There are not classes on how to be a step-mother. No continuing education credits available. No degrees from the local community college. No GED credits or SAT-prep courses. Hell, Hallmark only makes one or two cards for "My Father's Wife..." or "My Mother's Husband..." at Mother's Day or Father's Day. Step-Parenting is often a foreign terrain.
I have been lucky, or blessed (as us spiritually-inclined folks call it), in that I have two phenomenal step-parents who taught me, in very different ways, how to be a step-parent.
My father and step-mother married when I was twelve. Twelve is not a particuarly easy age to welcome a new daughter into the family, nor is it an easy age to acclimate to a new parent. However, B., my step-mother seemed to adjust with finesse and ease. Frozen oreo cookie bars were stocked in the refrigerator of her home. My friends were welcomed into her home with ease. Grilled cheese sandwich making was perfected to an art. B. was available to me, open with me, present to me, but gave me the space to remember that she was not trying to be my mother, that she had a different role to fulfill. She was my step-mother, and she welcomed the task. When I was distraught about fertility issues one day, it was B. that I phoned and who put the kettle on for tea so we could sort through the options. When I wondered about how to handle my step-daughters, it was B. who gave answered my late-night calls and assured me, "You're doing the right thing, Kitten." When Miss T. had her first overnight, I made popcorn with lots of butter, just like B. prepared for my friends and me when we had late-night, post-basketball-game parties at the house on Mill Pointe. B. respected the deep love I had for my mother, never trying to surpass that relationship, always supporting my bond with my mom, nuzzling her way into my heart with her gentle kindnesses and her hospitable graciousness. I have been blessed.
And then, at 22 years of age, I inherited a step-father. A gentle bear of a man, with no children of his own who adopted me without question. D.'s love manifested itself in so many ways--from the insightful letters her wrote me when I was in college and he began dating my mom, with whom I was reluctant to share, to the tires he bought for my car my first year of college because he was worried about my driving on wet pavement in an old Honda. He reminded me of the importance of family, of how important family was to him, and of how now we created an eternal bond, the three of us, as he and my mom married (and how then that bond was renewed and recreated as R. and I married and added Miss T. and Miss B. to the brood). He, too, welcomed my friends without reservation. It was his steadfast love, and welcome into the home he shared with Mom after my own divorce at thirty, which taught me what unconditional love was. He has replaced the locks on my doors, put together Grayson's cribs, enfolded my step-daughters in love, and encouraged me to put my feet up and take care of myself when pregnant (and add to that the ready care that this consumate dog-lover has offered Maisie the uncontrollable dachshund when we've gone on vacation).
I have been so blessed, so incredibly blessed by the roles my step-parents have played in my life.
So you 'd think it would be easier for me to be one myself...but not always...
And the story continues...