Getting Real With Elizabeth Sanchez

We sat down for breakfast in our second week at my in-law’s house, and as usual I was stuff my face with something delicious when I saw my father-in-law laugh as he was looking outside at the kids playing Uno.

Suddenly my stepson, Eddy, walked in flustered and frustrated.

“Chivet,” he yelled, exasperated, calling me by my nickname, “They keep saying that you’re my mom, and you’re not my mom! They don’t listen!”

I peeked outside and the girls were all staring toward the doorway. They couldn’t believe he would dare say that I’m not his mom. More importantly, they couldn’t understand how I could possibly NOT be his mother. I was married to his father. I was Gabi and Meike’s mom, and Gabi and Meike were Eddy’s brother and sister. What was going on here?

Mi’jo,” I said, looking him in the eyes, “It’s okay. They just don’t understand. Tell them I’m your madrastra. Your mami lives in Chicago but right now you’re with me and your papi. Madrastra is stepmom.”

Needless to say, it didn’t help.

It never helps when we’re in Mexico.

For some reason, everyone related to my husband wants me to call myself Eddy’s mom. More than once we’ve had people say, “Just tell them you’re his mother. He’s still a kid. He doesn’t know.”

Trust me that I love this child as if he were my own, but he’s not a baby. He fully understands that I’m not his mom, as much as I would like to be.

I’m Chivet, and that’s okay.

Two years ago, his mom threw him a big birthday party, with friends from school, a Spiderman cake and the works. As he was ready to blow out the candles on his cake, he stopped. He wanted to talk to Chivet. My phone rang and I got to hear first-hand all about his cake and his friends and how it was his birthday. I wished him the happiest birthday ever, and then we hung up with an, “I love you.” His mom said that made his day.

More than once, his mom or his aunt have called on a Friday night or before 8 a.m. on Saturday morning because he wants to go to Chivet’s house. I don’t have to be his mother for him to know that he’s my son. He knows I love him “a lot. A lot, a lot. Like, for 18 months” (his words, apparently 18 months equals forever).

To his cousins, the word madrastra sounds too sinister to describe our relationship (thanks to every single fairy tale, ever). To the adults, it doesn’t make sense for me to love him like a son if he doesn’t call me mami.

But to us, it’s perfect. Chivet doesn’t mean mom, but it still means love.

(Note: It’s pronounced chee-VET)