I have sat at my computer every day this week, pecking out my novel. It has been the main focus of my life for the past 11 days, and nearly every thought I think when alone has been related to it. So of course, I sit down to write my blog and all I want to do is go back to work on the book, or write about how I’m doing on it. But, that’s for Thursdays, not Mondays, so now I am at a loss.
I ask E what I should write about, and she suggests a dozen topics that have already graced my fingertips. I ask K and get more of the same. They are clever little girls who have great ideas, but sadly they are ideas I have already had. E suggests I write about the kiddos, but I don’t, really. I mean, they appear in my blogs, but I like to keep a certain air of privacy around them (hence the initials.) But I will bend that rule a little, today.
I remember the day I met them. First, there was M, five years old and playing Transformers on his father’s PlayStation. He explained the difference between autobots and decepticons, and then started talking about different kinds of dinosaurs, and I was confused but also impressed by his ability to retain knowledge. L, who was three, was sitting at the kitchen table eating a hot dog. I sat beside him and commented on the cartoon character on his shirt. I taught him a secret handshake. He told me a knock-knock joke that made no sense.
E was only two and very shy, clutching a small toy duck and peeking at me from behind the arm of the sofa. Eventually she came forward, placed the duck in my lap, and ran off again. She wasn’t very good at hiding though, so I always saw her peering around corners, watching my every move. K was furious, screaming and crying and refusing her bottle, only 10 months old. I picked her up and put her in the middle of Mark’s bed. I sang her Too Ra Loo Ra, an Irish lullaby my mother always sang to me. She fell asleep, and I fell in love…with these kiddos, before I even loved their father.
Now, we have all grown. M can still be found on his electronics talking about Transformers or Godzilla, but not all the time. When he comes here after school, he may retreat into the world of screens for a half an hour or so, but then he emerges and engages me in conversation or joins me in whatever activity I’m doing. He is fourteen now, and becoming this amazing young man that makes me proud.
L is twelve going on twenty, and now all of his jokes make sense. Sometimes he crosses a line, and I shoot him a look and receive a prompt apology in return, but for the most part he keeps us laughing. And his heart…his heart is enormous. Definitely the politest kids I’ve ever met, he has a well of compassion in him that I don’t think has a limit. Everyday with him is a jovial surprise.
E just turned eleven, and is blowing my mind. No longer shy and timid, she is a talkative and engaging girl who is maturing into this lovely young woman. She’s clever and funny and helpful, and long gone are the days when she would tattle on her siblings or fib to me about nonsense I could prove. Her smile brightens my day, and her actions make my heart swell with joy. I am so looking forward to everything she will become.
K is ten now, no longer a crying baby. She knows no life without me in it, no life where mom and dad were together, and sometimes I wonder if that’s why our connection is so strong. To her, all of this is perfectly normal, not a careful configuration of parenting that took a decade to sort out. Her personality has always been strong, but as she ages, she is finding herself, her cleverness and compassion being her strongest traits. Saturday night, we celebrated her entry into the double-digits club. No more babies in this house.
Being a step-parent is a peculiar thing. We have a stereotype to battle, for one…everyone knows the story of the evil stepmother. We are often looked at as “less than,” because we did not give birth to the child. It’s frequently difficult for me because I feel like odd woman out a lot…I neither created the children (like their parents did) or live with them most of the time (like their stepfather does.) Still, when I am with my kiddos, none of it matters. I don’t think about anything except what’s best for them. I love them more than I thought was possible, if I’m honest. They have changed my life in a way that no one has, save perhaps their father. Mark has even made me swear that should our relationship fail for whatever reason, I will not desert the kids. He made me promise, when we got married, that I will always be their stepmother, even if I’m not his wife. He, in turn, promised that should that tragedy ever happen, he would continue to encourage the kids to have a relationship with me.
It’s not many men that would put their kids feeling before their own like that. Of course, I hope that never comes to pass, but it makes my heart happy to know that he would want me in the kids lives no matter what. After all, like I said, I loved them first.
Being a step-parent can be hard, but there are blessings. I see it when E surprises me with a fresh cup of coffee, or when K tells me to get in the office and start writing. I see it when M takes an interest in what I’m doing, or L sneaks up and gives me an unexpected hug. These kids were not always in my life, and I wasn’t always in theirs…but they don’t remember that. They only remember how much I have loved them, and they return that love to me in spades.
Being a step-parent is hard. But I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t give it up. I am grateful every day for my kiddos, and I love them more than they will ever know. Their ability to inspire and encourage is astronomical, and they are growing into amazing little humans. I never wanted kids of my own, but I am eternally grateful for the little hearts that found their way to me and opened my life up in the process.