Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

What comes to mind when you think of the term ‘Stepmother’? I’ll tell you what comes to my mind…younger woman who replaces an aging mother and wife; breaking apart the happy family and stealing the husband and father away. Evil. Home wrecker. Unfair. Rules with an iron fist. Unloving. Caustic.

I became a step mom at a young age; 23 years old to be exact. My stepdaughter was 7 and my stepson was 5 years old. The Detective was 31 at the time were married and that made me the younger woman. He was reeling from a failed marriage and the guilt he felt was still fresh when it came to his 2 young children. I was in college, just learning to be independent and barely out of my own parents house. I had gone from living alone in an apartment, going out whenever and where ever I wanted to being a wife and a mother figure to boot. I had no clue what I was doing. Far from the picture of evil maliciousness; I was just a kid myself. It was like Smurfette trying to fit in with the cast from Guiding Light. I was outnumbered and quite frankly; outwitted.

Over the course of 4 or 5 years we gradually became a bonded family. We adjusted at what seemed at the time to be a ridiculously slow rate but looking back it was pretty average. I had moments of intense happiness when I would get a hug from one of the kids to moments of incredibly dark sadness when one of them would scream at me that “You aren’t my mom!” or “I hate you!”. I hated myself sometimes too. I hated that I had thought for one second that I was smart enough or confident enough to be a step mom.

When we would go somewhere as a family and people would refer to me as the kids “mom” it was inevitable that someone would correct them. I look nothing like the rest of my family anyhow, they being blond and light and me, being brunette and dark. After a few years, I was able to joke around and say that people took me for their nanny. When people would find out that I was their step mom they sometimes struggled to hide their surprise. I could practically hear the thoughts running through some women’s heads as they stepped back and clutched their own children and husband to their side; like I was some temptress that had come to steal away their families if they looked away for 5 seconds.

It was hard enough to have outsiders react that way when they found out what my title was. I felt like I was an afterthought within my own family too. It was years before I felt that I actually belonged. I had to make a conscious decision to become part of my family. There were many times I built walls up that harmed me, my husband and my stepchildren. It’s hard to love someone else’s children as if they were your own because you are reminded everyday that they are not yours. You have no power to make decisions for them. You have no right to them in any way. You can sacrifice everything and give your entire self to them and you will never be anything more than their “other mother”. The other woman. The home wrecker. No matter how incorrect that assumption might be; it seems to always be the first thought for the average person.

I’ll tell you what though…I wouldn’t change a thing. I love my step kids. They have helped form who I am as a person and as a parent.

Bonus: I haven’t given either of them a poison apple OR enchanted them so that they pricked their finger on a deadly spinning wheel on their 16th birthday. Then again, my youngest stepchild is only 15 so I still have time to live up to that “Evil Stepmother” title.