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Change is Scary and Necessary.

Dark haired woman looking out a window.

Change, it has been said it is the only constant thing in life. Just as we settle into our lives suddenly everything changes, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse and we are told to embrace it. What a cruel joke. I’ve had a lot of change happen in my life this past year and although it is for the best that doesn’t negate the uncomfortable feelings that change inevitably produces. One of the recent changes in my life had to do with my career and included a promotion which in and of itself is good but also causes stress. However, let’s be honest who honestly cares about work when you are in middle management? The more significant changes I’ve delt with involve the dynamics of my family.


This year my fiancé and I continued to blend our children’s lives together. There is a certain amount of stress when two adults decide to mesh their lives together but adding children into the mix always complicates things. The five of us went on vacation as a family for the first time visiting my soon-to-be-in-laws and although we couldn’t have asked for the kids to get along better than they did it was still a new situation. It was a change from previous vacations that each of us were used too. This was the year I really saw how much control I’ll be giving up as I get married and mix the lives of my children with my future husband. Although getting married is an exciting form of change, it still produces a little pain, and a sadness knowing the life I have built with my kids will soon be quite different, even if that difference is better.


Thirteen years ago, when I had my first child I was married to her father, I worked but taking care of her was primarily my job. As all mothers know, even if you’re married to the most giving, selfless husband it is still the mother who tends to the baby most in the first year. Unfortunately for me my ex-husband is not selfless and giving, in fact he is quite the opposite, therefore by the time I had my son two and a half years later I was taking care of both children 90% of the time. The last 10% was divided between my parents, friends, and daycare. By the time I left my ex-husband a year later I was in control of my and my children’s lives entirely. I worked, I cleaned, I cooked, I took them to daycare, and I was in charge. I didn’t like controlling everything but when your ex-husband quits his job and lies to you for weeks pretending to go to work every day you are forced to take control of every aspect of your life. While I never wanted to lead, provide for, and protect my family I had no other choice. Their father, my ex-husband, refused too so I did.


There were some parts of the control that were comforting to me. I felt emotionally strong when I checked my bank account and saw my small paycheck deposited in it. After paying all of my bills I had $30 a week left over. Every time I checked my account and saw that $30 was still there, I relaxed. Gone were the days of my ex-husband stealing my paycheck (the only income we had), putting us into bank overdraft so he could buy lumber to make cutting boards and crafts. During that time, I got paid weekly and at the end of each week I would take $5 and buy the kids and I a pizza so I wouldn’t have to cook on a Friday night. The control I felt knowing that Saturday morning I would have $25 dollars left in my bank account made me ecstatic.


As the years went on and the kids got bigger my ex-husband tried to exert control over our lives at random intervals. This ended with the court awarding me sole custody of our kids, but it took years for that to happen, and those years were filled with a lot of pain. With more responsibility comes a higher level of control, and for the last few years I have had complete control over every aspect of my children’s lives. It is both daunting and fulfilling all at the same time.

Bride and Groom holding hands

Fast forward to the present with my wedding only mere weeks away and I find myself struggling with control issues. The idea that I will again have to consider someone else’s thoughts, ideas and reasoning when making decisions that pertain to my life and my children’s lives is scary. My fiancé and I have been together for 8 years (the length of my previous marriage), and in those years, he has delivered what he said he would. I have seen him keep his word and do the right thing even when it meant suffering on his part. He is the epitome of a provider and the leader that my children and I have never had. I trust him with the most important things in my life, my children. That is why I am marrying him, but there are still moments when it’s hard to give up the control I’ve had for the last 13 years.


Because of the love and the trust, I have in my fiancé I have been thrown off by the discord that I’ve felt giving him control over our lives. It shows itself in odd ways, for example I received extra money that I wasn’t planning on, let’s call it a bonus and I didn’t want to tell him about it. I was nervous that he wouldn’t approve of what I wanted to spend it on. Knowing that I had to tell him I did and as always, he and I were exactly aligned with what we were to do with the money. The fear was all in my head, but money is nothing in the grand scheme of things. My children are much more important than any bonus I could get, because of this the question still hid in my head at times. Am I making the right choice for my children by getting married? I think any parent that is about to get re-married and has young children would feel this way. I know that my fiancé had concerns about how his own son would feel, going from being an only child without a mother to suddenly having two younger step siblings. Even now my fiancé can see that his son has a tough time when my fiancé’ spends one on one time with my kids. Relationships are hard enough but add in children and things get even trickier.


