What books are on your coffee table in Chester County?
I can tell you which ones are on mine. Since I moved to Chester County I have added to my library a small Chester County section. And the books on my coffee table specifically are as follows:
100 Artists of The Brandywine Valley by Catherine Quillman.
Speaking for Themselves: The Artists of Southeastern Pennsylvania by Daphne S. Landis.
A Traveler’s Album by Eugene L. DiOrio.
If these books interest you there are a lot of them out there in new/unused and gently used but in very good condition on Amazon and eBay. Also you never know what you will find at Baldwin’s Book Barn 😊
New development on Church Road in Malvern within the Great Valley School District
So..are they? Is the Great Valley School District about to slide down the slippery slope of reassessments?
I received a message overnight:
The Great Valley School District has decided to go after property owners that they think are under assessed……If you want to see the discussion at the School Board meeting where they decided to take this action here are the directions:
Targeting specific landowners and not going after everyone who may be under assessed is discriminatory , unfair but legal. They are going after those where they think they can get the most return for the appeal.
NINE of the properties are FARMS. THREE are RESIDENTIAL.
This is very Lower Merion School District of them. Sadly, every time Lower Merion School District has done this it has resulted in MASSIVE amounts of litigation. I found a 2016 case that I think is of note because of legal footnotes that I will share:
Here are the footnotes I think that is something that should be read:
2. In a tax assessment case, the Board has the initial burden of presenting its assessment records into evidence, which establish a prima facie case of the validity of the assessment. Expressway 95 Business Center, LP v. Bucks County Board of Assessment, 921 A.2d 70, 76 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007). The burden then shifts to the property owner to present sufficient evidence to rebut the assessment’s validity. Id. “Where the taxpayer’s testimony is relevant, credible and un-rebutted, the court must give it due weight and cannot ignore it in determining a property’s fair market value. Where the taxing authority presents rebuttal evidence, the court must determine the weight to be given all the evidence.” Koppel Steel Corporation v. Board of Assessment Appeals of Beaver County, 849 A.2d 303, 307 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004) citing Deitch Company v. Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County, 209 A.2d 397 (Pa. 1965).
3. Article VIII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that “All taxes shall be uniform, upon the same class of subjects, within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax, and shall be levied and collected under general laws.” Pa. Const. art. VIII, §1. This constitutional uniformity requirement is based on the general principle that “taxpayers should pay no more or less than their proportionate share of government.” Downingtown Area School District v. Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals, 913 A.2d 194, 199 (Pa. 2006). To meet the uniformity requirement, “all property must be taxed uniformly, with the same ratio of the assessed value to actual value applied throughout the taxing jurisdiction.” Clifton v. Allegheny County, 969 A.2d 1197, 1224 (Pa. 2009).
I did not ask a lawyer about this, I am not a lawyer, but I can read and I can research. I was told there is more to the story by a friend and that this was a list of “mostly profitable commercial businesses.”
But it’s not just commercial properties (which will get sick of tax increases and reassessments too, by the way). There are NINE farms and THREE residences on this short list. As someone else said to me “I don’t doubt their motives. Especially since they have 9 Farms with lots of open space to Overtax so they can’t afford the tax, thereby having to sell, thereby giving an in for more higher density development to make even more in taxes.“
I watched this play out again and again in Lower Merion Township. What ends up happening is people are forced from where they call home because they can’t afford the school taxes. We as residents and taxpayers who stay pay for that as well. And if a school district doesn’t get what they want, they next logically move to reassess ALL of us. That is what happens. They need money because this school district is close to bursting at the seams. Why are they bursting at the seams? Development.
So yes, is also my opinion that this is a direct result of too much development too fast within this particular school district from multiple municipalities. In addition the behemoth with the view of the eerie blue lagoon (A/K/A/ dead quarry) known as Atwater and all around there on 29 that is residential, there is development perched over highway and next to a quarry at the intersection of Phoenixville Pike and Charlestown Road from Southdown Homes called Pickering Crossing. And then there is the new Toll Brothers development starting to happen on Church Road called Great Valley Crossing. And the new development most of us just realized was going to happen on Swedesford Road from people called McKee Builders called Malvern Crossing. Linden Hall which just when you think they can’t add another row, they add another row of houses. Or Ryan Homes’ Malvern Walk on Planebrook.
