The following guest post is from April. She has lived the stepfamily life. Growing up as a stepdaughter and now as a stepmom, April has experience and heart for those of us on the journey. And I have to publicly apologize to April as it has taken longer than it should have to post it. No excuses just a heartfelt “I am sorry.” Her story needs to be shared and her heart will bless you as you read. Her words are going to stick with you and rightfully so. Thank you April.
Do You Need A Hug? One Stepmom’s Story of Love and Acceptance by April M.
“Do you need a hug?” The man standing in my doorway was familiar to me however I was not yet comfortable at his presence. I was three and it was the first time my mother had left us alone with her new friend. My brother, then 8, peeked out from across the hall; he was probably just as nervous in this moment as I was. I had wanted my Dad and this man was clearly not, but I must have really needed that hug! All I could do was to stare back bright eyed and motion my head timidly up and down. This embrace would be the first of many with the man I later chose to call Dad.
My mother and he (Mike) later married and my blended family began. Mike also had a daughter from a previous marriage, who is now my best friend and sister. Soon after, we were blessed with a baby brother who tied us somehow all together. This union was difficult for me to adapt to during my adolescent years. I rebelled against change and struggled to deal with the guilt I felt towards this “happy” family and the grief for my biological father. To this day he has never spoken an ill word concerning my mother but even at a young age I could sense his sadness at the demise of our family after she left.
From the early years I would brag to Mike about how awesome my “real” dad was and all the great things he could do; Mike would thoughtfully help me to recognize additional things I had forgotten to mention. Into my preteens I would purposely ignore Mike or not include him in our everyday activities; he would come to all my karate tournaments, basketball games and volunteered at my school. When I lashed out as a teenager I would make sure Mike knew he was not my “real” father and he had no “real” rights; he would discipline me anyway while reminding me how much he loved me.
When I was 18 my mother decided to leave once again and my existence was crushed at the thought of losing the man I had grown to love……my other dad! I had always believed that I was dismal because my biological parents hadn’t raised me together, but now the thought of losing a parent who actually did and chose to raise me, was devastating. These fears and empty insecurities were quickly diminished however as Mike and I grew closer. Through this period and at the blessing of my biological dad, I lived with him in the family home, went to college and took a stronger role in our family business.
It was into my mid-twenties when I started to actualize that my life’s events thus far would set precedence to the full circle I was on route to completing. During this time I met a man, Ken, who’s wife had left him and was sharing custody of their two boys, (3 & 6). We started off slow as the boys were still healing and dealing with a step father they didn’t particularly like. After much time together, Ken and I discussed with them, their feelings on living together. Both boys were so excited and welcoming. I was thrilled. I had high expectations and failed to see some of the frustrations and compromises I would be getting or giving! At times my relationship with the boys seemed close and warm.
Then at times after visits with their mom, they would return cold and distant. I was tortured with these over whelming feelings of self-pity and yearned to remember what I myself had felt in similar situations as a child. I had spent measures on sympathizing with my bio dad and though I love him dearly, lately I had really come to appreciate Mike even more and the role he still plays to this day. I was beginning to see things from his perception. And then one evening, I FELT things through that same perception.
I was sitting at the dinner table somewhat wallowing in my own self sorrows due to an earlier issue with Ken’s ex. The three boys lounged in the next room in front of the television. Then out of nowhere I could hear my oldest step son ask his father, “Aren’t you glad we’re not sad anymore?” “What do you mean?” Ken replied quite confused. “You know, when Mom left we were all sad and cried all the time, but now we have April and we’re a family again.” My eyes began to swell and my chest collapsed. Any doubts, not good enoughs or too much’s rapidly escaped my mind. I didn’t even know how to respond. All I could do was think back to the last time I had ever felt so complete. I got up and went and stood in the doorway………”I need a hug!”
Step parenting didn’t suddenly get easier in that moment and I have had some tougher mountains to climb since, but it did remind me that just as they have become a part of me, I have become a part of them. As a Step Mom, I may not always have the moments I want with the boys, but I will always have the ones I need. I cannot and will not ever be their mother, but I am and always will be their other!