The steps, the promises
No one asked me if I wanted a stepmom, and also, no one asked me to be one. Such is life. I have been on both sides of the fence though, and one brought more appreciation for the other. I won't go into the stepdad (or stepson) side here... I have a great one, and have known great ones, but this post is not for that, even though much of the following could be applied either way. I will start with being a stepmom myself.
"I promise you, that no matter what happens with us adults, that I will love you forever, and I will be there for you always." That is how it should be, right?! No one tells you though, the details... how hard it can be to step in where you aren't supposed to be, a child who hates your existence because it is where their mom should be, and usually an ex who has about the same disdain. Where you have "no right" because you are "not their mom" and how awfully gut wrenching it is to leave them, when/if it all falls apart because they are now a part of your heart. Let me step back a second and catch up to that point.
I was married to my sons father, and for lack of any better explanation, we were just too young to be making permanent decisions for our temporary lives. We dealt with some HEAVY stuff in our 7 years together, and in the end, we didn't have the tools yet, to hack it. The bridge between being young and growing up is one we did not, could not cross together. Sometimes I wonder if he ever did, but there is no time for that massive topic in this post. The dissolving of the marriage left me vulnerable and yet, awakened and hungry, there was a new found freedom and a space that I thought someone else could fill....prime picking for the manipulative, older man with a sense for the world and a keen eye for a young gal like me.
Enter strong, smart, worldly, charismatic, passionate, controlling, manipulative, abusive new flame, stage left. He filled me with every bit of life I was lacking and craving, he swooped in and scooped me up... spit me out, scoop, spit, scoop repeat. The narcissist in him was like a drug, an amazing high in the highs, and near death crash in the lows. None the less, he had me, all of me, so much of me that my self-storage was in the negative. To give him my all, I would extend myself by ANY means necessary. Again, not the post for this topic, but just enough for reference. He "completed" me, before I understood that we must be complete on our own. He had children and I took them on as if they were my own... or at least I thought I would. His oldest son, adoration nation immediately, he loved attention and was the sweetest. His daughter, well to say she was ready to give me a run for my money was the wildest understatement to that point in my life. But insert promise above, I was determined. We would have each other if nothing else because that is what family does.
Over the next seven years, we had a rough go. Between the abuse, the resentment, the blending of families and a revolving door of kids and other family members, it is a wonder we made it. But we did. I made a promise and to this day it remains true. I have a forged bond with the now woman who was my stepdaughter, is my friend. I like to think I have helped shaped who she is, but she shaped me too. I taught her to drive and she taught me how to give advice. She confided about boyfriends, and I learned more about patience and growth. From jobs, to boys, to sex, to fighting, to school, to future and everything in between, we shared life. She was and still is so much like me, I believe we were put together for a purpose. I watched her grow into a woman right before my eyes. And when things between her father and I failed, I remained steady in my promise. Through her journey, my voice resonates, and that makes me proud and grateful.
Being her stepmom, had very little to do with actual mothering, she has a great mom. My role in her life, and what I believe to be right, was to remain constant. To be one who stayed. To be a friend that she could always trust and lean on. To never judge mistakes or decisions I didn't agree with. To lend my opinion, and support however fit best, including when I told her what she may not have wanted to hear. Really, it was just about being another human she could count on, no matter the time apart, the distance between us, or the discomfort of trying to please people in her life after me. She knows, that no matter what, I will love her and always be there for her.
I am only successful in this because I had someone do this for me. ALL of this, and more. I always loved my stepmom, she too treated me as I described above. She also tried her damnedest, to shield me from the hostile terms between my mother and father. Being thrust into that war zone at such a young age is not something any child should be subject to. Ever. It never washes off. It never goes away. They were hateful to each other, and I stood in the eye of their storm. She did her best to guard my little heart, even if it was an impossible feat, selflessly. There was never an intention by my parents to hurt me, I have no doubt that they may just have been doing the very best they could. I know that they both loved me the way they knew how. None the less it was a hard place to be as a child... I couldn't show either parent that I loved my steps, or the other parent for that matter, because I felt guilty for hurting them. It is no wonder years later I was referred to as having been a very sad child. Can you imagine having to separate your life into households, to hear awful things about someone you loved, to act appropriately based on where you were and who you were with rather than what was simply the right way to act... at 3, at 6, at 12? To hear horrible things said and done, to be torn between houses, and loved ones. To stifle something that was exciting or happy to me, because it happened at the "other house". To hurt for them, cry for them, when I shouldn't have had a worry in the world. That was my childhood. Was it all bad? Definitely not. Does that take away from the pain, and damage done? Also definitely not.
She was and remains a constant for me. She taught me things that I carry with me today. Like never fearing getting lost because "we are not lost, we are just on an adventure!". She is supportive and never judges me even when she disagrees. She is a cheerleader for all things in my life. She is a huge part of why I was/am a great (step)mother. How great it is, and how it should be celebrated for children to have more positive role models in their lives. I am so grateful for her constant presence in my life, without requirement, return or obligation. It is unconditional.
I know that no matter what, she will love me and always be there for me. Be that for someone if you are given the opportunity. And remember it's not that you have to, it is that you get to. Be a positive role model and a rad step.
"we are never lost, we are just on an adventure"