These developments are just targeting bodies. And all these municipalities are falling for the Emperor’s New Clothes of Zoning Overlay Districts. These new developments aren’t specifically saying “senior living”, for example. So all of these developments might bring really nice new families to the area, but they are also adding in a lot of kids to the school district. It’s bringing the city to the country, only I don’t think the country can really handle it.
And JUST like developers did and continue to do around Downingtown where they call EVERYTHING Chester Springs even when really, it’s not….everything in the Great Valley School District is being described as “Main Line”. It’s not the Main Line and well damn, a lot of us (myself included) came here in the first place because we wanted beauty and open space and wanted to escape the Main Line. As in the actual Main Line, not the fake developer speak of what they think the Main Line is, or should be, or where it is.
And with the fake Main Line of it all, we in Chester County are starting to experience real Main Line problems. Tax increases. Traffic congestion. Infill development. Shrinking open space…and oh yeah SCHOOL OVERCROWDING.
Cause and effect.
These reassessments are in my opinion only the beginning. Hope everyone who lives in the Great Valley School District is ready for when we all become Great Valley East and Great Valley West. Because given the pace of development, that is a potential reality. Or Great Valley School District just becomes a monster district like West Chester Area School District. And if that happens, where do the new schools go? Whose land gets taken for that?
Maybe some don’t like my opinions on this. Maybe some think I am being unfair to the Great Valley School District. I am not. It’s just the reality of the situation. And it bears watching.
So I started looking at the interactive pipeline map again along with the pipeline website for Chester County set up by the Chester County Planning Commission. And it prompted an email to pipeline companies and the Chester County Planning Commission to clarify how we would possibly be affected where we live. ( I will note we have neighbors not so far away who have like three pipelines running through their property.)
“When I look at our mapping, which uses the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) that the Federal Government maintains, in conjunction with the pipeline operators, the western edge of your house is roughly 1,030 feet from the closest line, which is Interstate Energy, which is planned to be converted to natural gas.”
~ Carrie from Chester County Planning Commission
Yikes. (and that is the most polite phrase fit to print.)
And for what isn’t planned, possibly planned, maybe planned, who knows what plan exists right through my backyard and/or woods, well I would be close enough to be in a blast zone. Only it is apparently not politically correct to use that phrase, because when I did, I was told:
Regarding your concern about being in a “blast zone,” our office does not define or utilize the phrase “blast zone.” We do use the term Consultation Zone, which is a term used by the federal government and operators to distinguish an area of 1000 feet (in Chester County) on either side of an existing transmission pipeline where coordination between local officials, landowners, and operators are encouraged to consult with each other before land developments are planned for these areas. The US Department of Transportation (which houses the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s Office of Pipeline Safety) sponsored a planning effort known as “Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance” (2010,) which identified the phrase Consultation Zone. They define it as an area extending from each side of a transmission pipeline to describe when a property developer/owner, who is planning a new development in the vicinity of an existing transmission pipeline, should initiate a dialogue with the operator. (see https://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/…/pipa-report-final-20101117.p…) These zones are a recommended practice and not something that is required.
As another person pointed out to me:
…the Blast Zone is something different. PHMSA calls it the “Buffer Zone” but sorry, we and our loved ones are not buffers.
If Adelphia [and others] end up being like Mariner East, at a 1000 ft you will be within the Blast Zone.
Whether Buffer Zone, Consultation Zone, or Blast Zone….they are all scary bad zones to me, o.k.?
Well now, apparently I will have skin in the game? That now I can join all of the other Chester County and Delaware County residents worrying about pipelines?
