I have been a little bit avoiding talking about our trip to Disney World because, well, it wasn't exactly the perfect vacation we had been hoping for. You may be thinking - well, SLG, it doesn't really matter what you thought of it as long as the kids had fun. Well, I was driving home with Natali tonight and she confessed that she would have much rather stayed at home in Denmark than have been in Disney World. Maybe that was true, but maybe she'll also have memories that will stick with her a long time.
And my parents got to spend time with all of them, which made everyone happy.
And when I say "all" of them, yes, my step-son, Andreas was there, too. And, while I love seeing him, we all seem to have trouble understanding how to relate to him. And the truth is, none of us really knows him anymore. We all expected it to flow naturally, but it didn't really. You can actually see in all of the pictures, that he has placed himself a bit to the side, as if he always felt a bit outcast. And it makes me sad in retrospect.
Things started out strangely when he called SR "Jeff" (SR's real name is not Jeff, btw) multiple times and then called him "grandpa". For SR, who had been with Andreas day in and day out from when he was born until he was five, this was very surreal.
And Andreas has perfected ambivalence torwards adults. It didn't matter how many times any of us asked him to do something, he would just pretend he wasn't listening or loudly say "No!". And who can blame him, I guess? Who were we to suddenly step in his life and tell him what to do? But it was to the point where he wouldn't dress himself and pretended he didn't know how to put on his velcro shoes (he is 7, by the way). And when we finally got to the park, he refused to go on bascially any ride - even The People Mover. And this lasted all four days we were at the theme parks.
At some point, I started to feel I was being too hands off with Andreas and allowing SR and my dad to do all of the reprimanding. After a couple of days of him only eating junk food between meals, I told him at noon he could eat nothing until he had a piece of fruit or some veggies. I didn't think it was possible, but he actually ate nothing the rest of the day.
When I said good-bye to Andreas the last day, I was again yelling at him because he refused to put on his shoes. And now he's gone from our lives for another few months. And he doesn't really understand who I, SR or my parents are.
(But if you asked Andreas for his version of me, he would say that I fell asleep early every night instead of taking him to the pool and was running while they were eating breakfast.)
Let me just say this: being a parent in a family with a happy marriage is easy. Okay, not easy, but so natural and the kids grow up with a sense that the loving people in their lives will always be there. And they become happy and trusting (and thus easy to parent).
Being a parent of a kid from a broken marriage, who you hardly get to see, is really difficult. Not because you don't want to love them. I was going to say it is harder being the step-parent, but actually, it is harder for SR. And you know what: it's worst for the kid.
But what can we do?
One person, who has no trouble deciding what to do is The Lorax, who worships the ground "Big Guy" (Andreas) walks on. He talks about his older brother on a daily basis, though he only sees him a couple times a year. It is actually kind of incredible the way they get along. He they are, leaving me behind in the jaws of death.
And one other thing: if there are enough bubbles involved and SLG has a beard, everyone will be at least slightly amused.
And there were times when Andreas was really fun. He had this game of going on It's a Small World again and again with The Lorax. And taught The Lorax how to draw robots. And he conquered the biggest waterslide at Old Key West, showing everyone how fun waterparks can be. I have to imagine that this side of him would come out more often if we had a chance to get to know him well again.
Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.
"Children are fascinated by the ordinary and can spend timeless moments watching sunlight play with dust. Their restlessness they learn from you. It is you who are thinking of there when you are here. It is you who thinks of then instead of now. Stop. Let your children become the teachers and you the student" - William Martin