I wasn’t really able to relate to our most recent “Anonymous Mom” column. I appreciate the honesty in which it was written, and I guess I can relate to the idea that blended families can sometimes be difficult, but I don’t really understand the idea of being too close to someone because you worry that one day they will detest you:
I often feel guilty that I don’t try harder. But for some reason, I just can’t. I know that if I keep them at arm’s length, and they remain okay with this, then it can’t be so bad. If I get too close, I’m wary of them one day turning around and saying, “YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER!”
Maybe I’m being pro-active. I know mothers who detest their stepchildren. I don’t want to detest them. If I don’t get too close to them, they will never detest me or yell at me, nor will I detest them.
Because, I don’t know, I sort of love the idea of detesting my kids and them detesting me. I’m not saying I want to be the hated mom or the hated stepmom, but what I’m saying is that I want it all.
Love is a tricky thing. Love encompasses so many emotions, and in order to love you have to be fearless, and brave, and bare and utterly vulnerable. I love all of my kids, my bio kids and the one I didn’t give birth to. I love them fearlessly, and I love them when they love me and when they detest me, when I’m being the bad mom and making them go to bed or not letting them watch certain movies or telling them that they can’t exist off Twizzlers candy. I will love them when they are older, when I’m getting in their business about college grades and who they are or are not marrying and their careers and their own babies. They will detest me, and roll their eyes at me, and sometimes not call me because I am sure I will be old, and stupid, and thoughtless, and we will have arguments about things I can’t even begin to imagine now, while they are still young and they only detest me momentarily when I make them turn off the video games and I kiss them to sleep.
My stepson was easy – is easy to love. Even when he was a toddler and doing toddler things like drawings on the walls or fighting with his step-siblings he was lovable, and I fell in love with him. The most difficult part of being his stepmother are the long stretches when we don’t have him with us, due to school and schedules and the fact he lives with his actual mom, the woman who gave birth to him, a woman who I don’t have a relationship with but who I will always be grateful to for raising this boy, almost a man, who is one of my most favorite people on the planet. And this pain I feel, this dull thudding ache in my heart when I talk to him on the phone, when I count the days until he is with us again, is ever present, this sort of empty feeling that hundreds of miles away is a person that brings me so much joy who is not sitting down at my dinner table and saying something goofy as he eats all the mashed potatoes.
He is such a beautiful kid.
I know not every stepfamily is easy. I know that there are so many factors in how parents relate to their step-kids and the dynamics of every family are different and complicated and tricky and that all of this can be exhausting. I’m sure part of the reason I was so able to fall in love with my own stepson is because he came into my life when he was still relatively young. But I also know that part of the reason we love each other is because I let us, I never guarded my heart against him. Not just because I loved his father. I’m sure that made it easier, but mainly because I believe that all kids want to love and be loved, if we let them. All humans do.
I’m not the most trusting person. I’ve been hurt by people before. But as I get older I sort of welcome it. I know those I choose to have relationships with, that I choose to love, will love me and detest me and hurt me and we will argue and cry and laugh and love each other, through all of it. I think that if we have children in our lives that we sort of “owe” it to them to love them. Children don’t ask to be born, or to have us as parents, whether that be my birth or because their parents split up and marry or date someone new. I’m sure Anonymous Mom is a good stepmother and her step-kids are perfectly fine, and I hate to tell any mom what to do (well, yeah, haha, we all know I LOVE telling you moms what to do) but behind the words she eloquently wrote in her article I sensed that even though she is okay with her relationship with her step-kids, she is also not okay with it. And for better or for worse, through the times they detest her and not detest her, though the happy times and the ugly times, of which there will be so many in this long and complicated and messy and gorgeous life we all have, what makes everything infinitely better is love.
I can’t tell people how to love someone. There is no easy tried and true formula for love. There are different kinds of love. It’s not usually instantaneous and it can usually be accompanied by a lot of doubt and questions and sometimes some not so happy feelings. But I think the trick is being open to the possibility, and eventually you find yourself handing over money for something your stepkid wants and getting into some two hour long conversation about how you also wanted money to buy CDs at that age and yeah, you also know that Led Zepplin is a really cool band and if you like this you might also like that and I’m sorry that girl you liked in AP English has decided that she now also likes girls and let me show you where I hide the Twizzlers.
I don’t care about being detested. It’s part of my job as being an adult and a parent and opening my heart to these much younger humans who I am lucky enough to share space on this planet with. And when it does happen, which I’m sure it will (and does) I can always remember the times when I wasn’t, when I was hugged so hard it took my breath and when I was told that I was the one picked to read the bedtime story or play a game with or listen as these goofy teenagers confessed all their deep dark thoughts as we sat on the sofa sharing some candy.
I like this love business.