Side by side at our wedding in 2006

Side by side at our wedding in 2006

Blending a family is never easy.

And at least for my family, all five of us, eight years later, it’s still a challenge. Different personalities, parenting styles and, well, different personalities.

But every once in a while, something happens that makes me fill up with a sense of wow. Like, oh yeah, this whole thing is working. We’re doing this and we’re doing this well.

A few nights ago, my daughter and I went to the mall to do some last minute shopping for our big family trip. We left my 15 year-old son at home to study for his four remaining finals. We also left my husband, his stepfather, at home too, enjoying a rare weeknight off from work.

While we were in one of those teen hell holes stores, where they play the music really loud and spray god-awful scents in to the air, my husband called to see if it would be okay for him to take the kid out to dinner.

Now, in the past, we’ve talked about him taking the kid out for some one on one time. We’ve been talking about it for over five years. About them spending some time together alone, outside of the house. But all I could do was suggest it. I couldn’t force it. It had to come from my husband.

Their relationship, though just fine, can be a little tense. My kid likes to talk a lot. He talks about what ever thoughts are in his head at that very moment. He hasn’t learned the art of keeping most of it to himself. Like I have. It’s taken me years of practice.

I’ve wanted, more than anything, for my kids to be close with their stepfather. I never wanted him to be my kids’ dad. They already have one.

But my husband is so, so different than my ex. Which is why I married him. And as a male role model, he has a lot to offer them. He’s tough. He got where he is, owning a really successful restaurant, by working his ass off. He’s a can-do kind of person. Not a complainer. Not a victim.

No, he’s not perfect. Sure he can be a little sarcastic or biting in his comments, which doesn’t always work with my kids. He doesn’t have as much tolerance for their little foibles as I do. (Not many people do, other than their grandmothers.) But they look up to him. They’re even a little intimidated by him. Which is fine by me.

So when my husband called me to ask if it was okay, I didn’t care how much studying the kid had to do. I wanted him to go. And, more importantly, he wanted to go.

I was already home from shopping when they got back from dinner and I got to separately hear their descriptions of what the meal was like.

My son told me he ate a huge hamburger with cheddar cheese and a fried egg on top with a bunch of french fries. And it was awesome. Then, his stepfather had him drive home. (The kid has his permit.) He had a great time. So much so, he was still thinking about it the next morning when he came downstairs because he said to his stepfather, “Thanks again for last night. It was a lot of fun.”

Then my husband told me his version. They saw a bunch of people he knew. He introduced the kid to all of them. A few thought that he was my husband’s kid. The kid shook everybody’s hands, looked them in the eyes and talked to them. He then said, “Boy, that kid can eat.” And his pride was palpable.

And I was an ecstatic mother and wife. I felt like my husband was seeing my kid as others see him. Not just as the kid who thinks out loud, who talks a lot, interrupts and fights with his younger sister. No, he got to see the kid differently. As a very personable, intelligent and polite young man. Well-spoken and mature. (I love that kid so much.)

I was still reveling in their experience the next day, so I said to my husband, “Thanks for taking the kid out to dinner. He really liked it. And I did too.”

And my husband said to me, “It was the best stepson moment I’ve ever had. And I’m going to do it again.”

Wow.

The tears welled up in my eyes so quickly I was surprised. I’d waited a long time for this.

And it was worth all of the hard work, the agonizing and the tears.

Now if they both could learn how to put their clothes in the hamper, my life would be complete.