I know how much I love baby girl; it is something visceral, almost animal-like in its intensity and ferociousness.
I try to imagine if I would or could feel that way if I had only known her a year. Would I open myself up to her? Set-up at times for rejection and failure? Would I joyously go back time and time again, slowly chipping away at the walls she built? Would I take her to school and summer camp every morning? Would I bring her a bouquet of flowers or mail her a card because she worked hard and accomplished a goal? Could I love her because I was in love with her parent?
I don't know what kind of step-mom I would be.
But watching my husband diligently and quietly go about the business of parenting a little girl he met just 18 months ago tells the story of what kind of man he is.
Step-parenting is sitting through a Selena Gomez movie and teaching a giggly eight year old how to use chop sticks. It is making homemade popcorn and watching Wizards of Waverly Place, over and over again. It is playing Just Dance, checkers, War and Garbage. It is praying for her, taking her and her mother to church. It is turning the other cheek when a nine-year-old is trying to push you away. It is setting boundaries when you know she needs them. It is doing the right thing when she is watching and when she is not. It is loving her mother and loving her, even when they are not at their most lovable.
Success in step-parenting is an ebb and flow. There doesn't seem to be that one "Eureka" moment. It is a little forward progress, a step back, and resolve to push onward. Victory is the moment baby girl tells her friend, "L__ is fun in the pool, but he is so hairy. It's gross." It is the glance she gives him when she burps so loudly for the second time at the dinner table because she knows he will be a little amused when I am not. It is her waiting for him to open her car door because she has learned that, that is how a man should treat a lady.
I don't know what Joseph thought of being a step-dad. But I can imagine that worry crossed Mary's mind. How could a man love her child enough, if it wasn't his? Though I know Jesus was, by far, not the ordinary stepson; I believe God knew that in His plan we would encounter a similar situation...that families would blend. And though, the Bible doesn't tell us much about Joseph as a dad, it tells us he and Mary were worried when they couldn't find Jesus. "Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." Luke 2:48
There have been so many moments of my life I wanted a do-over, to make baby girl's road easier, better. Wishing her earliest years had been more traditional, less of my mistakes. And though in her early years she was fortunate enough to have my dad as a surrogate, I wonder if the perils I read about girls with absentee dads or split-up parents will befall her?
And then I remember that Jesus had a step-dad. That God knew centuries ago that He needed men to raise His children even when they didn't father them. And that being called to be a step-dad is not a consolation prize, but a role that the MOST HOLY GOD allowed in the life of his Son.
Being a parent is hard. Being a good step-parent, I imagine, is much more so. And I am thankful for the Josephs of the world, my husband especially, who father children that they didn't make.