June 1, 2016/by Linda Paul
Very early on in my relationship with my now-husband, we went hiking in the Berkshires. Not only did this become an annual fall foliage trip, but it is also the place where we spent our “mini-moon” and where we celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary and every anniversary since. When we go on those trips, and many others we are fortunate enough to be able to take, we enjoy a good hike.
It had occurred to me during one of our earlier and more challenging hikes that the adventure was representative of our relationship. I tend to follow my husband while we’re hiking, but every once in awhile, I lead. And when the terrain allows, we walk side by side. He always looks out for me, offering an outstretched hand when an obstacle is just a bit too steep for me to step up on my own. While there are times that I feel insecure in my abilities to confront the challenges ahead or when I feel like I’m going to fall, he always makes me feel safe. And when we reach the summit of our journey, together we say, “We made it.”
On a recent hike that I considered to be on the challenging side, I had another realization of how hiking reflected my life — this time as a stepparent. I do best when I just think about the path right in front of me. If I think about how long and difficult the journey is going to be, I fear that I might not make it — that I’ll want to give up and turn back around.
That family vacation I really don’t want to go on? That’s the not-so-shallow creek in the woods that I have to cross and try to not slip on the stones. When my stepson says to his sister right in front of me, “I miss Mommy.”? That’s that big steep boulder for which I have to muster all my strength in order to conquer. That feeling of being alone even when I’m surrounded by my new family? That’s when we can’t find the next trail marker and panic that we won’t find our way out of the woods. But we do. Every time.
I may trip, I may slip, but I persevere and I feel incredibly accomplished that I didn’t give up. And through it all, my husband — my hiking partner, my life partner and the very reason I am even on this journey of stepparenting — is right there leading me, following me and walking by my side.
When you are experiencing the inevitable ups and downs of being a stepparent, and there are myriad, it might help to think of it as a journey. Think about your life as a stepparent the next time you hike or bike or run a marathon or have some other hobby that may seem difficult yet is satisfying in retrospect. Think of the challenges, the journey, and the adventure. You may get scared and you may feel like you’re going to fall, but if you look at what is right in front of you, you will get there. And together with your partner, you too, will say, “We made it.”
• • •
Linda Paul is a stepfamily educator.