Fabulous. Worry is such a good look on people, right? (Dripping sarcasm, can you feel it?)
What started me like Alice down the proverbial pipeline rabbit hole this week is something I saw posted on Charlestown’s website:
You see, in neighboring East Whiteland Township where I live, the township doesn’t have much out there yet on the pipelines. All I found (easily – I say easily because perhaps information is hidden deep down in website ) was the Adelphia Gateway letter from January, which I had already seen. Here it is:
A lot of townships now have stand alone pages with pipeline information. Like East Goshen, Uwchlan, and Upper Uwchlan, for example. (CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE) All townships with any pipelines should have these informational pages in my opinion.
I will note that when I sent my email to Chester County Planning about pipelines in my particular neighborhood, while the planning commission was kind and replied to me, only ONE pipeline company gave me the courtesy of a reply acknowledging my outreach. Ryan Lumbridge from Enbridge. He offered up his phone number if I need to speak with him. I will call him but I am most concerned with Adelphia Gateway and Interstate Energy. And apparently since now a couple of days has passed without even a simple acknowledgement of contact, Adelphia Gateway and Interstate Energy don’t seem to think they need to communicate with residents.
The pipeline companies need to communicate. To Interstate especially I say if you plan to maybe possibly or maybe definitely plan to do something 1,030 from the edge of our property, you can show a little interest. I am on a well, I have gardens, I have beautiful woods and more. I want to know exactly what Interstate is planning to do if they do it and when. I am sure I am but one of many emails they get, and I am trying to be calm and rational, except I have seen what is going on in neighboring municipalities with Sunoco, and well, I don’t want my neighborhood to have these problems.
I reiterate my objections to these pipelines which rape and pillage and destroy so they can ship their good overseas so other companies in Europe and elsewhere can do things like make more plastic. Our homes are our castles, our American dreams and it is heinous that American companies can just take our land (without even just compensation in my opinion) and trash it for their profit. And put us in danger.
We are also densely populated enough that what if with other pipeline companies wishing to be Sunoco-Mariner East II-Lite something blows up? Collapses? Ruins wells, breaks water mains? Causes sinkholes? Brings down property values? We as residents are NOT protected. Officials can’t say it won’t happen because all the media coverage and whatnot shows it HAS happened. Are we just to repeat the same darn patterns over and over from pipeline company to pipeline company and municipality to municipality???
I am sure pipeline companies want residents to just go quietly into the night. We can’t. Our lives and our homes and our properties are at stake. You can’t bully, harass, or threaten us into submission. We live here and like it or not, we have rights. We shouldn’t have to be pipeline guinea pigs should we?
And right or wrong, I feel like these pipeline companies, our sitting Governor Tom Wolf, and even municipalities at times want us as residents to know as little as possible.
Here is a round-up of some recent articles I found:
Charlestown Road is one of those crazy, twisty, meandering, yet beautiful Chester County Roads. It used to be such a country road. It still is even if it is a traffic nightmare cut through road at times now too.
I see it as another beautiful series of vistas potentially at risk.
Why at risk? Simple, start with the intersection of Phoenixville Pike and Charlestown Road. It’s called “Pickering Crossing“. Another cram plan community of “carriage homes” or the current trendy word for townhouses.
While I will admit the design of these houses actually shows taste and some actual design, it’s 76 more houses. 3 and 4 bedrooms, and NOT a retirement community. It’s just another Stepford Village. You can’t even have a real garden in most of these communities.
So, that being said, time for a segue:Hey Great Valley School District are you paying attention YET to all of the development, or when the time comes will you behave like Lower Merion School District and just try to take someone’s land somewhere to expand?
Sorry, not sorry but given the pace of development in the Great Valley School District will it end up someday like Downingtown, which when I was in high school was just “Downingtown”, there was no Downingtown East and Downingtown West.
And it’s not just the school districts which suffer from over-development. We all are affected. It affects infrastructure, municipal services, storm water management, traffic. It means less open space, fewer farms.
