Why I added my stepson into an old photograph.

This photo now shows all that it had before and so much more. It isn’t just the addition of another person; it showcases life. Real, down to the nitty-gritty life in all it’s glory and differences. It shows dedication, commitment and choosing each other – even on the really difficult days. The days when people who have been blessed in not experiencing the blending of two families, will almost always misunderstand us. The days when I’m told I will never be his “real” mom because he has a biological mother already. The days he is told he is not my “real” son because I didn’t give him life. Those are the days we choose each other more and now we are very much mother and son.

The photograph below was taken on my 34th birthday and it has been a favorite of mine for many years. When you look at this photograph you see a mother, son and daughter. When I look at it I see protection, love and strength surrounding our little family of three.

THREE PEAS IN A POD

Sweetly tucked just under my wing, yet still standing on her own is my daughter Gracie. Her beauty has always taken my breath away and her independence has always tested my strength while educating me simultaneously. This girl differs from the rest. She is an original. I see a young girl who loved softball and had dreams of becoming a lawyer and attending Harvard.

On my back is my son Gage. Just look at his sweet face and how he’s proud to wrap both his arms around his momma, but is still held up by me. He loved his momma more than anything and his sissy was a close second. Baseball and basketball were life, and he had dreams of being in the MLB or NBA.

Then there is me, proudly standing on my own two feet. No matter how many times I fell down, I always got back up. I became well-versed in God’s redirection and going back to the drawing board, editing and revising my life until I became a better woman and mother. I see a woman falling in love with herself for the first time and making her children proud. This photo became my life’s mission statement a visual anthem that said together, we had everything we needed and could make it through anything.

It is crazy how much history and memories a single photo can hold. On this exact day my boyfriend was preparing a surprise birthday party for me at my home. We had started dated seven months before and he had a son from a previous marriage, Cole. Cole and Gage knew each other from school and introduced us because Cole’s dad was the boys baseball coach. I was in a stage to push everyone away and pull my children closer. I was fine with a boyfriend, but not marriage, and most definitely not another son.

His son. That is what Cole was, he was my boyfriend’s son. He was unique and unlike my children. I struggled to understand and connect with him. He wanted to be just like his dad and their bond was unlike anything I had ever witnessed between a father a son. There was no room for me. If we walked beside each other, Cole would come in between us. He liked me but he didn’t like me having any attention that could be his. It was difficult to navigate and I won’t lie and say I didn’t get frustrated, cry and want out.

After a year of dating, we moved in together. Things were still challenging, but I loved his father, so we committed to making it work. Cole desperately missed having a mother, and I wanted no part in that. If you read my post, No, you already have a mom, then you know the story already. He’d ask to call me mom, and I’d say no. Yet, I did all the things a mother would do for her child. We spent countless hours at the dining table doing homework, working with teachers, reminding him to brush his teeth, to change his underwear, doctor’s appointment’s and everyday mothering. He had everything he needed. I just left the loving part to his dad. I couldn’t bring myself to be his mom plus he had a “real” mom, and I had my “real” children too. It was us three plus them two and it didn’t equal five. It equaled three and two.

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.

One day by the grace of God, things changed, my heart softened and became protective of him. There was a moment when I could no longer sit by and watch as Cole was let down and hurt. I realized that the person letting him down was not the only one; I was letting him down too. He had not stopped asking to call me Mom, and it was clear he needed me to say, yes. Maybe, I needed to say yes too, so I did.

From that moment Cole became my son, my real son. He didn’t become my son when his father and I eventually married three years later. Or at a point when he was more pleasing or easier to love – he became my son in the middle of messiness and a storm. He became my son the day he chose me, the day he asked me to be his mom, and the day I chose him in return. God placed us together knowing that storms make trees take deeper roots and two trees intertwined were stronger than one.

For approximately six months I’ve looked at this old photo of my sweet babies and I, knowing and feeling that something was missing. Each time I would share it, I felt a twinge in my heart that something was missing. Then I realized the something missing, wasn’t a something, it was a someone.

