Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

When I first began dating my husband and things were getting serious, I started doing the math. He had a 10-year old son and 6-year old twins, so I had about 12 years of stepparenting ahead of me. I was wondering to myself whether or not I could handle it. I hadn’t ever been a parent, let alone a stepparent. I’d even only been an aunt for about two months at the time. Even the word “stepmom” seemed elusive, frightening, and somewhat negative (thanks, Disney!).” Stories from a StepMom

I wrote that passage when the twins were 21.

The twins are now 27 and one of them lives with us, along with her husband and daughter.

Kira did move out, go to college, and live elsewhere – and her older brother did leave and go to the Army and is now settled in Utah. Her twin brother Kyle, who has Down syndrome, is now living in an independent living facility that he just loves (and why not? They just flew to Disneyland for a few days!) But Kira moved home almost three years ago. I’m not sure any of us knew how it would turn out – or that it would end up being at least a six-year stay.

One thing I know is that my math was wrong. Your job as a stepmom isn’t done when the kids turn 18.

When Kira met her husband, Louis, we were living in Utah. He was living in England. We had a big, old, unsellable house in New York that was being rented out. Several things happened at once: Kira and Louis made a baby. Louis made plans to come to Utah to see Kira (and marry her). And our renter (who was renting-to-own the New York house) disappeared and left the house sitting empty.

Not being very fond of Utah as a place to breathe, especially when pregnant, we decided we’d move back to New York while Louis was visiting so that he could see more of the country (ok, it might have partially been because his youthful 6’4” body was really good at lugging boxes to the moving truck). The plan was, we’d move to New York, they would visit for a while, then he would return to England and Kira would join him there where they planned to make their home.

And then life happened. Affording a move to England was complicated and needed more time. The baby certainly wasn’t going to wait a few years to show up, and Louis didn’t want to spend the first years of his daughter’s life only talking to her on FaceTime. So he came here, joining Dave and I, our teenage kids, and our daughter (his wife). Suddenly, I knew why we hadn’t been able to sell this 200-year old house. With its sprawling square footage was meant to hold a big family.

Has it been perfect? Uh, no. We have teenagers who feel like they shouldn’t have to share the space (or the bathroom) sometimes. We have grownups who easily revert to childlike reliance because we’re here to help and actually fight with the teenagers over whose turn it is to do the dishes. And while we love, love, love having our granddaughter around, there are days when we wish for a little peace and quiet from the chaos. It has been a big reminder of why we didn’t keep making babies. But those moments are few and far between, and for the most part, we have made it work with 7 people, 2 bathrooms, and 1 washing machine. We sit at the table and share a meal every night. We talk about our future plans. We vacation together. We have family movie night. And the holidays are fantastic.

By living here, Kira and Louis can save money and work toward their goal of moving to England. As it turns out, the teenagers are pretty enamored with their niece, and having their older sister and brother-in-law around has paid off in more ways than they’d expected (including the occasional trip for ice cream). And having our family around – chaos and all – has been the greatest experience.

Your job as a stepmom isn’t done when the kids turn 18. It’s clearer to me than ever before how naïve I was when I first started dating Dave and thought I’d only have to put in about 12 years of on-the-job stepparenting. And I guess that’s just it – stepparenting is not a job – it’s life. Having stepkids is as much a life-changing, life-altering, lifelong experience as giving birth to a child is – and it was in that spirit that we became a three-generation household.

I love my kids and can’t imagine my life without them, whether they’re 18 or 58.

Originally published on Social Stepmom [membership required to read, which I wasn’t aware of prior to publishing there, hence the repost here]