Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Time Marches On

Being a stepmom is hard; being a good stepmom is somehow harder. It should be easy. You fall in love with a man who has a child (or children) and when you marry him, you take these kids into your heart as well. It didn't quite work out that way for me.

I saw her first. This adorable blonde headed child bounced into my life 14 years ago and I fell in love instantly. Then I met her dad and my fate was sealed. In my naivete, I thought I could develop my own relationship with her and it would be separate from the relationships she had with her parents.

After many years of pain and disappointment, I've come to realize it doesn't work that way. The hardest to cope with has been how other people's decisions hurt my children, and how I can do nothing to change that. I can only help my kids cope with pain and loss and hurt. I've had to tame that "mama bear" inside me that rears up any time somebody hurts my kids.

We all know the stories of bad stepmoms. The ones who see their stepkids as intruders into their lives and would rather not deal with them. There are others who don't fall far from the stepmoms of Grimms' fairy tales--the ones who actively scorn and belittle their stepchildren and make them feel unwanted in their own father's house.

I've always loved my stepdaughter. I've never tried to replace her mom--it's not even possible anyway. I've always known a mother's place is impossible to usurp and never tried. All I wanted was to forge my own relationship with her, but even that has been a difficult journey.

Now she's less than 7 weeks from turning 18. While I'm excited for her to take these next amazing steps in her life, I bemoan all the other steps we've missed. This coming May she'll graduate high school and in a year she'll be in college. Incredible. And at the same time I know it will draw her even farther away from us, and from my kids.

Kids grow up. They leave the nest. And these days kids have more than one nest to leave. In the day and age where the divorce rate is upwards of 50% it's logical to conclude that many children have mom's house and dad's house, and when they grow up there's a separation from both households. For some it's easier. They can't stand stepmom or stepdad and can't wait to get away.

But for the rest of us, it's very different.

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