In order to answer my question, I have to know what is best for my children. Or at least to have an outline of a best-case scenario childhood. What does the most ideal upbringing look like? Children need both love and discipline and too much or too little of one can be detrimental. Children need to be provided for emotionally and financially. They also need to be protected. I don’t believe that any of the aforementioned items should be overly done or done to the point of their detriment, but they must be given so the children can thrive.


Protection was one of the items I didn’t give much thought to until recently. Mainly because I struggled for so many years financially. When you barely have enough money to put food on the table your focus is there. When I did think about the man’s role as protector I always thought of protection as a safe home, someone to check out a noise in the middle of the night that could be an intruder. Yes, my fiancé would do that for us if needed but today I realized I was once again short changing myself and my children when it came to real protection.


My fiancé and I were watching a documentary on Netflix about the lives of wrestlers. A young woman told her story about how she was raped when she was just 15 years old. She was at a party with her friends when she found herself in a bedroom falling in and out of consciousness. The next thing she knew one of the boys from the party came into the room. She remembered seeing him shut the door and turn around with only a blanket wrapped around his naked body. The next day she woke up and wasn’t sure if anything had even happened until everyone, she knew started talking about how she was passed out while the guy had sex with her. They were making fun of her. If that wasn’t bad enough the boy at the party bragged to everyone that he took her virginity while she had passed out. You could see the effect it had on this woman’s life, her career, her relationships, and her choices moving forward.


Suddenly I was seventeen again, lying on a mattress, drunk with the room spinning around me. It was the summer, my friends and I all ended up at the friend of a friend’s apartment. We had been drinking all day and were sitting in someone’s bedroom. There were eight of us when someone passed around a joint and although I never liked pot, I took it because I was drunk. I remember falling over. I went from sitting to lying on my side, not being able to talk. One of the young men who lived in the apartment told everyone to leave the room, and when they were gone, he started kissing me. I tried to push him away, but my arms wouldn’t move. I could barely speak, and my limbs felt as if they were each a hundred pounds. I struggled to push him off of me, but he just kept kissing me and there was nothing that I could do. Where were all my friends? I knew even in my half consciousness where this was leading. But before my story could end up like the girl in the documentary’s my body had had enough, I rolled over and started vomiting all over the mattress that was on the floor. The young man started yelling and my friends came to help me. Not knowing what they had just saved me from.


As I lay there watching the documentary I started crying uncontrollably. I felt for the young woman on the screen, I felt for all she had been through and all she had endured. I felt for myself acknowledging what would have happened to me if my body hadn’t gotten violently ill from all I had ingested. I cried at the unfairness of being a woman. Men and women both make poor and dangerous choices in life. However, the woman always has a worse outcome.


I did not tell my fiancé the specifics of that day so many years ago, but he understood that something similar had occurred to me. As he hugged me, he whispered something I didn’t expect. He said, “I will protect the kids and you.” That is when I realized what it really means for a man to protect. It means not only protecting us from noises in the garage, but that he will protect us from the parts of the world that will hurt us when we make bad choices. He will do all he can to prevent us from getting ourselves into a harmful situation, guiding the kids towards a safe life, by showing them how to make the right choice. He will protect them from themselves so they never put themselves in a position where someone can do real damage. Most importantly he will provide a path to follow, always taking the first step himself.


Father holding daughters hand.

Parents tell children everyday what they “should do.” My family was no different. They told me what path I needed to take but they never showed me, they never walked it with me, nor did they hold me accountable when I strayed from it. It’s easy to tell someone which way to go. To point them in the right direction, waving them away to go about your own day. What is much more time-consuming and difficult is taking their hand and walking in front of them as they go. If the person starts to stray grabbing them and bringing them back, not just once but however many times it takes.


My fiancé’ has taught me so many things about what it is to have a genuine man in my life therefore I’m not surprised he taught me what real protection is. It has been hard for me to give up control of my children’s lives even though I know that having two parents is better for them than having just me. The only good thing about controlling everything is that you get to do whatever you want to do, but now I realize that in order to obtain the real protection my family needs I have to give my husband full control over our lives. I can’t expect him to lead our family while at the same time telling him what to do. I understand that although I am their mother, I do not always know the best path for us to take. Luckily for myself and all women, there are strong men out there that do. Women have to choose correctly and wisely. We have to know what is important and what isn’t. If we get it right the world becomes a little less scary and a little more enjoyable.


 

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Image by Tim Mossholder

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