can give advice to others as we work through our family trials and tribulations.
And maybe in the meantime, these big, strong hands can keep us safe from the Nothing.