The Step Mom


I've written many times about my step daughters. About how beautiful they are, how funny they can be, and about how challenging it's been for me to "do this all over again" after raising 3 sons. Girls are different, parenting styles are different, individuals are just simply different. So I try hard to adjust my expectations, adjust my own style, and then enjoy them as much as I can. It's not always easy, but when they come running up to me with huge smiles and outstretched arms as greeting, when I feel them clutch me tightly when we say goodbye, and when they yell my name when a nightmare wakes them, I can't deny the satisfaction I feel.

I also can't deny that there is a prefix to the word mom, and a huge chasm is implied in that prefix. Step-mom is about fixing dinner, and then making it again because you didn't already know they don't like spaghetti sauce. Its decorating their room in purple, and finding out that green is the new favorite color. Its about arranging the day, and the week around their school, dance class, and soccer schedules, and cancelling plans so I can taxi to best-friend's birthday parties. It's about helping them make cards and presents for mommy, but not getting one. It's about being reminded that you're NOT mom.

I want to tell this story carefully, because this has nothing to do with the mind-set or beliefs of a 3 year old, I take responsibility for my feelings, I own them.

Friday morning we had the girls with us. Nate took Smartypants to school before going to work, and I was to take Giggles. She and I are similar in that we both wake early in the morning, but don't move very fast after that. I have the time and margin in my life right now to allow this luxury for us both, but as there had been some recent criticism of her arrival time to daycare, I was trying to get us ready early. I needed to get in the shower. I set her at the table with a piece of toast, which she'd asked for, and told her that when she finished she could play with toys. We rarely have a problem with flies, but due to warm weather we had some pretty aggressive ones in the house. As they buzzed around her I taught her to push them away and say "shoo fly!". Hoping she would stay content for another 10 minutes, I left for my room.

I was reaching for my towel after a relatively quick shower when I heard her screams. Screams that horror movies are made of. Holding the towel around myself I sprinted to the dining room, where I honestly expected to see blood. Mother's can size up situations pretty quickly, I saw no damage, no injury, nothing out of place. My heart pounded a little quicker when I saw a pair of scissors on the table, and for a brief moment I imagined a possibility that was obviously not the case. "Sweetheart, what is it?" I asked as I approached.

"The bees! the bees!"

There were no bees, just buzzy flies. Fucking buzzy flies messing with my girl.

"There's no bees, just flies, honey. And they can't hurt you, you're okay sweety, your okay". I bent down to take a closer look for injury, there was none, but she was still in trauma, crying. "Why don't you come to my room with me while I finish getting ready ok?"

"Okay, I want uppy". Uppy, a word she used over a year ago when she wanted to be picked up. It hadn't been a part of her regular vocabulary in I don't know how long. I picked her up, and carried her to my bedroom, as she held herself a few inches away from my wet skin.

We talked about flies, and then about freckles. I let her inspect my arms and face and we counted to over 50; then we looked at her arms, counting the one freckle on her right arm, I looked again for bites, none. She watched as I did my hair, put on makeup and got dressed. Within a short time we were ready to go.

When we got to pre-school, we were greeted by a cute little curly blond haired boy, who started asking me questions. "Are you her mommy?", no, I answered, not sure whether or not to expand on it. "Are you her grandma?" OK kid, we're not going there. "No, I'm her step-mom." Apparently that didn't quite make sense, and he asked it again! "Are you her grandma?" Thanks a lot kid, one more time with this grandma business and things could get ugly around here!

"No sweetie, I'm her step-mom. She has 2 mommies." Eeek.

At this point the teacher stepped in, laughing, and letting me know that this particular little boy could go on all day with the questions. She turned to him. "Remember, yesterday, we talked about families? Some families have 2 moms, some have 2 dads, some have lots and lots and grandmas and grandpas? Remember when we made our family trees? Everybody's family looks different!"

Giggles and I hugged and kissed goodbye.. I was curious about the family tree, and as I left the classroom I noticed them hung on the wall in the hallway. I found her's right away. Her tree had 6 leaves on it. Mommy, Daddy, Sissy, Granny, Grandpa, Tucker.

Tucker is their dog.

They see their grandparents just a couple times a year. Why did I have to look?

I felt my throat catch. I'm not a crier, I rarely cry at all, and never in public. Getting into my car, I knew that I could dwell on this and cry, but then I might get in an accident. So I bucked up, drove to the store and went home. I texted my husband about it, but even as I read my text, I realized it looked like a joke, "Tucker got a leaf", and he responded as such. I told him that I almost cried, and I know that sent a red alert. We'd made plans to meet each other at the municipal pool to swim at noon. I got my stuff, got back in my car and drove there. Looking for his car as I pulled into the driveway, I went over the curb. The bang and jolt of my tires hitting the concrete shook me hard, and I pulled into a slot, and started to cry. He got there a minute later, parked next to me, saw my face, came around the car and got in the passenger seat. I told him about hitting the curb. I told him about the flies. I told him about the little curly blond haired boy, and wept as I told him about the family tree with six leaves.

Giggles is only three years old, three year old minds don't think about big pictures, they focus on the words that they just heard:  Moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, brothers and sisters. And dogs. I'm not mommy, I'm Ariana. I used to be daddy's friend. Now I'm daddy's wife. Arianas were probably not mentioned in the lesson. I'm a grown up, I can see the big picture. I know she means it when she tells me she loves me. But I also know that in this complicated world of steps, there's going to be more bangs and jolts.

The distinguishing feature between me and daddy in this drawing is the hair on my head. And the bow around my neck. That's a bow, people. Yes, daddy decided to add a little flourish to the drawing by adding the bow.

Ariana is Still Growing

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