(This post is from sometime around November of last year, and I saved it for editing and then forgot about it. Going back and reading it, though, I think it’s an important note about how we can form relationships with our stepchildren; so I’m sharing it with all of you now. Enjoy!)
My stepson begged me to take him to a football game. So this weekend, I did.
His mom and I got our undergrad degrees from the same university (I took 3 1/2 years while she took about twelve, but nevertheless). We’re now both graduate students at the same university. And we support the same football team. So for a few years now, Max has been asking if I would take him to a college football game, and I kept putting it off and putting it off and putting it off – games are crowded, and noisy, and usually late enough in the day that it would get him home way past his bedtime. But, after my dad told me he was going to the game, I thought I finally had my opportunity. It would be the three of us and a buddy of Dad’s, we could join in the pre-game festivities a little bit, and I actually had a little bit of money to burn so I could afford tickets and concessions and maybe a souvenir hat or something for him.
I then spent the entire week leading up to the game sick enough that I just wanted to knock myself out with the good cold drugs and burrow down into my mattress. It was awesome (that’s sarcasm, if you didn’t catch it). I was not looking forward to that game.
However, through a series of fortunate events, Max and I ended up in really nice seats – club seats to be exact, with cushions and back rests and a thick pane of glass protecting us from the elements. The real treat of the evening (besides our team winning) was what I noticed when I looked at Max.
He reminded me of me.
My dad went to this school too, and when I was a kid it was a tradition to haul ourselves up to the college for the homecoming football game. We found our names among the list of graduates, went tailgating, and wandered around campus with my dad reminiscing and me wondering what it would be like to go to school here. We did exactly these things with Max: wandered around campus with Dad pointing out the buildings he lived in and Max wondering aloud what it would be like to go to school there, showed Max our names, and took him tailgating.
I remember going to the homecoming game when I was very small, smaller than Max; and I remember being equal parts bored and excited because I had no idea what was going on. What’s a down? Why is only one team getting them?
Why are people booing; didn’t we just get a touchdown? Oh the other team got a touchdown I totally knew that.
I spent the whole game with Jude trying to teach him the rules of the game so that he would know what was going on; but when I looked at him, all I saw was myself. He cheered when everyone else was cheering, but if I ever asked him what had just happened, he made up a play. A completely plausible play, every time; but not at all what had just happened on the field, something that I did as well. Despite his lack of knowledge about the game, he was excited just to be a part of this event with me. It’s not often when I feel a true parent-child connection with him, because so many things are constantly reminding me that I’m in loco parentis with him. That day, I felt like he and I bonded as parent and child.
My point, I guess, is that stepparents are able to identify with their stepchildren in the same way that biological parents can. We were all kids once. And I can pass down the traditions of my family just as much as his biological mother and father can – we don’t need to be related by blood to have family traditions.
I think we’ll go to homecoming next year, too.