We got lucky this year and had Emile at our house on his birthday. So, I was devoted to creating a special celebration for him. He had his favorite dinner, even if it was not the healthiest choice (the cheesiest of cheesey macaroni and cheese). I carefully picked out his presents. I wrapped them with bows and ribbons, and there was a lot of presents. Probably too many. I went, baby in tow, to several different stores to get everything I envisioned for a joyous birthday, from balloons to birthday candles to one of those Happy Birthday banner signs (which I never found, by the way).
We sang happy birthday, he blew out four candles, and we shared a miniature chocolate lava birthday cake. He opened his pile of presents. We “Skyped” with his Grandma and Grandpa in Atlanta. He had fun. I hope.
And then, when the festivities were winding down and we were starting to talk about bedtime, he looks at me squarely and says, “you’re not my mom.” Out of the blue. Matter of factly.
Why thank you. As if I had forgotten. Without missing a beat, I responded, “That’s okay. I know.” I went on to explain to him that I may not be his mom, but I am his step-mom and I love him very much. I pulled him onto my lap and showered him with kisses and love. And I let him stay up a little bit past his bedtime so that we could snuggle and sing together. Just the two of us.
Because I knew that’s what he wanted. He just wants what we all want; unconditional love. I may not be his mommy, and he may still be confused about how exactly I fit into his life and why he has two homes, and that is why I need to show him that no matter what he is loved. No matter where he is. Or who is reading him a bedtime story. Or packing his lunch for preschool. Or reminding him to eat his vegetables. He is loved. And missed by whichever family isn’t with him at the moment.
I never said step-mothering is easy, did I? Because it’s not. In my theme of keeping it real, I would venture to say that it’s one of the greatest challenges in my life. Which is why I had to blog about it. Not the easiest of subjects to talk about, but necessary. Even therapeutic.
Step-mothering is hard not because I don’t love Emile and I don’t love every second I spend with him. I do. I do. I do. He is a beautiful boy, inside and out, with a heart of gold. He is a light in my life.
Step-mothering is hard because of individual moments that pop up every once in a while and shake me to my core because I am an achingly sensitive human being. Like last night. I wish I could pretend that Emile’s statement didn’t bother me. I know that I am not his mother and I am never trying to replace her. But it did bother me, it hurt my feelings. I want to know that I am special to Emile. That he loves me the way I love him.
Sometimes I am not so sure. Sometimes I wonder if he wants to get rid of me so that he can put mommy at daddy’s house. He’s said that before. Only once, but the words stung deep and they will not be forgotten.
I don’t think that there is anyone in the world who can understand what it’s like to be a step-parent until you are a step-parent. I’ve said this about parenting, and it holds just as true for step-parenting. So, I’d like to hear from my fellow step-mothers or step-fathers about your unique experience in this role. Tell me about it. What have been your greatest challenges and greatest rewards? Do you have a positive relationship with your step-child(ren)? Any advice on surviving the tough times? Any advice on the best ways to create unbreakable bonds with step-child(ren)?
I did not write this post so that you would feel sorry for me. If you’re going to feel sorry for anyone, you should instead feel compassion for my sweet step-son. I know I do. I may be a step-parent, but I have never been a step-child. My parents are still married. I can only imagine that it must be a confusing life. Now, I’d like to hear from step-children. What was it like being a child of divorce? Who did you live with? Do you have any step-parents? If so, what is your relationship with your step-parent(s) like? What is the relationship now?
My life and my family may be a tad bit complicated and unconventional, but I wouldn’t change it. I see the perfection in the imperfection. Emile is a happy kid, I am a happy mom. He has not one, not two, but three great parents who would do anything for his happiness. We are adapting to life the best way we know how. This also means that I can’t take his statement personally. He is trying to make sense of his world and I will do whatever I can to help him because he is the child and I am the parent.
Go ahead, life. Test my maturity, test my capacity as a parent, I refuse to fail. I will strive to put my sensitivities aside and not let them interfere with my mental health. I will not forget that Emile does love me, even if he rarely will say it. I will rejoice that I was given the opportunity to be his other mother. And I will pray that one day, when he’s all grown-up, he’ll appreciate me for who I am. Not his mommy. Not his daddy. But still his parent. I am his Mama Lucy.
The one and only.