Today, I realize just what a difference our life is today as compared to three years ago. As someone who has been struggling with insomnia for over two months, I've struggled in the mornings. Mornings are now when my body is saying "okay, you can go to sleep now", and I cringe with frustration wanting to lash back and say "okay, ummmm, maybe you should've said that 8 hours ago". Last night was an especially terrible night (my poor husband...I am so thankful for having a bed partner, but he just might not share the same sentiment!) and this morning I was determined to stay in bed until the second it was time to go. Now, if you had met these children 2-3 years ago, in fact, if you met them even a YEAR ago, you would know this would be NOT possible. But I'll get to that later.
Two years ago, everything was worry and anxiousness. Jeren would come knock on our door an hour before needing to be anywhere with tears in his eyes worried that we weren't awake or were going to forget they have school or AWANA's (mind you, he had just gone 4 months of school and life without his dad [no, I was not in the picture when that awful plan was made]). He'd come check in every five minutes or so, crying each time, and would weep if we promised we wouldn't be late, as if he didn't believe that. Saturday mornings, if we slept in, they would be crying worried they weren't going to be fed. Saturdays around lunch time they felt we needed reminders that they would be needing lunch, because if we weren't reminded, certainly we'd forget, right? When dinnertime would approach, I would be reminded that they hadn't eaten dinner, because they were worried dinner would be forgotten. Worry over lunches being packed, worried that they might not be picked up from school, worry over EVERYTHING. And not just worry, but weeping sessions. Complete physical anguish over the idea that they might be forgotten. This unfortunately made sense, because they were forgotten so much (not by us). They were brought everywhere late, if at all. Lunches weren't packed with promises that a surprise lunch would be brought by later, only to be let down. For the brief few months that co-parenting was attempted, they always had the question "who's going to pick me up? Who am I staying with?" and it was so hard telling them the plan, knowing that it could fall through at any moment...so they got a lot of "someone will be there", because we knew that we just might have to step in and cover for those "unforeseen" circumstances. Although I worked so hard so that I would never fail in this area, I still couldn't establish that trust with them because they had no routine to fall back on, no way to KNOW that their needs would be met. Moving out of a toxic situation has changed their behaviors a lot. I'm trying to recall any worry since being here, and I can't.
Being a stepmom might be one of the most emotionally draining things in the world, especially in a high conflict situation. Although I don't consider myself a "stepmom" (pretty sure stepmoms are the ones who are a "step" away from doing the fulltime duties of a mom...), it's still the title I have. Actually, I'm just called "Donica". Super NOT endearing. Kinda painful to hear coming from little kids, especially when all other kids start reverting to calling me Donica instead of "Auntie Donica" or "Mrs. Nash", because that's what they hear the boys call me. I'm never going to "love" being a stepmom, and it's never going to be something I would ever tell someone to get into, but it doesn't mean I can't find some sort of pride in it, right? I, probably inappropriately so, compare it to being like a war, where of course you'd never say you "loved" killing people or fighting in battle (unless you're crazy, which happens), but you can say you felt honor in standing up for your country, even if it meant pain and suffering throughout the duration. But when I'm able to look back and see the life that the kids were brought out of, I can at least feel some fulfillment in that. Just like we might never know what someone went through to fight for our freedom, Little Jax will never know what he was saved from (and therefore is slightly less appreciative and respectful), but Jeren does know, and he goes out of his way to express appreciation of it quite often (pretty sure someone is going to become a very doting husband one day).
So this morning, as I see them clawing at each other, with the only worry on their mind being "who's gonna get in the van first", I sigh, thinking, "even if this is the only thing; at least I did right by them in this way".