I may not have known everything that came with it at the time, but I knew it would be tough- the kids, the emotions, the ex, all of it. There were questions I had like, will I be a good mom? Will they love me? Will they think I’m trying to replace their mom? Will their mom like me? Will they ever say the regretted “You’re not my mom!” and break my heart?
However, five and a half years later I wouldn’t change my family for anything.
I am the proud mother to four boys- two biological and two bonuses. My stepsons are both preteens now, enjoying the newness of junior high and their last year of elementary.
They are insanely silly, smarter than they realize, deeply loving, respectful, and everything a typical preteen boy is- smelly, gross, annoying, rebellious, messy, and self-centered.
Regardless of these qualities, I love them immensely. And I continue to commit my actions to never letting them feel that less than my biological kids.
Step parenting comes in all shapes and sizes- including relationships with the co-parent. These families are quite common in the United States, as more than four in ten adults have a step family member of some sort (Pew Research 2011).
Whatever the situation, it’s hard to be the parent who hasn’t always been there. The job is often thankless and tiresome. Navigating your role is nothing short of exhausting. But there is so much love and stability that you bring to those children’s lives, regardless of the day.
You must keep on reminding yourself it’s not the word parent that defines you, but rather the love and commitment in your heart.
Before my husband and I got married, I made an effort to make sure my stepson’s felt at home where we lived. I knew it would be challenging to have a stepparent, live somewhere new, and have a whole new dynamic for their lives; I just wanted them to feel at home.
I combed Pinterest for the coolest superhero rooms to make sure that I had all of their favorites included. We put up move posters, added a bunch of hero decorations, added decals to their walls, and even cut out old comic books and modge podged it to letters that spelled out their names. For my final touch, I added a framed cut out of my vows I read to them at my husband and I’s wedding:
“I promise to love, support, and protect your father. I also promise to do the same for both of you. I promise to be there for you when you need me, and even when you feel like you don’t. To support your hopes and dreams, and to always let you know how much I love you. I promise to continue to always end our stories with ‘and they lived happily ever after.’ To wrestle with you when you want to do some dance wrestling. To fight with our lightsabers when we need a good Star Wars battle in the house. I promise to provide you a home that is always open to you whenever you need a place to be. I promise to support your mom and dad and be the best stepmom that I can be. I love you both so much!”
I’ll never forget the look on their faces when they first saw that room. One lit up at the sight of it, screaming “I LOVE IT!” and the other gravitated to the framed vow. “I wanted to make sure you could see my words and know that I mean it every day.” I said to them as they looked up and gave me a big grin.
Some days I cling to that memory, because the days can be grueling with them. Other days I completely forget that, and smile because the joy on their faces when we’re doing something they love is even better than that moment.
These vast swings of emotion feel ever present to us bonus parents. Nonetheless, we still show up every day to be the best bonus parent we can be to those amazing kiddos.
I hope today you hold your head up high and know that you’re doing a great job with them.