Today I was cleaning up my daughters’ room when I came across something I didn’t quite know how to take. My four year old, biological daughter and my eleven year old stepdaughter share a room. It’s probably not the best set-up for either one of them, but when confronted with a small space what must be done, must be done. And they love each other, which helps.
I had just cleaned the room the week before and was honestly astounded at how those two could destroy something so totally when they put their minds to it. It was a disaster in there! While I was surprised at the amount of disarray it was another finding that really took me off guard.
Hidden in the sheets I found small, symmetrical squares of torn paper. It was apparent that a paper had been folded many times, and then ripped, but as I looked at the handwriting I realized it was familiar. It was my own.
I always leave my husband a love note when I leave for work, and one morning many months ago I decided to leave one for my stepdaughter as well. In the note I told her how much I loved her, and this was the note I found ripped among the sheets. The precision of the destruction was beyond what a four year old could manage, and it became apparent to me at that moment that my stepdaughter had torn the note. What I couldn’t comprehend was why.
Being a stepmom is hard. I’m torn between wanting her to call me mom, but feeling as if I might overstep my boundaries if I do. Her mom is a wonderful person, and I wouldn’t wish to try and take her place. Not that I could.
Years ago we decided that she would call me by my first name, but sometimes I wonder if that was a mistake. My preschooler noticed, and asked me why, and all I could answer was, “I’m not her mom.” But I always second guess myself, and I fear this distinction makes my stepchild feel like an outsider in her other home, our home, and guilt stabs me.
Being a stepmother is hard because I’m always fearing that I’m doing it wrong. Loving comes easy, but as a stepmom that doesn’t always seem to be enough. I realize my stepdaughter sees how I look at my children, and how they look at me, and I sometimes catch a strange look in her eyes when she watches us together.
I always am aware that she needs to be shown that I care for her, and being at a difficult age I think she can’t help but compare herself to her siblings. I know she weighs my affections for her beside those I give to her sisters, and I know she does the same with her father.
Being a stepmom is hard because I feel sometimes like I must do more for her to show her I care, and even then I feel like it’s not enough.
I find myself being introspective and questioning my actions to ensure they are fair, but even then it doesn’t seem like enough.
Sometimes I feel like her friend, and sometimes her mother. Other times I feel like I fail miserably at either role I try to carry. And I worry that I’m wounding her as a consequence of those failures.
I know that on one hand I’m constantly going the extra mile to make her feel special, but I also realize that I too often miss the mark. I have to work at loving her harder when it just comes natural loving my own daughters, and I feel guilty even though I realize it’s not intentional.
We only get my stepdaughter every other weekend, and this makes it exceptionally difficult. By the time she becomes accustomed to the way we do things as a family it’s time for her to leave. I wonder if we all might not do better at it if we had more time to practice being a family. My four year old always cries after she leaves, asking when her sister will come back.
After I found the ripped letter my feelings were hurt, and I searched myself for something, anything I might have done to anger her. But I came up blank. I had worked the entire weekend, and realized I had actually seen very little of her at all. Perhaps a cumulative two hours, and even that was a stretch.
There had been no argument, no reason for her to be angry. I thought of myself at eight years old when my mother had remarried. I imagined my (adopted) father’s confusion when he found I had poured an entire bottle of glue in his backpack. He had been perplexed as to why I would destroy something of his. Didn’t I love him?!
He didn’t know that I did it because I loved him. He didn’t know that I ruined his backpack so he couldn’t put his things in it and leave me.
I often look at my stepdaughter and I see myself, and at that moment I hoped the fragments of paper somehow meant she loved me too.
I pray about it often, and I say, “God, this is hard.”
The only answer He gave me back today was one word. Love.
Being a stepmom is hard because even when you know you love someone they need to be shown this exponentially. You have to love them, and love them, and love them. Then you have to love them a little bit more.
I know I can work more at this. Being a stepmom is hard, but I’m determined for her to know I love her. Every morning I pray, “God, let her know we love her.” And then I try to walk in that. Even when it’s not always easy.
Love is always the answer, and that’s where I’ll start.