People, our food around here is not grown on the roof of Whole Foods, even if you can take a Yoga class there.
Development is an agriculture killer. Now granted, this country doesn’t respect farms and farmers the way they used to, and farming is not a business for the faint of heart. It’s hard. But we should support our local agriculture, not let it get developed away.
One of the beautiful things about Charlestown Road is there still is some farming left. It’s lovely.
BUT…..Another thing that worries me before I share the farm love is located at 124 Charlestown Road. This is the mysterious property known as Swiss Pines.
Swiss Pines is a 19 acre arboretum and Japanese garden . It USED to be open several days a week between spring and fall. BUT not so much since around 2013 (I think.)
Swiss Pines was established by Arnold Bartschi (born 1903- died 1996), born in Switzerland and by the mid-1930s, owner of the J. Edwards Shoe Company. In 1957, he purchased the 200 acres of the former Llewellyn estate, and during the next 30 years he developed the Swiss Pines site.
There was also discussion about the Great Valley Nature Center. Negotiations are underway to resolve issues in connection of the deed of the Bartschi Foundation that require this facility be used for educational and nature purposes. The condition of Swiss Pines was brought up. Since it is part of the Historical District, it is regulated by those ordinances but there was concern about the deterioration of the property. A suggestion was made that HARB could apply for a Keystone grant and obtain matching funds from the township to be used in maintenance of the Revolutionary Cemetery.
Once upon a time (check out this slide show from 2010 on Flickr) Swiss Pines had a Japanese tea house and garden, a stone garden, statuary, stone lanterns, and bridges set among amazing natural gardens. Plant collections include the Glendale Azalea Garden (150 varieties); the herb garden (100 species), the ground cover garden (28 varieties), and the pinetum (over 200 types of conifers).
Public interest has always been high for this property as a natural destination. The Philadelphia Inquirer has written several times about the property, most recently in blog blip in 2010:
Living — Kiss the Earth Swiss Pines
Updated: OCTOBER 20, 2010 — 10:32 AM EDT by Virginia A. Smith
Swiss Pines is a strange name for a place that calls itself a Japanese garden, but here you go – 19 planted acres (out of 200) along Charlestown Road in Malvern, just down the street from the Great Valley corporate wonderland.
It was built by the late Arnold Bartschi, who was of Swiss ancestry and owned five factories in Pennsylvania that made children’s orthopaedic shoes. When he bought the former Llewellyn estate in 1957, it came with an English-style garden, four Asian pieces that caught his fancy – one sculpted Chinese lion, 2 Korean dogs and a bench – and 40 Swiss stone pines.
So, according to Carl Shindle, who’s taken care of the garden since 1962, Bartschi named the property Swiss Pines, studied up on Japanese design (and at one time hired a Japanese designer), and created this unusual garden.
Sadly, Carl Shindle died in June, 2016 I am told. Henriette Bumeder, the manager, still lives there. I worry for her and the property also because of periodic reports of vandalism to the property over the years (reference this article from 2007, for example.)
Manager and trustee of Swiss Pines, Bumeder has owned her 190-acre property at 20 Tree Lane since 1985. She opens the Swiss Pines Japanese Garden to visitors on the weekend, and operates her property (with caretaker Carl Schindle, who has worked on the land for 42 years), as a wildlife preserve for the copious amounts of deer, geese and other animals inhabiting the area……a chain of vandalism, each incident more serious than the last, beginning in January 2006, when two dead Christmas trees were dumped on Bumeder’s driveway. In March of that year, her street sign was ripped off of its pole and soon afterwards her mailboxes were knocked over twice.
In August 2006, Bumeder was driving when she noticed she was being followed….
I found screen shots of two other Philadelphia Inquirer articles from 1966 and 1973, respectively (there is an article from 1985 that I also found screen shots for and actually tried to buy the article off of the Inquirer archives, but the archive site sucks and I hope I do not get charged for content never received):
Related to Swiss Pines and also future unknown is the Great Valley Nature Center. Arnold Bartschi (as in founded Swiss Pines) gave the land and start-up funds to establish the nature center. That was in the 1970s.