In a world where stepparents are cropping/editing out or even just leaving their stepchildren out all together, I wanted to add in mine. Luckily I have a dear friend who helped me re-create the first photo with the addition of Cole. My heart (and possibly Cole’s) needed him in this photograph that reminded me occasionally of who I am today as a woman and mother because he is just as much a part of who’ve grown into and become over the years.

ALL MY BABIES IN ONE BEAUTIFUL PHOTO

This photo now shows all that it had before and so much more. It isn’t just the addition of another person; it showcases life. Real, down to the nitty-gritty life in all its glory and differences. It shows dedication, commitment and choosing each other – even on the difficult days. The days when people who have been blessed in not experiencing the blending of two families, will almost always misunderstand us. The days when I’m told I will never be his “real” mom because he has a biological mother already. The days he is told he is not my “real” son because I didn’t give him life. Those are the days we choose each other more and now we are very much mother and son.

When I look at this new picture, I still see my beautiful and independent daughter who now has made room for another brother and wants to be a Science & AG teacher instead of a lawyer. Gage is still on my back, still smaller than most and loves his momma and basketball, but now wants to be a Veterinarian. Right in the middle where he belongs is my other son, Cole. I see a handsome young man who loves with a very open, gracious and giving heart. I see someone who selflessly spent hours every day for at least a week if not longer making me a Christmas present that no other parent received. I see a boy who came into my life scared of losing his father to a woman he thought was trying to take his place when all I wanted to do was share it. And, who just wanted a normal family with a mother and father – like I did. Cole is who I needed to become a better woman and mother, and I like to think I am who he needed to help him become a better man.

Being a parent has zero to do with biology and 100% to do with love and choice. Sometimes that choice is not ours to make but Gods, and he reminds us that while it may not always be easy, it is always worth it and for our good. Three plus two now equals a family of five. A real family.

Forced photos & Fulfilled Promises

“This family photo was as forced as the smiles on our faces. Behind each of our smiles was exhaustion, disappointment, frustration, stress and the faith of the tiniest mustard seed.”

This family photo was as forced as the smiles on our faces. Behind each of our smiles was exhaustion, disappointment, frustration, stress and the faith of the tiniest mustard seed.

This picture was taken as a reminder of our first year with steers and how we failed and took a hard hit. It was taken to be looked back on as the year that almost broke us – but didn’t. The year that taught us empathy and compassion for those who will encounter the same in years to come. We would look back at this photograph and celebrate, remembering this moment… and see there was more than five people in this photo.

We are not a family that comes from a background or even heavy support from a family in agriculture. And, financially we are your average american family that makes sure our kids have what they need, but not always much more. The decision to put our children into 4H and FFA was met with hesitation and if it weren’t for the option of a 4H or FFA loan it would have been impossible. So, when we learned early Wednesday morning that only 1 of our 3 steers made weight you can imagine our heartbreak.

Still though, I remained strong as my husband was angry and as Gracie and Cole were devastated. I told myself then that God had a plan, that “God doesn’t bankrupt a family for no reason.” And, I believed that. Bankrupt is a heavy term on such a small scale but to us this felt insurmountable. A mountain we would never be able to climb or move alone.

You can’t see in this photograph the heartbreak Gracie felt when the certified weigher called her back to see the numbers on the scale. The look on her face when he told her that her steer was 13lbs away from making weight and could not sell. There is no sign of the tears she cried feeling as though the past ten months and over five hundred hours of work was for nothing.

This photograph doesn’t show the same heartbreak for Cole who received the same news as Gracie, except he was only short by ten pounds. It doesn’t show that he worked mercilessly with a steer who weighed the least when we bought him and gained the most out of all three.

You can’t see behind Gage’s smile that he would have easily handed his steer over to his brother or sister because it’s been a rough and long ten months. Each showing or work day was exhausting. He had taken a physical beating from his steer dragging his 76lb body around the ring time and time again. And, he was done.

