“George Burns,” I called up the stairs at my smushed-face cat, “The girls are coming tonight!”
I could have sworn his cute little ears perked up. Boy does he love the girls! And so do I.
About a year and a half ago, I never thought I’d love again. Never thought I’d get married. Never thought about step-kids or biological kids. Although quickly learning to live again, I still had enormous hurdles of self-doubt, anger, a general mistrust of people, and a strong opposition to the social expectation of getting married…again.
If you would have told me then that you knew I’d be married with step-kids now, I’d have looked at you with disgust and say, “Oh HELL no!” (because before step-kids, I cussed a lot without having to pay the swear jar)
Brandon broke my no love policy, but that’s a different story. His girls on the other hand, have opened my heart.
I used to be annoyed when people would tell cute stories about their kids and gush some form of, “You have no idea what love is until you have a baby!” I understand those sentiments a little more these days, but I’m still convinced there is not just one sort of love. Oh no, I believe different people help us learn to love in different ways.
And this is the step-mom way.
Let me brag about these girls for a minute. ‘Cause I’m a mom-of-sorts now and that’s what we do.
Mae* (left) is 13 and in the 8th grade. She has a strong personality, wicked comebacks, and is so technologically smart that I am learning to empathize with my own mother (I just taught her how to text and will likely teach her again in 6 months). She loves music and has a natural ear for the stuff. She memorizes numerical patterns and lyrics like it’s no big deal. She is an expert on everything, as she should be at age 13. She has a hard exterior but a warm and good heart.
Jade* (right) is 11 and in the 6th grade. She is hilarious and always trying to make people laugh. She says she’s an introvert but I see a little person with big people skills. She is a hostess with the mostest. She has a big, sensitive heart and is wise beyond her years. She is an artist and creative at that. She loves music as well and participates whole-heartedly. She likes cooking and baking. She is an expert on sharks. She loves telling stories.
And they’re sisters, through and through. I was an only kid so I don’t get the whole sibling rivalry thing. They clash and come together again, argue and fight then collaborate, and they keep me on my toes. And I have to curb my cussing habits. In the span of 2.5 short weeks I lost $20. That’s way too F-ing expensive!
I’ve learned a few other truths:
- I need to watch what I say, even in play. For instance, we play a lot of games with vim and vigor–board games, card games, yard games, sports. One time I called Brandon a “jerkoff” because he won. To my great chagrin, this was repeated later in front of my parents by Mae. Face palm. No more “jerkoff” comments.
- I need to dress the way I’d be comfortable with them dressing. Bring on the mom-shorts! Probably my least favorite, but I grudgingly admit, most comfortable purchase this summer were a pair of dark blue, Polo mom-shorts. This choice was brought on by a snarky comment Jade made about a woman in her thirties wearing booty shorts. Wait. I have booty shorts. And now they’re in the tropical-vaca-without-the-kids box.
- I need to model responsible behavior. The way I yell at rude, obnoxious drivers is mimicked in the passenger seat by Jade. I hear the words I say to Burnsie out of habit being repeated later by two smaller voices: “Do you want some love?” “What do you say for a treat?”
- I need to show them that love between a man and woman does not include meanness, manipulation, threatening behaviors, constant bickering, and is not a roller coaster, hot-and-cold affair.
- I need to be comfortable in my own geeky skin, to show that it’s okay to be different and to accept different people. I want them to love themselves for themselves.
- I need to be okay with laughing more than frowning. I hope they learn not to take themselves too seriously.
I’ve learned to laugh a lot. Take a lot of pictures. Give hugs. I even pray. My heart sings when I hear Mae laugh and when Jade kisses me on the cheek. I want to yell, “Get it girl!” when Mae practices strumming the same chords over and over in the garage, singing a Taylor Swift song. I grin when Jade belts out lyrics in her bluesy voice. I treasure the heart-felt conversations that happen every now and then in the car, on the stairs, at the kitchen counter, watching a starry night.
My heart is bigger. I love more deeply. Grafting into this family tree has been the best thing ever.
*the girls’ names have been changed because they’re still underage