For my stepmom’s birthday I thought it would be good to write a blog about unsung heroes – stepparents.
We hear so much negativity about stepparents that even the word sounds ominous. I was looking up some info about being a stepparent and, to tell the truth, it’s overwhelming. The whole thought of entering a child’s life, being put in the role of mom, but not really. I imagine there is not a clear cut right or wrong way of step-parenting, there are just too many dynamics involved, though you could probably find “experts” that will assure you they know best.
Stepparents come into what are often messy situations and many have to learn to parent in a torn environment.
For me, I was young when my parents divorced, the third child of four. A lot of what I remember from those days, months afterwards is darkness. First, we were taken away from our home and away from my dad. Then my dad re-married and we were taken away from my mom and introduced to a “new” mom. My dad had custody for the school year; my mom had us in the summers. I remember often being confused and wishing my mom and stepdad would move in next door, so I could have them all around all the time.
I remember being torn by guilt as I grew to love the woman my dad married and started thinking of her as a mom.
As an adult, looking back, I think about what it had to be like for her. She married a man with four children and instantly became responsible to parent them. If that happened today, you could read all kinds of advice on being a stepparent (not necessarily good advice, but advice non-the-less). But back then, I don’t think they had a lot of advice for how to instantly become a parent to four children.
What I’d like her to know today, on her birthday, is how much I love her and count on her. I would like her to know how I remember waking up from nightmares and she’d be there. How we’d go sit at the far end of the house, away from the bedrooms so we wouldn’t wake anyone, and she would listen to my dreams and offer comfort. Then we would talk, and she’d tell me stories or even play a game with me. Then I’d go back to bed and sleep comforted.
Later, I remember her sleeping on the floor next to me, as I slept on the couch after the suicide of a loved one. When I’d wake up in the night, she’d be right there, and we’d talk, and she’d comfort me, and I’d go back to sleep.
I remember sitting in Howard Johnson’s, drinking coffee and sharing stories of our faith, our life. I remember the things she taught me as a child, like how to sweep an entrance way, how to clean, and especially the times she would hold me on her lap and patiently teach my how to spell. I was a terrible speller. She made flash cards and would drill me. I remember not being able to spell beautiful and she said when you have a word like that just say it in your head the way it’s spelled, be-a-u-tiful. Amazing the things that stick in your mind as special – I still spell beautiful that way and it makes me think of her and what a beautiful, special person she has been to me throughout my life.
So mom, I want you to know, where I use the distinguishing phrase stepmom for you, it is a name of honor. You came into a home with four children (eventually 5 after you adopted another child) and chose to love us, and have continued to love us unconditionally, in our strengths and in our weaknesses, in our successes and in our failures and on this, your birthday, I want to say a heartfelt thank you. I love you.