My husband has three children from his first marriage. When we met, the youngest was only 7, a friendly little sprite who didn’t quite get what was going on. His older sister was 15. She hated me. She refused to talk to me. And the oldest, who was 17, just sort of ignored me.
Part of it was my fault. Having never had kids or been around them much, I didn’t reach out to Fred’s children. I didn’t know how. I think now about the aunt who used to take me shopping and talk about boys. She was an only child and had not had children yet. Where did she learn how to relate to kids like that?
In the early years of our marriage, the kids got into all kinds of trouble and drove us crazy. Did I ever feel like their mother? Heck no. I was the woman who was sleeping with their dad, the woman who was always in the kitchen preparing food, the woman who was not their mother.
But time can work miracles. Fred and I have together for 24 years. His “kids” are 31, 39 and 41. As I mentioned last week, we met the youngest two, Michael and Gretchen, in Portland for a couple of days, and Michael introduced me to his friends as his “mom.”
Cool. But Mom is just a word. What really made it special was the genuine love we all felt for each other. Trust, too. I let Michael drive our car the whole time we were there and only had to close my eyes a few times. Boy, can that kid parallel park. Zip, and we’re in. I’d be working on it for hours and probably ram another car in the process.
We were truly glad to see each other and sad to say goodbye. The hugs were real. Do we still do things that drive each other crazy? You bet. Will they forget my birthday next week? Probably. But now that the kids and I have known each other for most of their lives, the resentment has faded and we are all getting to accept each other as family. Past resentments are just memories now.
Fred and I will always be “Dad and Sue,” never “Dad and Mom,” but the love is there, and it doesn’t matter what labels you put on it.
So, if you’re a childless stepmother whose stepchildren give you nothing but headaches and don’t fill the ache in your heart for a child of your own, there’s hope. They will grow up. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes, if you hang in there long enough, you’ll get used to each other and develop a relationship that is not mother-child but it’s closer than the word “stepmother” implies.