Through childhood I was incredibly close to my stepfather. My father had passed when I was a child so he was the only dad I had through those awkward blooming years of junior high and high school. Going from a bachelor living in a studio apartment to handling the trauma of first periods to the raging hormones of teenage boys within as short of time as a year my poor step father was amazingly resilient. No it wasn’t easy or simple. It was created over time with sticks and stones, with power struggles and moments of complete rage. But he chose to love me as his own. He was the most encouraging voice in my life, and the most levelheaded confidant. A bond between a step-parent and step-child is quite a unique and amazing dynamic. You are their parent, but the bond and perspective is quite a different one allowing for more down to Earth and open conversations.
Three years ago I was a work-a-holic, going through a divorce, and incredibly determined to remain independent. Reuniting with my junior high sweetheart and current husband, Josh, was not planned or expected. We don’t choose who we love, my mother would always remind me. Josh at the time had a two year old son and just recently filed the papers for divorce. The custody battle was dirty, underhanded, and a bloodbath of stabbings of the backs (on both sides). I did not quite understand, and the turmoil gave me great anxiety. My divorce was simple, after a year of debating it over we just woke up one morning and decided a divorce was the most sensible solution to our static and unhappy situation. We didn’t have kids, just animals (which trust me we still had custody papers drawn up for our dogs), but everything was out of consideration of our now ex-partner, anything to avoid a stressful conflict. We assumed this would be hard enough without making enemies of one another.
The divorce and conflict continued for nearly two years before there was any sort of real civility. And even in the peaceful waters being the step-parent is no easy adjustment. His past is a very present elephant in our relationship. Our great distance across five states from my stepson makes each separation incredibly traumatic for his mother as well as our family as each exchange occurs. I am not mommy, a concept we have to cover upon each stay, so I have come up with the pet name Mama Jess in order to ease his understanding of who I am. I am not mommy, but I am a mother figure in his life, and although I don’t reserve the same level of love and devotion, I do require equal respect and authority when he is in this home.
I love my sweet step son, and he returns the same love. I try to be his safe place, an open forum to hear all about his “other world” as he calls it, or the “Colorado Chronicles” as I refer to it. Although my primary career was retail management, my true major and original practice was education. I studied at an early childhood and adolescent level. I utilize all that I have learned to understand and relate all the difficulties he is going through as such a tiny soul with such an incredibly torn world. Everyday is not perfect, ever effort does not result in how I intended, and we definitely have had our struggles, but we love, and that’s the core of it.