The Great Valley Nature Center fell on hard times. It is currently closed. They still have a phone, but their birds of prey have been relocated and no fun camps for kids this year. Here is the update from January 2018 off a new website (old one is no more) and their blog:
If you can help the Great Valley Nature Center, you can contact them through the newer website. I think they need an angel with very, very deep pockets. I do not know what happens when a conservancy goes belly up, and that is my impression of what happened (right or wrong, and if that is wrong, by all means correct me.)
I found this old video on Patch from 2012 so you all can see why the Great Valley Nature Center is so special:
“Herd mentality and mob mentality, also lesser known as gang mentality, describes how people can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis.”
Mob mentality is actually a real thing. And I think social media takes it to new and even more unpleasant levels.
What is mob mentality? Also known as herd mentality, it “describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items… Social psychologists study the related topics of group intelligence, crowd wisdom, and decentralized decision making” …..What are some of the best ways to combat mob mentality? Forbes.com has come out with a well-written article on how one should combat mob mentality. They suggest the following: 1. Stop being on autopilot. 2. Make a conscious effort to form your own opinion. 3. Take time to make decisions. 4. Be aware in which way stress affects your decisions making. 5. Be willing to stand out. All of these steps require the individual to forsake being lazy with ones own character. It requires self-evaluation and time to make decisions in ones own life. It requires self-fortitude in ones own opinions, and accepting the fact that, while some birds may chirp louder than the others, that doesn’t mean that they are good leaders.
It really makes you think about social media doesn’t it? Think about it, it’s not merely political operatives from wherever influencing U.S. elections, it influences how we think it is o.k. to behave.
We all look at Facebook from time to time and marvel at what people will post on their own pages, and in community groups. A woman posting a screen shot of a car title was a recent shake your head moment. We live in an age of identity theft, so why would you post things that would give hackers an edge?
Facebook community groups are one of the best places to see what mob mentality can do. Especially in the “closed” groups. People think they can say what they want, behave how they want. In this virtual setting of life they often say things and behave in ways you would never see in person, in real human time. (Mind you, I have sadly encountered a few exceptions.)
In these groups, in theory, you should be able to form an individual thought or perspective. But most of the time you can’t. Vox populi aren’t really comfortable. Safe topics are like what’s on sale at Target, sadly. Or crowdsourcing what you are going to wear somewhere or where the best mani-pedi is.
It is utterly astounding to me the long list of often quite ordinary and mundane things you can’t discuss. And like Alice down the rabbit hole I discovered that this week and it was “off with her head” for me.
I posted about the cause and effect of too much development. I prefaced my comments with the fact that I was not targeting any new development in particular, these were generalist comments.
Too much development affects school districts. School districts and municipalities are autonomous from each other, yet they are interconnected because development that municipalities approve has a direct impact on school districts.
In Lower Merion Township recently, residents of that township and supporters of open space, land conservation, Stoneleigh a Natural Lands property as well as the non-profit Natural Lands attended a school board meeting. Why? Because Lower Merion School District seems to think that protected, conserved, and preserved land should be theirs like a plumb for the picking via eminent domain.
This school district has never opened its mouth to at home township expressing any kind of even concern over development and how it affects their school district. But now they think the former Haas property Stoneleigh should be theirs for the taking so instead of finding solutions on property they already own to address enrollment, they think it’s ok to just steal land and build more.
The outcome of this scenario will have a ripple effect in a lot of places. It will make people think twice before they donate land to land conservancies and I think that’s criminal.
So what is going on in Lower Merion should be a cautionary tale to those of us in Chester County because we are dealing with so much development from municipality to municipality and school district to school district…. especially those of us who are in either Great Valley or Tredyffrin Easttown or Downingtown as far as a school districts go.
I am not being mean, I am not singling out individual development dwellers, it is the cause and effect of development. It is my opinion, and it happens to be the truth.