You can’t see the financial stress on mine or Matt’s face. The fights that followed not just during the project but once we learned only 1 of the 3 would be selling to earn a return on their hard work and dedication. Or that emotionally, I broke down the day before over what appeared to be about open-toed shoes but was really about so much more. You can’t see that I was not only upset at but also questioning God… all you see is a family smiling and moving forward.

I’ve been angry with God two times in my life and as quickly as I had remained strong for my family, I became weak and my husband became strong. We traded places. Anger and frustration took over as we had recently began tithing and making that a priority and it was proving to be difficult in general and then this happened. We do not waste our money, we work hard and try to live a giving and kind life. But here we were getting knocked down… again! What lesson was God teaching us and when would we finally catch a break?

Intermittently while being angry crosses would appear. I could easily see a cross in everything and a sense of peace would temporarily take over. Families around us stepped up and helped our children in a variety of ways to ensure we had items needed for fair, lessons in fitting, grooming etc. Things money could never have afforded, a pouring of such blessing that it overflowed what we needed or could hold. God’s promise of tithing, Malachi 3:10-11 isn’t an overpouring of just a financial blessing, it’s a blessing in all forms. In these bible verses God challenges his followers to trust him with a certain amount and in return promises to return blessings in unimaginable ways.

While my faith was hanging by a thread, behind the scenes God was wrapping it with leather and twine. As we stood and took this picture as a family of five – we smiled. You can’t see God in this picture, but he’s there. You can’t see the families, advisors and friends who loaned us equipment, property, time or energy but they’re in this photo too. You can’t see the community who stands behind and supports our youth in this photo, but they too are there. This is a photo of support and not of failure.

Within minutes of taking this photograph two men walked up and offered both our children who didn’t make weight an amount that more than covered the costs of their loans and also provided a cushion enough for next year’s project. These men were impressed with our children, their buyers letters, the way they presented themselves and their attitudes. And at the auction a local company bought Gage’s steer affording the same blessing and opportunity.

These men blessed our family. That local business blessed our family. And, we will never forget the moments that followed this photograph for all the years to come.

In My Father’s House

Every year just before Christmas, my husband’s grandma would call him and invite us to the family breakfast at our local Elmer’s restaurant. “Matthew, this is Grandma”, she’d say, and he would respond by saying, “Yes Grandma, I know it is you, it says your name in my phone” and they would share a laugh.


In my Father’s house,
There’s a place for me.
I’m a child of God,
Yes I am.

Hillsong Worship

His aunt’s hand stretched backwards from the row in front of us at church, handing him two old photographs. In one, there’s a boy maybe twelve or thirteen with a red button-up shirt who looks like our son Cole, sitting next to a little black and white dog, that ironically looks like our dog Luna as well. As my husband studied the young man in the photograph, I studied him. Waiting to see if there was a warmth in his eyes as they tracked back and forth over the photos and to our son, as he compared them. Was there any reaction to seeing a man we seldom talk about? And there was, but I could see it was met with hesitation.

As I searched his eyes and studied his facial expressions, the worship band played Hillsong Worships, I am who you say I am. As we’re singing along, my mind realizes his hesitation wasn’t just rooted in the fact of the man being his father, or that he had passed years ago. His hesitation came from not knowing where his place was now. And how that picture was probably more important to him than he would care to admit. Mindlessly, the lyrics slipped out until I read the verse on the screen above, “In – my – father’s -house – , there’s – a – place – for – me -” and my voice cut out under the heaviness of the words. I couldn’t finish. None of us had a place in our father’s house, not God, but our biological fathers.

In my Father’s house there’s a place for me.

Over the years my focus had been on myself never having a place in my father’s house, and on my daughter, who didn’t have a place in her father’s house. My husband was raised by a wonderful man, who was technically his stepfather, but he accepted him as his own and treated him as such his whole life. He was his and is his father. It never crossed my mind that maybe he missed the lack of a relationship with his biological father. I had missed the fact that he too hadn’t felt as though he had a place with his own biological father, which explained more than I realized. But God’s plan was already in place; we just needed to trust and have faith.

I am chosen. Not forsaken. I am who You say I am.

