Have you heard of Spotify? I have recently discovered this gem on the web – all the music in the world (they claim) to listen to for free. I’ve created playlists of my favorite 80s hits (ELO, Huey Lewis, Starship), Rocking Country (Sawyer Brown and Kentucky Headhunters), classic gospel (Keith Green and Amy Grant). It makes for great background music. But just today I remembered my very first love … The Archies! I checked and sure enough – there it was, my first album – Everything’s Archie. Wow.
As I started listening to Melody Hill, Kissin’, and, of course, the staples: Sugar, Sugar, and Jingle Jangle, my mind was rocketed back to days when I was a little boy, listening to The Archies on the stereo (think of an antique CD player) while laying on the couch or dancing in Mom’s living room. I could feel the water cooler (an early air conditioner) blowing, smell Mom’s burgers cooking in the kitchen, and I was there.
All the memories came rushing in – sweet Summer days with Mom and Dad at the lake, building G.I.Joe and Tonka cities in the back yard, my first dog, Tippy, and the sense of belonging and peace. The funny thing is, home wasn’t always very peaceful.
Try as she might, Mom had a tough task making a happy home with Dad’s penchant for drink (sure, and we ARE an Irish family!) and Mom’s absolute disdain for drunkenness. There were many long loud nights when I would lie in my bed, fearing the worst as they fought out their bitterness. I was terrified they would hurt each other or Dad would leave again or that he’d stay and they’d never stop fighting.
Memories are a mixed bag for most of us – some beautiful, idyllic scenes of being a relatively carefree kid, mixed with being a scared little kid who had pretty much no control over anything in my world. But one thing seems to be true for all kids I’ve talked to or read of: they love having family and being part of a home. Doesn’t matter if that home has periods of yelling and anger, it’s still Home.
Yes, many families fight a lot. But most kids – after they’ve grown and can look back clearly – admit they loved their parents no matter how they acted toward each other. The excuses I hear for many of the divorces I mediate are that the parents are convinced their own marital dissatisfaction is making their children miserable, too. Study after study show this to be false. Kids want Home.
Back to memories (The Archies are still playing in the background) – why do I automatically leap to the happy memories of my long-past youth? There were plenty of sad/angry/scary memories, too. But we lean toward the happy memories. Most of us do, anyway.
So my question to you is, what kind of memories are you building for your own children? What about your stepchildren? What memories will a song bring back to their minds someday, complete with sounds, smells, and emotions of these days? What are you planting there?
I teach consistently that stepparents are not responsible for their stepkids – that’s the job for the biological mom and dad. And the bio-parents will build most of the good and bad memories of their own children. But you and I have a hand in our stepkids’ present past, too. We have the opportunity to help these tender hearts grow into sensitive, loving, understanding adults. (Yes, even the surly teens have tender hearts!)
Every time we yell at their parent; every time we sulk and withdraw to “punish” them; every time we make demands out of a sense of responsibility that isn’t ours instead of accepting and guiding them, we are making memories that will shape their whole lives. Because, you see, WE are teaching them about love and forgiveness and patience and kindness in ways their own parents cannot. Mom and Dad “have” to love them … it’s their job. But when we overlook the snotty attitudes, the shunning, the rudeness and love them anyway, we have made an impression on that young heart that will never be forgotten.
Well, my album is ending, so I need to get back to the present. But please think about the impression you are making on your stepchildren, who are yours by the grace of God and the permission of their parent you’ve married. You and I really can be heroes if we take the challenge to plant good memories in our stepkids.
God bless your whole family!
STEPcoach Bob Collins
[Here’s my Archies playlist: The Archies – Everthing’s Archie]