Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not Mine

There are days where I feel like I have an extra weight on my head...a brass crown with the title, "evil stepmonster" engraved on it for good measure. Mind you, no one has actually called me this, but I feel that way just the same.

Too many Disney movies with the wicked stepparent, or comedies with the much younger second wife being sorority sister to her new husbands children. I have been a mother for 13 years, a stepmother for only a year and a half and I am still trying to find the balance between meeting my bonus daughter's needs and my husbands expectations. No easy feat, and not necessarily one I feel very qualified to perform most days of the week.

She is about3 and a half feet tall with dark bushy hair and blue eyes, exactly like her Daddy's. She furrows her brows and attempts to give me the evil eye every now and again and then I remind her I have gotten the same look from her much bigger and more imposing father and she is going to have to work harder to impress me.

She is feminine and giggly, awkward and silly, and not just a little obsessed with stuffed animals, donuts, and "Despicable Me." She is 100% Daddy's girl and even though she knows me now, she wants to ride in his car and hold his hand and have him read the bedtime stories and do the goodnight kisses, and that's OK with me. She is confused some days about who I am compared to who her mommy is and has told my husband, "You have two girlfriends, Mommy and Miss Patti." He corrected her, quickly, but really how do we explain it all?

She likes my boys and is coming to understand why they call Bob, "Dad," but overall she still remains unsure of her place in the picture-just as I am unsure of my place in her family picture.
What I know for sure is that she needs all of us, and she deserves our best effort to be grownups, behave responsibly and be kind to one another and that isn't always easy. I hope she to come to see me as an extra, extra ally, extra set of hands, extra woman for girl talk, extra shoulder to cry on, extra parent to be pissed at in adolescence. I call her my bonus daughter because "step" just doesn't work for me.

When I hear the word stepchild or stepparent I think of a staircase with two people removed from one another by one step or flights of stairs. One of them below or above the other-never on the same level. Ick. Not my vision of family. Even though I am definitely in a different role in my family with my biological children I believe very firmly that their feelings are equal to mine in ever conceivable way.

Her feelings count and her voice matters-right now we have made a foray into friendship with her long dark hair. Having had boys I missed out on braids and bows so she is delighted to have me fix her hair in "mouse ears" or "two ponytails" or a simple braid. Her mother is less delighted and in one of her more snarky moments when her daddy returned bonus daughter to her other house her mother told her she looked like a dork. To say I thought less of the exwife after that is an understatement.

Life isn't fair and unfortunately children in divorced families learn this lesson all too soon. Bonus Daughter only gets stolen weekends with her Daddy and she has to share them with this strange lady that makes her eat something other than french fries and sleeps in the same bed as the man who is supposed to be wrapped around her finger alone.

Divorce isn't fair on the Daddy either-he misses her, painfully, on a daily basis. He wishes for more time, more stolen moments. We tried for full custody and were unsurprised when we lost. I reassure him that what is important is that we tried. I want him to be able to look her in the eye in 20 years and tell her unequivocally,"I wanted you with me full time and so did Miss Patti and I did not replace you with Nick and Henry."

So here we are 18 months in and navigating the current of failed marriages, new beginnings, adult strain, and custody one stolen weekend at a time. My hope is that she will look back on this time as one where she got extra love and affection from a bonus family and we were never a step away from her.

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