Every year just before Christmas, my husband’s grandma would call him and invite us to the family breakfast at our local Elmer’s restaurant. “Matthew, this is Grandma”, she’d say, and he would respond by saying, “Yes Grandma, I know it is you, it says your name in my phone” and they would share a laugh. She would extend the invite, and we would accept. The last couple of years she would call out of the blue just to say hi and to tell him she loved him. And I would tell him he needed to spend more time with her, and he would agree, but it wouldn’t happen.

This past year that changed. What started with Christmas breakfast became a wedding, church, lunches, visits etc. It’s funny to look back now and see how smart she was in knowing that she planted the seed each Christmas starting with the breakfast, we just had to water it daily for it to grow. In January, there was a push in my heart and not a light one, it was more like a shove to get back into church, and to be closer with his family. Church was where his family was rooted, and where Grandma was every Sunday. When we would hug her and say good morning to her, I remember thinking she had the kindest eyes, and though I’ve never liked anyone touching my face, the way her hand cupped my cheek as she said good morning in return, is something I will treasure always.

Free at last, He has ransomed me. His grace runs deep.

The last time I saw her, she stopped my husband as he was walking out of her hospital room. She was asleep we had thought and suddenly we hear, “Matthew, don’t you leave me.” and it made us laugh for a minute. We had thought at first she was going to pull through, but it seemed as though we were wrong. While some other words were spoken in that room that night, that will remain in that room, but my husband received one of the grandest gifts he’ll ever receive. As he stood at her bedside she spoke to him and said, “Don’t forget me, I love you” and I don’t know that I will ever be able to recall that memory without crying, because I know he had thought of her so much over the years, but it was his hesitation that kept him away. It was one of the few times I had witnessed my usually strong as an oak husband, cry.

Grandma passed away a little over a week later, and although that was the last time I saw her, he visited her again which I know he is grateful for. Yesterday, we celebrated her life in the most beautiful way, through worship which was something I learned yesterday that she loved. Witnessing my husband up on stage with his cousins, all worshiping and singing praise together for both the joy of her living a loving life, and now dancing in heaven with Jesus was priceless. And, to know now that this writing piece that I have been working on for weeks, rooted around a song during worship and her, is all the more fitting.

I am who you say I am.

As we were about to leave her celebration of life, our son Cole, looked over at his great grandmother’s photograph and said he only – almost cried a couple times – and laughed, as he hugged me. He teased me for crying as he usually does because I cry all the time. When he asked what made me cry, I told him to look around, to see the surrounding family, the church we now belonged to and to remember it was all because of her, and that this was God’s plan all along. We just needed to water the seed from Christmas.

My husband is his grandmother’s grandson, his father’s son, his aunt’s nephew, and welcomed by the highest king whose love for him, found him and brought him home at the right time. While the push for me to return to the church, to be closer to his family is equally a blessing for me, it was all in God’s plan for my husband to find his place. The lyrics to “I am who you say I am” don’t just belong to a beautiful song of love, redemption and having a place with God, they also tell a story. A story of where a little boy’s grandmother reminded him of where his place was, how to get there again and that he was always loved and deserving.

A fresh (step)parent perspective.

Did I feel like a jerk and a failure on the days when I couldn’t hang with the super stepmoms? Sure. But you can’t base your days or family dynamics on other blended families or stepparents. It’s okay to not have it figured out, it’s the quitting that’s bad. You have to ask yourself why God has put you where you are and how you can be used for good. There is a purpose to his plan, and you are more than capable.

Have you ever felt like blending your family isn’t possible? Or, that being a stepparent is too much work for you to take on alone? That failing is your new favorite pastime and honestly you are unsure what or who you are even fighting for? Do you question if you have what it takes to be a stepparent? If your answer to any of these are yes, then know there is hope. Being a stepparent has days, months and even years where you are and will be tested and pushed. But, when you’re able to see past the step, and only see the parent, those rough days become more and more manageable.

When my husband and I blended our family seven years ago, it was rough. We’d both been divorced more than once before. We both had children and very different parenting styles. (We still have different parenting styles) There were days I was angry, days I cried, days I wanted to give up and say “no this is not my problem or my job” and truthfully a good reason behind dating for so long, well that and our failed marriages.

