My sons birthday is looming over me. In one short week, seven excruciatingly short days, my first born child will be ten years old. Ten! No longer a child, now he will become a preteen.
Oddly enough, it’s not him that is on the forefront of my mind these days. It’s my step kids that have taken that spot. You see, my step children entered my life when they were nine and ten years old. My son, at this exact moment, borders the ages they were when we began our adventures together. If only I could have seen this moment ten years ago, maybe I wouldn’t have messed up so much….
I don’t talk about them often, simply because of their age. ‘Cause nobody wants their life blasted online. Well, except for maybe us bloggers, we don’t really care… to an extent. In a few years I imagine I’ll have to rein back on talking about my son as well. In the meantime, I hide behind my “parental rights” to air his dirty laundry.
I know I’m a good mom. I make mistakes. I don’t always make the best choices. But, I always do my best, try my best, give it my best. That, in and of itself, makes me a good mom.
But, as a step-mom… I sucked. I didn’t get handed an innocent little baby that would unknowingly forgive me my wrongdoings until I learned better, until they knew better. At 20 years old I was handed a feisty 9 year old and an independent 10 year old. I had no idea what I was doing. I was much less than their mom, but much more than their friend. Years later, when I had my own children, I knew where I stood with them, I knew what I was supposed to do. But, with my step kids… I didn’t have a clue.
If I did I would have been better at it. I would have gotten up at the butt crack of dawn to do my step daughters hair, despite being up half the night with my newborn son. I would have cooked them more breakfasts. I would have laughed with them more mornings. I would have driven them to school more often. I would have cherished those mornings, knowing they’d soon be gone.
If I had known better I wouldn’t have yelled at their mother. I wouldn’t have gotten so angry about all the things that she didn’t do for her kids, knowing all to well the pain that they were feeling. I would have stepped back and let them cope with their feelings with their mother. I would have simply enjoyed the amazing time that I had with them. I would have thanked their mom for sharing her children with me. I would have known that it went so much deeper than who had custody of them. I would have known that it takes sharing a piece of her heart, for them to love me too. I would have praised her, because as a mother myself, it’s something I don’t think I could ever do.
I wouldn’t have been so frustrated all the time. I wouldn’t have gotten so upset feeling that I was always taking care of a baby, while my husband sat in his older sons room and played video games. I would have handed my husband his newborn son more often. I would taken over his spot playing video games with my stepson. I wouldn’t have gotten so exhausted chasing after a toddler all day in the scorching sun while my husband stood on the fence line absorbed in my stepson’s race. I wouldn’t have gotten so annoyed that I was the one always chasing the toddler. I would have let someone else chase my baby for a few hours. I would have been on that fence line just as deeply absorbed as my husband was. I would have enjoyed my time under that scorching sun, the smell of dirt bikes in the air, the sound of my step son’s bike flying around the corners. I would have played more video games, eagerly losing but always too competitive to turn down another round. I would have cherished my time with my step son, knowing that it’d be gone too soon.
I wouldn’t have been so annoyed all the time. I wouldn’t have been so stressed trying to raise my own child in the chaos of my step daughter. I wouldn’t have let her shenanigans control so much of my reactions. I wouldn’t have let her turmoil, her outbursts, her anger, her pain, change the way I responded to her. I would have encouraged her dad to spend more time with just her. I wouldn’t have been so selfish with his time. I would have known that I had forever with him, but she only had a few more years. I would have given her more hugs and told her I loved her so much. I wouldn’t have assumed that simply by my existing in her life, that she knew it meant that I cared. I wouldn’t have assumed that she knew that I wasn’t going anywhere. I would have told her that I knew exactly how she felt, her pain, her anger, her fear, because I had went through the same exact things. I would have told her that we were so much alike, that it scared and impressed me all at the same time. I would have talked to her more often, but even more than that, I would have listened. I would have told her that I had no idea what I was doing, that I didn’t know how to be what she needed, but that I loved her enough to do whatever it took. I would have been there for her, not simply in the same house she grew up in, but really there for her. I would have smiled through all of her good times and held her through all of her bad times. I would have cherished my time with my step daughter, knowing that it’d be gone too soon.
I look at my son, dancing on the border of nine and ten. I shake my head at his avid video game sprees, understanding it is just his interest. I turn my head at his outbursts, giving him time to cool down. I tell him that I love him all the time, even though most days he acts as though he doesn’t hear me. I watch as he struggles through school, fighting with every breathe in me for the school to give him their very best. I gently remind him every day to do his chore and think nothing of doing it quickly for him when he forgets, again. I shoo my youngest daughter away at times, knowing that my son deserves his one on one time with me too. I watch Scooby Doo, play with dolls, and color pictures with that same daughter, while my husband sits in our sons room playing video games. Occasionally I even bring them a drink and cheer them on. Or kick my husband off the game and take over his spot!
More often than not, when I look at my son, I remember his older brother and sister. I remember all of the small things, that were really the big things, and I wish more than ever that I had cherished them in the moment.
My step kids are now all the same age or older than I was when I first met them. They have children of their own. And maybe, maybe they can see how hard it was for me back then. How little I knew of the world, of being a mom, of how quickly it all goes by….
I wish that I had done better but, deep down I know that I did my best. When my step-kids children come running at me with wide open arms yelling, “Graaannmma!!” I know that I didn’t mess up all THAT bad!
I can only hope that I have made half the impact on their lives, that they have made on my heart.