It wasn’t until the envelope came in the mail that it was even real to me, and even then I wanted to deny it. I had known it was coming, and had tried very hard to put it out of my mind – but there it was, addressed by hand to Mr. and Mrs. David Bruce.

I thought to myself at the time, “Nice calligraphy,” but stopped, because I wasn’t ready to have nice thoughts about her yet. When I opened the envelope, the announcement was homemade, from one of those kits you can buy now.

They’d printed them on their home computer, with a picture of the two of them sitting there and smiling, like this could somehow be the happiest moment of their lives – like there was anything in the world to smile about.  I felt ill, like I had just eaten something that wanted to crawl back out of me.

The funny thing is, of all people, I should have been more tolerant, right?  When I married my husband, he had three kids. I would have been devastated if they had made my life difficult or didn’t trust me or didn’t want me to be with their dad. I was lucky, because while we have had our moments, we have great relationships.

It is different, though. My step kids were young; they needed a mom in their life. I never forced them to think of me as mom or call me mom, I just filled the role and took care of them and got involved in their lives and helped them through all those icky things that come with childhood.

My mom is in a “niche.”  Not even a real grave where I can go sit and talk to her, but just a little square of marble in a little wall not even as tall as I am surrounded by a bunch of strangers — like she moved from her big house to a little tiny apartment. All there is to know it’s her is a little name plaque.

I couldn’t face the fact that my dad, who had been married to my mom for 36 years, could replace her with someone else so quickly. I definitely wasn’t ready to have a step mom. He’s my dad, though, and I love him.  I miss my mom very much and because I didn’t behave very well at the start of my dad’s new relationship, I still feel uncomfortable around my stepmom, but I try. I try because I remember what it was like to be the new person in the family and because, whether I like it or not, my mom is gone and my dad is here and he deserves to be happy.

Most of us have some kind of “step” in our family. As adults, we may find it more difficult to accept these relationships than our children would. It’s important to respect other people’s choices and feelings – to realize they aren’t trying to hurt you – and to try to find joy in your loved ones’ happiness, even if it is difficult to do.

Read Shadra’ s book, Stories From a StepMom, available on Amazon Kindle. Read more or request a review copy.