Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I am a step-mother

Oh so long since I have communed with my sweet little blog, which I swear is only read by my sweet husband and duty-bound parents. God love you all (all five of you).

I realize I have this problem. Yes, I'm working on it in therapy (thank you , John). I have a hard, hard, hard, hard, hard time writing anything unless it think it is PERFECT. I have gone so far as to insist that my college English professor NEVER know about this website (despite the fact that he has become a good friend to both me and my father). I have this DEMON editor on my shoulder sometimes. And so, if I'm not completely sure about my writing. I don't write. I won't write. Thus, the long silence after the Annual Conference sermon. I felt spent.

So, I'm trusting this little audience (who in my mind are very few in number) and writing anyway and hoping you'll forgive me.

Here's the deep thoughts of the day:

I am a step-mother. I am privileged to parent two of the most amazing human beings ever created on this planet. Two intoxicatingly beautiful girls whom I adore. And two amazing creations who are never mine. This has it's benefits, as I am free to boast about them outrageously since I can take no credit for their phenomenal genes. But to be a step-parent means that one always cedes parenting. I will never be Tess and Brynn's mother (nor should I be). I am always second-best. And I understand that. And I accept that. And I respect and admire the girls' mother tremendously and would never want to infringe on her role as mother. Never. And yet...I am still always second best. And I am also a competitive person. So this is one of my "growing edges" as they used to say in CPE training...or "another fucking growth experience" as one of my good friends (accurately) names it.

I "inherited" Tess and Brynn when they were 8 and 5 respectively. I loved, loved, loved having a ready-made family to be part of. And I loved, loved, loved the phenomenal parenting that I saw in Robert. I threw myself whole-heartedly into the role of step-mother. I bought the most expensive popcorn popper that Target sold, so that when Tess had her first overnight we would have the best popcorn (just as my step-mother made for me). I went to the library and read up in the particulars of cheetahs so that I would have something to share with a wild-cat loving Brynn. I called and emailed my own step-mother regularly with questions and sought her wisdom and advice.

And what I've realized...the verdict as of July 20, 2005 is that step-parenting is HARD. It's so hard and it's such an exquisite joy. I adore "our" girls...but they will never know my body as their home. I adore "our" girls...but their safety is always found within their mother or father's eyes first (as it should be). I adore "our" girls...but I still feel as if I have no claim on them, no right to their loyalties.

Today I called home while I was working and Robert was home with Brynn. Robert and I chatted--touched base on our day--enlightened each other on our latest insights--reminded each other of pick-up and drop-off times for miscellaneous activities and as I was getting ready to sign off Brynn slid a note to Robert. In her scrawling 8-year-old writing she had written the words, "Tell Christen I said hi." Robert relayed the message. I felt my heart melt. It is in those instances that I realize that step-motherhood may not be for the faint-hearted, but it's worth it. Because she remembered me. And that's something.


Chris said...

I loved this one, Christen.

Chris from VA (bookgroupvisual)

Real Live Preacher said...

What a sweet moment when she slid the note.

I understand the demon of perfection when it comes to writing. I have it as well. It's funny, you can use this demon to fine excellence in your work, but it can also eat you alive. I try to use the demon while I am writing, then ignore him after it's done. when it is done, I did it and I will accept whatever that says about me good or bad.

It's the only thing I can do.

MCT said...

Your reflections on being a stepmother touched me because I too hold that special place. I have a wonderful son, now 21, that I've had in my life since he was 7 years old. I also have a daughter and two grandsons. She first came to me at 12,when residing in a children's home, left at 18 and returned pregnant at 19. It was then that I became "mom" to her and eventually grandma to her sons. It took longer for my husband to earn "dad" status because there had been no loving men in her life, only those that posed a danger. But we are now a family, all of us together in a strange menagerie of temperaments and personalities.

I too saw myself as less significant that the parents that gave these wonderful individuals life, even the ones that didn't value the wonderful lives they helped create. I counted the years until my son had lived longer in my house than his mothers and waited until my first grandson was 2 years old before I trusted that I might really get to be a part of his life. Now, all these years later, I have come to have a different view of parenthood. Mothers and fathers come in many forms. Some start at the moment of conception and help bring a soul into this world. Others, start much later. Some enter at the time of marriages (my son came on our first date!), others through less formal relationships and yet others pass fleetingly through a child's life during times of need only to let them go to other relationshiops once they're ready. To me, being a parent is loving a child so much that your heart hurts sometimes just looking at their faces. It is the wonder at the person they become and the humility and gratefulness that comes with being a small part of that life's journey. It is putting on bandaids, cleaning up vomit, sending the monsters away at night, hugging away the hurt, silently watching the struggles you can't assist in and celebrating the triumphs that mark their successes. You are a mom and know that the gifts you give may be different than those that gave them birth but no less important. I believe that these beautiful souls come into our lives, for however long, for a reason and part of that reason is us. Celebrate your motherhood and know that you are touching your daughters in a way no one else can.