I have never been able to understand the choices my stepchildren’s biological mother made concerning them. She gave up her custody; she stayed away from the kids even when she could have been with them; she has never kept in touch with them or made them feel wanted and loved. I’ve been there to see the devastation that has caused the kids – the nights they questioned her love and their own worth, the times they would look hopefully into the audience of a school program hoping just this once she would be there.
Being step mom, I’ve done everything I could to be there, even though it’s not the same and we all know that. I have a great relationship with my kids, and I am the one they turn to even when their heart is breaking that bio mom has once again disappointed them.
From the beginning, I’ve had my opinions. I am typically an outspoken, sometimes hot-headed person who speaks, then thinks. In this case, though, I’ve always kept my mouth shut, out of respect for the kids. When I really needed to vent, I would have coffee with my sister or go see my own mom. In front of the kids, though – I never said a word; they certainly did not need me criticizing their mom or pointing out her faults. They were insecure enough as it was.
In fact, because the kids wanted to stay connected, I would sit down once a year and write a letter updating their mom and grandma on everything the kids had done and accomplished throughout the year and I would send school pictures and share snapshots. I didn’t do this to be a good person or for some saintly motivation – I did it because my kids needed their mom and this was the only way I could help.
A short time before the kids turned 18, bio mom and grandma asked to see the kids. It was the first time in almost two years (even though they only lived in the next town), and because the kids are graduating and moving away, they were happy to get to see their missing family.
I was shocked when I arrived at the restaurant to drop off the kids only to be confronted by very angry women. I was accused of keeping the children from seeing their family. I was accused of ‘ruining’ their opportunity to have a relationship with them.
I was flabbergasted. In all the years I’d been a part of the kids lives, I’d never said a cross word in front of the kids about their mom or grandma; I’d never once encouraged them not to have a relationship. In fact, I’d often offered to drop the kids off if it was more convenient. I was the one who made sure we sent new pictures every year along with an update on their progress. I even invited my husband’s ex-wife to stay with us (much to his chagrin) to make it possible for her to come to New York and be here for Derek’s graduation and send off to the Army.
I’m still not sure what I did wrong, but I’ve decided perhaps their own guilt was eating away at them. Here were these three precious little children who had never wanted anything more than attention and love, and time and again mom and grandma had been too busy to spend time with the kids, too willing to punish the kids’ father by not helping out when he needed help. They never realized who they were truly hurting until it was too late.
I would have defended myself that night, but before I had a chance to, my stepdaughter stepped in. She told her mother and grandmother that they were out of line and that she would just as soon go home than have dinner amid that kind of drama. She handled everything – including my sadness over what had happened. It was then that I realized how much mom and grandma really had missed by not knowing what an amazing young woman they missed out on knowing and whom I’d had the privilege to raise.
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