Long after developers have built their projects, made their money, and walked away there are things to be considered, that are not necessarily positive. Municipalities care about the short time high of ratables filling their coffers. In my opinion the majority of development today in reality has very little to do with the surrounding community, and existing community members. Especially in process.
The planning process in my opinion is tragically flawed. We go to meetings and we look at plans for new development. They are never in real time they are always shown on these big boards with lots of green space around them, like they are placed in the middle of fields. Only for the most part it’s infill development these days and there is nothing in true context of what’s surrounding it. And that includes proximity and style. And when they’re building big tall buildings, human scale is thrown out the window.
Seemingly gone are the days of thoughtful planned developments. Those are the developments that have nice lots including trees. These developments meld with their surroundings and not every square inch of the building envelopes are crammed with structures. Planned developments take into consideration the affects a development will have on the infrastructure, first responders, township services where they are being built, and most importantly won’t overwhelm school districts.
Where I posted this, erupted like a volcano of indignation. It started with people living in some of these new developments I am not particularly fond of rolling up and saying how I had insulted them and they had hurt feelings and they felt unwelcome in their community. I tried it first and explain to them it wasn’t about them, it’s not about them as individuals. It’s about the process and what our local municipalities are allowing to happen to where we call home.
I am not anti-progress. But the process is flawed and there is no moderation seemingly ever when it comes to development. It’s all about how much you can shove into every square inch and that’s not even attractive in other than a truly urban setting. I am completely unapologetic that I have this opinion. Chester county is been ransacked by development. And we have to stop and think about it sorry not sorry.
Realizing that mob mentality was revving up, I turned off the comments on my post and walked away from the group where it was posted. I thought maybe it would calm down. Instead, the following morning I am receiving messages, texts and even phone calls from people asking me if I saw what was being said.
I went back to look and was somewhat shocked. The comments are gone from essentially a difference of opinion for me to flat out maligning and tar and feathering. I was now wearing a virtual scarlet letter.
There were a couple of comments in particular, I felt crossed the line. But I did not respond to this man, if he is a real person. Instead I went to report the comments to the group admins. I was unable to do so because my membership had been frozen for lack of a better description. All I could do was watch the comments mount. Off with her head. This one man in particular was actually disparaging. He couldn’t just have an opinion, he had to verbally try to beat me into submission on some level. I found it to be akin to slut shaming. Because this is something he would never say to another man because another man would probably pop them in the face.
The action of slut-shaming can be considered to be a form of social punishment and is an aspect of sexism. THAT is why I chose the term. (You see, my use of the term in particular, started a whole other realm of comments.)￼ Experts say slut- shaming which has occurred on Facebook occurs in controversial exchanges between users that have resulted in convictions to menace, harass and cause offense.
So while I am not literally being a slut shamed in a sexual sense, I am in a philosophical sense for my opinions.￼ If you want to learn about this kind of behavior check out what Groupthink is, which was developed as a theory way before the onset of social media but is also germane to the conversation.
In addition to being a writer and author of many wonderful books (some of which I own!), Catherine is a working artist. You can often find her work at The Chester County Art Association . As a complete segue but related, the Chester County Art Association ofersterrific classes for children and adults and some classes are even free.
Catherine’s book 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley joins my copy of Eugene D’Orio’s Chester County: A Traveler’s Album on my coffee table.
Chester County is home to so many talented artists and writers!
Being a writer and a blogger is a funny thing. I am not a compensated blogger (and to check out how they often plan about things to write read this post), I write because I like to write. I also write because it’s my catharsis and way to work through things. I share my opinions, my garden, things in my life, and I even share my photography and recipes.
“Blogging” is a very widely used phrase today and face it, it is is fairly common that with everyone you meet they either blog on their own or follow blogs. It is rare that you meet someone who doesn’t follow something.
Some people incorrectly refer to social media pages as blogs. They aren’t, although bloggers share their work most easily via social media.