Did I feel like a jerk and a failure on the days when I couldn’t hang with the super stepmoms? Sure. But you can’t base your days or family dynamics on other blended families or stepparents. It’s okay to not have it figured out, it’s the quitting that’s bad. You have to ask yourself why God has put you where you are and how you can be used for good. There is a purpose to his plan, and you are more than capable.

When Cole first came into the mix he was struggling in school, and as harsh as it sounds it was a huge cause of friction in our home. When you blend children who’s parents have different expectations or even the lack of, it can rock even the most sturdiest of ships. Gracie and Gage were expected to come home right after school, homework was done first, playing was second. Cole had his own idea of how it should be done, which was not at all. And, to be honest there were days, weeks and months that felt like the only person in the entire universe who cared about his education, was me, and it was exhausting. My husband and I fought, the school and I fought and Cole and I fought. It was awful.

School nights consisted of tears, frustration, too many erasers and both of us going to bed defeated. Cole did not have confidence in his work or himself. Sports were his priority, and schooling was mine. It didn’t take long before I saw things differently. One of the great blessings of being a stepparent is you see things from a different perspective from your spouse who is more intimately connected to situations with their child. You are a fresh view, and that’s a blessing. I could see Cole was capable of much more than he was letting on, I could see he knew more but something was holding him back AND, I could also see how at times he was working both the school and my husband.

Admitting that you need help or that your child needs help, is no easy feat for some. With that in mind, imagine how it felt for me trying to persuade my husband into understanding (his son), our son needed help. Ours, was not a word he heard, he only heard, his, help, and failing. It was as if I was telling him Cole was damaged and it was his fault. He was against it all. Cole’s hesitance at least made sense because kids can be awful to anyone who learns differently, and he knew that. But, after my incessant pleas, we eventually approached the school about getting him into an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Coming from a place where I wasn’t directly or personally connected to a false sense of ownership, I could see this was a need not a fault, and it was in his best interest and would help him. And, luckily the school agreed.

The days of missing assignments, lies about homework, bad report cards, all the times Cole would say “I don’t know”, “I’m confused” or “I’m just dumb” were enough for all three of us to want to give up and run in separate directions. There were days I would go to work and cry because I was so frustrated, and felt like it would never change or get better. But, it did change. IT GOT BETTER. SO MUCH BETTER. The school has been incredibly instrumental and supportive along the way.

Cole was now not only getting the help he needed, but it fed his confidence and made him see he was capable of more, he did know more and understood more. He just needed to be expected to try by us, and then taught how to do things in a new way at school until eventually it all clicked. He will be a freshman next year and has all A’s and B’s this year so far. He had all D’s and F’s…even in PE. That’s how I knew this little turkey was capable of much more!

My point to this is, it may not be school you’re struggling with, and it may not be homework that your crying at work about. But whatever it is, if it’s going to benefit your child/stepchild, don’t quit advocating for it, even if it is with your spouse. The day you committed to your spouse, you committed to being a parent who looks out for and fights for the best interest of your children as a whole. You may start off as a fresh stepparent with no idea of how to parent differently than you did before blending your families. But, being new and fresh is a hidden gift in itself. You are a fresh set of eyes, ears and a fresh heart even, which is necessary when your new family may come with broken or bruised ones.

When I talked to Cole’s teacher the morning of our annual meeting she said somethings to me I will never forget, “He had such great things to say about you. He talks about you a lot and even shared you’re writing a book, he’s very proud of you, so you should know you’re doing great!” Yes, my little kiddo who used to battle me on everything was PROUD OF ME! It did feel great to know that as he’s making me proud, I’m making him proud too! And, I’m (just) his (Step)mom “technically”… So don’t think that restricts you from wanting and being more or doing better for your kiddos.

Keep fighting and love until it’s natural, you’ll be glad you did!

– Jess

No, you already have a mom.

