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Happily ever after.

Heard and often had it applied to my wonderful happenstance after floundering in a scummy pond of scummier frogs.

Adore its Cinderella chain-removal, noble, perfect prince whisking you away connotations.

Yet, I am here to tell you happily ever after doesn’t just happen.

You don’t just stick your foot in the right glass slipper and skip on your merry way to go eat pie-in-the-sky with cloud a la mode forevermore. And when you add to this fractured fairytale the fact that this is second marriage, the picture gets more crackly. Add to that the further fact both parties have scars enough to scare off Scarface. Oh, and a dad who-though adorably funny and thoroughly fun-loving-had never been a dad before. Not to mention three vulnerable kids who had little knowledge of what a dad was supposed to be-two of them autistic. And let us not forget delightfully bouncing baby boy bouncing in rather unexpectedly and swiftly to all this.

And, hokey smokes, this fairytale’s more than fractured.

The fact is the whole blending bit does not and has not happened quickly or easily around this really old house. It’s taken and still taking a barrel of grace and a lulu of a learning curve to bring our respective pieces together. For, in the midst of those truly awesome finally-a-family moments, there are real people and real feelings and real pain.

And real people really being a real pain.

In particular, there is one brand spanking new teenage boy. Sweet. Smart. Stubborn. Autistic. Desperate to communicate, step out, make his mark in society, make his voice known.

Yet, not always sure how.

And, then, there is dad. Sweet. Smart. Stubborn. Unofficially autistic. Desperate to communicate, step out, make his mark in society, in the precious children he chose when he chose me. Make his voice known. To all of them, but, especially to this unsure one he sees as such a throwback to himself.

Yet, not always sure how.

You get these two carbon copies on opposing sides of the table and you get sparks. Noisy, feet firmly planted sparks.

About bedtimes. About mealtimes. About just about anything any time.

And then there is me.

Advocate of peace, ducker of drama, cringer in the face of raised voices, yet fierce defender of all she loves. Interpreting one over here, the other over there. Negotiating, placating, translating. Reminding there ought to be a bigger serving of grace for both plates and trying all by my little motherly-wifely self to dish it out.

And, yet, the funny thing about words is they so often get away from us, spill out, unravel from intentions.

And the grace I am trying to spoon-feed gets rejected because it really tastes of taking sides and the sourness of my own latent anger and frustration at them both.

And, no matter how adept at scurrying back and forth I feel I can be, some one or other will always likely feel unsupported.

Fairness is a relative thing at times, and wholly unable to be achieved to everyone’s liking.

And, frankly, when I am so busy fighting for my baby and yet standing by my man, I began to feel a wee bit the ping-pong ball paddled between them in this ongoing sparring match of dad and teen.

Dizzying, to say the least. Heart-wrenching, infuriating… And, would you believe, entirely unnecessary?

The fact is I am only a ping pong ball if I jump into the midst of their game. Or, to take you back to fairytale, Cinderella never signed up to sweep the prince’s cinders. The beauty of leaving the obligations of everyone else behind. Freedom from the former circumstances. Not to advocate neglect so much as to release the guilty be-everything-to-everybody notion that can trap us.

The fact is, to make this work, I’ve got to stop trying so hard to make this work.

Room must be allowed for these two dear fellas of mine to hammer this thing out, see the match through without undue interference from a well-meaning but overanxious wife and mama. I must trust that the God who spared our lives to knit us together has a hand in this thing yet. That His love is far more capable, infinitely fuller in my beloved men’s hearts than I dared believe.

So, lately, I am working at less time whizzing across the table and more time to just be.

There for partnering and parenting when requested and needed, but far less swimmy-headed about the whole deal than heretofore  And we are seeing bonding moments spread unexpected smiles in our midst as more and more battles fade and fall away. There are developing inside jokes, compassionate coaching and the satisfying click of coming together even. Won’t say the fairytale hasn’t splintery places yet.

But I am finding one key thing :  The more I let God’s grace douse us, the less I feel obligated to fling it wily-nily over a heated situation.

And there is a resting in it all that-when it happens- is so much more happily ever after for all the fractures mended.

Marisa Ulrich

Marisa Ulrich is a mom of four, two autistic, two “typicals," living in one of those great old fixer-uppers in rural Kansas. She is in a blessed second marriage with the handyman of her dreams. Her writing has appeared in Autism Parenting and Zoom Autism. Her first book, Broken Cookies Taste Just as Sweet: The Amazing Grace of Motherhood, Marriage, and Miracles on the Spectrum is set to debut July 19th via eLectio publishing. Join her ongoing thoughts on Facebook, and online at

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