Perception, as defined is first of all from the Latin “perceptio” and is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment.
Perception is like a bend in the road. Everyone sees the bend a little differently.
Human beings all see things differently. Put a bunch of people in a room and show them a photo. They all see different things. Leave them in the room, and human nature takes over, and some of those who are stronger willed than others will try to impress THEIR perception upon people, tell them that their individual perception is the only one that matters. You can literally watch as something goes from individual perception to more of a mob mentality. It’s fascinating. (It happens in social media groups on Facebook all of the time. )
People are often so uncomfortable with the perceptions of others, no matter how benign. Some of these types like others to think blogging is a four letter word. Or that the blogger is a bad person merely because their opinions and experiences are different from theirs. Or because a blogger is expressing some of their perceptions, experiences, and opinions openly.
Recently, I wrote a post about essentially the end of one chapter of my journey as a stepparent with a child graduating high school. I wrote about my perceptions, my feelings, my experiences. Today I heard from a friend. Passing along a message from parents who did not like what I wrote.
I wonder, did they also have a problem about an article on stepparenting I wrote in 2017 for a regional magazine?
I am sorry they did not like what I wrote. It was about my experiences. It makes me understand once again, why so many stepparents do not like to talk about their experiences. It is often like we are not supposed to have feelings and experiences. We are just supposed to soldier on and never talk about it at all.
Being a stepparent is the hardest best job I have ever had. At times it is exhausting and frustrating. And then there are those moments, those magical moments, where it all comes together.
I became a stepparent in my 40s. Most of my friends had been at parenting since their 20s, maybe early 30s. I knew when my sweet man and I got together it was a package deal, father and son. (They even have the same shaped hands.)
But being a fair bit older than parents with similarly aged children, I have felt at times like I was walking a tightrope without a net. When I am unsure, it is sometimes really hard to know what to do. Everyone wants to help and give you parenting advice. You don’t want to offend, yet sometimes you want to scream “stop” because the role of a stepparent is so different.
A stepparent is not a traditional parent. You can’t replace the parent who is absent, and shouldn’t. No matter the state of the relationship the natural parent (in my case mother), a stepparent must respect that bond. And be aware, even if the bond is fractured, it does exist.
Everyone expects a blended family to emerge overnight. That is a myth. As much as you want life to be like a Hallmark Channel television movie, it isn’t.
Creating a blended family takes a lot of time and hard work.
As a stepparent I do not have that literal biological bond. So there have been plenty of days I wanted to scream into my pillow “I can’t do this!” and I have cried buckets by myself out of frustration. But underneath it all, if you nurture it and let it grow, is an amazing relationship.
As a stepparent you respect the family traditions you inherit with the relationship, and you work to create new ones. Your job is not to erase the past, and together you create new memories.
For everything a writer writes, there will be at least one person who dislikes what you are writing about, and honestly, usually more. And if you are a blogger, well just add to the numbers. Why? Because a lot of people do not consider bloggers real writers.
I am a real person. I am a real stepparent. I share some of my experiences because it makes others in my shoes as a stepparent feel less alone. Much the way I also blogged my way through breast cancer.
Perception is a funny thing, and I am discovering it is especially funny when it comes to parenting. I can never decide if it is because we are all supposed to have perfect Facebook-ready families at all times, or if people are just that uncomfortable if you are different, or your opinion is different, or if their kids think the moon is made of cheese and you think that is silly.
When it comes to being a stepparent, the parents I have met for the first time who are the least judgmental are individuals who were not born in the US. As in people who grew up elsewhere who came to this country and became citizens. I think they are more kind a lot of the time because so many people can be so incredibly ignorant to those who are non-native born. As human beings we can be incredibly judgmental. Sometimes it is very hard not to be.
I find this all to be a conundrum of sorts. Here we are (in theory) supposedly teaching our kids to be good humans, yet often as adults we often can’t accomplish that on our own.
Well that’s enough from my catbird seat as a stepparent.