If I am being honest with myself, I knew when he asked to call me mom, my answer was not coming from a kind and loving place. I knew I was coming from a “you already have a mom, and you are her responsibility, not mine” type of place. And, a place of “you are too much “work” for me.”

I still the remember the first time my stepson asked to call me mom, and I very curtly said no. The verbal playback from how I heard my response come out, the tone, the very evident feeling of repugnance behind it, and the visual of his reaction when he received my response – is a moment that I wish I could erase, for us both.

In the beginning we both felt like we were fighting for a place in his fathers life and neither of us were giving in. Imagine having your child ask if their friend can stay the night, then another night and another night – then moving in. Forever. During a single night sleepover, kids are endearing, quirky and fun even. If they misbehave or river-dance on your last nerve, you can breathe through it knowing they go home soon. But, when they never go home, because their home is now your home – that’s rough.

Listen, I know as you’re reading this you’re thinking I sound like an evil stepmom and let me tell you, I felt like an evil stepmom too! Additionally, I felt like I was being bullied, being a bully, being tested and testing, and failing miserably. Did I mention he was my son’s best friend? That I met my husband because they were best friends? I fell head over heels in love with a man, and gained a son – that I wasn’t head over heels in love with. At first.

If I am being honest with myself, I knew when he asked to call me mom, my answer was not coming from a kind and loving place. I knew I was coming from a “you already have a mom, and you are her responsibility, not mine” type of place. And, a place of “you are too much “work” for me.” Which translates to a child that they are not important enough to love. Because, would we not put in all the effort, every tireless hour, every bit of heart aching pain to help our biological children? Over and over again? So… essentially our own biological children deserve our unconditional love, but not a child who was not born from us? That’s awful. And, that was how I felt. At first.

One of the biggest misconceptions about being in a blended family is that you blend well. Think of an actual blender, the settings are: Blend/Stir, Shred/Beat, Grind/Puree, Mash/Chop, Liquefy/Whip, and Frappe/Mix. Those are some serious options just to blend something smoothly. I mean shoot, if I am making a margarita, I throw all the stuff in and press all the buttons praying they do the trick — and I’m quite certain that is exactly what I did in the beginning as a stepmom. And, with the lid off at least 50% of the time, because some days I wanted to make a mess, this uprooting in my life was a daily grind where I was being beat, shredded and liquefied to a point of tears. At first.

Babies and toddlers, they are one thing. They’re pliable, naive, and still young enough to create that sweet bond with. But at seven, their mannerisms and personality traits are primarily already set in place, and none are from you. You didn’t spend the past seven years teaching them how to walk, talk, count to 10, sing the alphabet, how to write their names and how to say I love you mommy. You weren’t able to share the values, morals, and lessons that you taught your own children either. Instead you inherited someone else’s values, morals and lessons all wrapped in a cute kiddo who you have to simply just accept because if you don’t you’re a horrible person. At first.

There was a day early on that made me very aware of the manipulation that could exist in the world of “I don’t want my dad to date you” (which was a super fun place to live, not at all). We were in the drive through at Carl’s Jr when my stepson saw an attractive girl taking our money at the window, and he says “my daddy calls her beautiful every time he talks to her “hi beautiful, thanks beautiful” every time” and he flashes this look and laughs. And, I laugh too (as I’m texting his dad asking who the girl at CJ is) through the moment and play it off. He just wanted me to leave, and he was too young to understand that by hurting me, he would hurt his father. But in that moment, none of get that – were all just fighting for scraps at the dinner table. He would flip flip though very rapidly, one minute he would try to break us apart, and the next he would want a hug and ask me if he could call me mom. Things I can now look back on and see very clearly. But then, I’ll be honest again, I didn’t have the type of heart that reminds itself this is a child, they do not mean it, it is their backstory causing this – in the moment. In the moment, I was mad, I was affected and I was annoyed. To me this kid was a disrespectful and needed discipline, at first.

