Three weeks after my second marriage the third child of my four stepchildren stood by the dryer were I was doing my continual duty of laundry and said, "You don't love me like you do Alyssa."
The comment came from nowhere with no provocation or reason. I knew that this moment might come but I did not expect it so soon nor did I think it would be so out of context. I expected it to arrive at a time when there were troubled children in our blended family. A time when jealousy and discord would reign. Not here in the laundry room with one child who simply stated a fact and wanted to discuss it.
Many things plundered through my mind in those short few minutes before I responded. My first thought was simply how do I respond to such a comment and does he really want a response? I continued my chore of separating clothes and said, "What makes you say that?" He didn't stutter or miss a beat but rather began to relate incidences from his viewpoint which he had deemed to show favor to the other child. Of course he could not relate to the fact that he was 9 and she was 4 therefore, there would be differences in the relationship. One incidence that he cited was that I didn't hold him in my lap as much as I did the younger. Of course he couldn't see that she weighed a measly 22 pounds while he topped the scale at well over 80 pounds, plus the difference in height.
I turned my back and let a little smile creep across my face at this revelation of brewing jealousy. I nodded and let him continue with other events that were just as easily explainable, but somehow I knew that any explanation would fall on deaf ears. His heart was not for an explanation of the events, he really wanted to know if I loved him at all. He wanted to know his place in this new family.
But then again, if I declared that I did love him, it would sound empty and hollow because we had only been a family for three weeks and everyone's world had been turned upside down in that three weeks. All eight members of this new family were feeling the pinch of a crowded house, extra chores, and the trial of separation of two's. When two complete households blend there is an excess of things that should only be possessed in one's. Things like ironing boards, mixers, washing machines, etc. But then there is the excess that is needed, the extra towels, but then there is the problem of where to put them. Each solution seemed to bring a new problem.
Other problems arose as I attempted to make this house which had once been occupied by the first wife, my home. I would open a drawer and find pictures of his first family smiling as they appeared to be the perfect family. I once opened a drawer and found a love letter from my husband to his ex-wife. I felt like an intruder. I had enough problems of my own without having to verify this child's value by my love. I was hanging on by a thread myself. I frequently asked myself what had I done to my children and this family. Of course, I reminded myself that the family unit had been severed before my entrance into their lives. It was the blending of the two families that caused me to pause in thought and feel the edge of depression.
My love for my own child had flowed from the day she had been born, but this child came to me with many problems and he was not cute or loveable, he was a boy with all the things that accompany nine year old boys, things like dirt, tricks and his constant picking at the two younger children, especially Alyssa.
Now he was asking me to declare that I loved him as much as I did my own daughter. Well that would simply be a lie. I cared for him, but I don't know that I had grown to love him at that point. He was someone else's child to love, I had become his caretaker not his mother, but at the same time I had not abandoned my role of mother to my own daughter.
I pondered as long as I dared until he finally said, "you don't do you?"
In a short blast of wisdom that could only have come supernaturally from God, I stopped, looked at him and in a kind and patient voice I said, "Do you love me as much as you do your mother?"
He looked shocked and surprised. He ducked his head as he pondered the question. Then he answered with a broad smile on his face. "No, I don't." Then he hugged me and walked away, content. The question never came up again.
In time it didn't need to come up because we both grew to love each other and it didn't need to be spoken; it was understood.