Attending church isn’t a routine I embrace, but hey, the kid asked, and I said yes.
Exiting the house I gulped, my eyes darting from the parked car in the driveway to the teenage boy beside me.
What do I do, get in the car or backtrack and renege on my word?
I stopped before getting closer to the vehicle, engine idling with two people sitting in the backseat.
What is the best option?
I glanced at my new stepson, undecided. His demeanour typical of a 14-year-old of the male species: unreadable.
Taking a deep breath, I marched to the passenger’s side door and slid in.
Behind me sat the boy’s mother and one of his sisters, all of us dressed to attend a Sunday morning church service in her automobile.
This is not good.
Worshipping with my stepchildren’s mom was not on my list of life preferences, but like many unwelcome situations, reality turns dreams into nightmares with no forewarning.
Silence ricocheted off the closed windows, the only sound the hiss of the air conditioner blowing a cool breeze into this steamy situation.
Quietness is not a comfort zone for me, so I began to chatter, about anything, the weather, my clothes, the church, the dog’s elimination habits.
Just make noise.
My fast-talking technique didn’t ease tensions, but rather added to everyone’s desire to flee the scene making the ten-minute car ride an hour’s worth of discomfort.
The unease was not decreasing as we headed to the church entrance.
In we ambled, but with resolve to make the best of this embarrassing togetherness.
“Hello, I’m Mrs Fields, these children’s mother,” the leader of our group announced.
“Hello, I’m Mrs Fields, these children’s stepmother,” I followed.
I think I’ll skip thanking God for this disastrous interaction.
We trooped down the aisle to a pew with room for four: two teens, the real mother and the sort-of mother.
“Please turn to page 107 in your Hymnal,” the pastor instructed.
To my horror, the first hymn selected was Bind Us Together!
Lord, Bind us together
With cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together, Lord,
Bind us together,
Bind us together with love.
Oh, crap. Is this a forewarning?
I’m no biblical scholar, but as I shared the songbook with the woman who had born these kids, I recalled Proverbs 22:6:
The family that prays together stays together.
This brought new insight into the word together, one not envisioned when I walked down the aisle with the father of four teenagers. In my naivety, inclusion of the former wife was a new ingredient in the complicated recipe of adding myself into this family.
Sitting in that sanctuary on a hot Sunday morning, I got a glimpse of the future: adjoining seats at a school football banquet shared joy at college graduation ceremonies and sharing the front row at upcoming marriages.
Where are the rules for step-parenting? What is appropriate? Do I hug the ‘first wife’ each time we meet or nod my head in simple greeting? How do I stay sane in a house with one bathroom, four teenagers, one dog, and two adults?
As my mother said, in her most unsympathetic voice, when I called her blubbering I had no privacy, kids were everywhere, and my life was out of control,
“Well, Margo, what did you expect when you married a man with 4 children?”
“I don’t know, but not this,” I wailed.