A few months later, he asked to call me mom again, and this time we were not alone, it was in the car with his dad and both my children. Before I could respond, they both said “No she isn’t your mom.”, And, while his dad looked at me with that look of what do we say, when he heard how quickly my kids blew his son off – he was hurt too! It was a no win situation, and things were still choppy – but this time was little different, and I felt stuck. When a child asks to do something that another child in the same household does, it’s because they want to be the same, to be included, and to feel like part of the family. I was told once that if a child asks to call you mom or just does it on their own, and you have other children in the home, you are setting yourself up for failure by saying no – because you are then ostracizing your stepchild. Great! So basically I’ve been ostracizing him since the beginning, and now if I cave – my kids will be mad. Who do I please? Who is more important? Honest people will say their bio kids come first, goodhearted kind people will say it should be equal and so will your spouses. But that doesn’t always happen at first.

Just a side note about this, everything I’ve experienced as a stepmom, my husband has experienced as a stepdad too (my daughter who is 16 calls him dad now too actually). My two had their father involved at first – and he hated my husband for sheer fun. For me, it was a little easier in that my stepsons mom was really not in the picture. At that time her involvement and communication was minimal at best and she lived in another state. Basically, I was his mom, whether we liked it or not. His physicians, teachers and coaches all knew me as mom because none had ever met his “real” mom. So, as I am saying no, you can’t call me mom, they are telling him talk to your mom, and this poor kid is confused.

It was very clear my stepson was nothing like me, but there were definitely things about him that I started to love. He was and still is so great with little kids, he gets down on their level and is patient and kind with them. He loves to be with adults, and would prefer to hang with them then go outside and play. And, I learned very quickly (thank goodness) that he just craved love. He needed and wanted so much love – and here I was being an ass and saying no. Saying I have no room, no extra love to give, sorry not sorry. I couldn’t stop focusing on how much re-work I was having to do with him. Simple things like brushing his teeth, taking a shower, doing his homework, not lying (oh my goodness the lying!!!) his constant need to be glued to his dad at every moment – it was almost too much, almost every day. He was on an IEP in school because he needed help in most areas and my children were none of those things. They were good kids, easy kids. Because they were my kids. Looking back now I can see that while I did have really great kiddos, we let a lot slide because we don’t notice it the way you do with someone else’s child. And, that is what they are, someone else’s child – at first.

Around his first birthday with us as a family, I had a feeling he was going to again ask to call me mom. I knew this because his mom hadn’t called him in almost a year at this point. My husband asked me one thing when we first started dating, and that was to never contact her, that she had made her bed and to just let it go. Well, if you know the me from 7 years ago, letting anything go was a joke. So, one day after watching my stepson sit by the phone waiting for it to ring, I lost it and I broke that request. My insides were literally burning with fury, and the inability to understand and I wanted to know why she didn’t love him enough to call??? And, then I wanted to know why I care all of a sudden? Was it because I needed her to step up and be his mom so I didn’t have to, or was it because she was missing out on a phenomenal kid who just wanted her to love him? The real answer was a good mixture of both I suppose, at first.

I remember writing his mom, and I pissed her off (maybe you read the blog If I could have a word with you , which is all about that and technically my first love letter to my new son in a sense) and rightfully so because who was I coming in acting like I knew it all. But, after that talk, I took my children aside and had a talk with them. I asked them why they were so against him calling me mom, and I explained to them why I felt like the next time he asked, I wanted to not only say yes, but have them okay with it too. It was a great talk for all of us, and we walked away from that knowing that if he asked again, I would say yes, and things might be different, but nothing would change my being their mom.

I tell this story because not every stepparent/stepchild relationship is easy. There are times where both are wrong, both are hurt, both are guarded and both are selfish. Aside from writing about stepparent related stories and situations I don’t use the word step to describe him, he is just my son. His is not a stepbrother, he is just a brother – and even though his mom moved back here two years ago, I’m not his step mom, I’m just his mom. He hasn’t stopped calling me mom since, and I’ve worked my butt off to earn that title, and he has my love unconditionally and equally always. We still have our moments, he will be 14 in a week and I will tell you that back then, I never thought we’d make it here but there is something really special about resilient love – and God knew we both needed the other. We just didn’t realize it at first.