The Stepmom Struggle

Saturday, February 14 |

Originally uploaded by juicyjuerguista

I remember the first time I met my stepmom. Dad took us (me and my siblings) to her apartment. I remember not saying too much and being very aware of my surroundings: the pink paint on the wall, the feminine furniture arranged just so, the young girl quietly sitting on the couch and the pretty woman standing up to welcome us into her house.

The woman seemed nice enough and her daughter was cute, but I did not want to be invovled in my dad's love life after he and my mother got divorced. I was probably fourteen at the time of the meeting, and I quickly figured out that my father had strong feelings for this woman. It was easy for me to accept that, because neither my mom nor my dad introduced us to anyone for a significant amount of time after the divorce; besides, both of my parents seemed to be better off apart than together, so I had no secret desire for them to remarry.

I am usually a friendly and accepting person, but this was a little complicated. I almost felt that by trusting this new person I was being disloyal to my mom. My mom and dad did a great job being respectful toward each other when the kids were around, so I never felt pressured to choose. I looked at this woman and I saw grace, poise, intelligence and determination, and I liked and respected those qualities, but why did she have to be so different from my mom? The woman had a fair complexion; my mom had darker skin. The new woman wore glasses; my mom did not. This woman did not dress like my mom, smile like my mom, or cook like my mom. Yes, even I knew at the time that those were superficial differences and not justifications to dislike someone, but inside I felt torn. “Did my dad choose her because he no longer loved my mom and wanted to be with someone completely different?”, I asked myself. My first impulse was to like her and to try to get to know her, but I made a conscious effort to be suspicious of her and her motives. I knew she was not evil and that if my dad loved her it was for a good reason, but just because she was good to him did not mean that she would like us.

Soon after that, our every-other-weekend visitations now included the woman – Patricia – and her daughter. I associated her presence with the reason we, his children, were getting shafted. My mother picked up a second job and was really tired when she came home, and my dad sometimes canceled his visitations at the last minute. I became a little angry with my dad, feeling he no longer loved us as much as he used to; I also started to blame Pat, because he had replaced us with her. I knew that it was not her fault, but I believed that she would never be able to love us as her own. Sometimes, I felt like she looked down on me; I could sense her frustration at some of my actions and figured that she cared, but just did not like me.

For example, one night she cooked dinner for us. She asked each person if they wanted the skin on or off the chicken. Of course, I wanted the skin on. I thought she was a good cook, but she tried so hard to make the food extra healthy. Her spaghetti was ok, but she put too many carrots in it (I mean, give me break; carrots don’t even belong in spaghetti sauce in the first place). I wondered if my dad left my mom because she had gained weight. Maybe Pat looked at me and thought I needed to lose weight too. When the dinner was finished, it smelled good and I was really hungry. Everyone made their own plates and sat down at the table. I bit into the chicken and it was delicious, but I realized that it did not have the skin on it. Instantly, guilt washed over me as I thought of how I'd insisted that Pat leave the skin on my piece, and now I’d grabbed her piece without even thinking about it. I wanted to apologize, but I felt too embarrassed, and I continued eating it without any mention of grabbing the wrong piece.

That memory still haunts me today. While Pat was being so considerate and asking me how I wanted my chicken prepared, while she was standing in the kitchen alone, cooking dinner for her new family, while she was accepting of my nutritional choices, but wanted to cut the fat from her own diet, I was judging her as guilty of being too critical and controlling. When I realized my fault, I did not have the guts to apologize or even acknowledge my mistake. I’m sure there were many times that my inconsideration hurt my relationship with Pat, I mean hurt her, but how will I ever know? I love her dearly, but I don't know if asking her to list my trepasses is a good idea. Besides, she never seems to get angry with me. She has not once said that she was upset with me or tried to discipline me. She met me when I was a teenager; can you imagine how hard it is to accept the shortcomings of a teenager without setting any boundaries and still love them unconditionally?

Later, my dad proposed to Pat. He asked us kids to stand up in the wedding. I was honored that he asked, but it did not feel right. I decided that I would say no, but the next thing I know, we were being measured for dresses. Although I was a little upset, I knew it would work out, and now, I am grateful to have been in the wedding. I finally saw my stepmom in a different light. I learned that she is warm, generous, patient and fun. She shared her excitement of getting married with me, and I felt like she was becaming a part of my family. I enjoyed the special times we shared, like when we listened to the soundtrack to West Side Story, one of my all-time favorite movies. I felt really special to be able to watch her get ready on the day of the wedding; when you get married, you want to surround yourself with the people closest to you. That day helped to solidify us as family. Though our relationship is not perfect, I love what it has turned into. Thank you, stepmommy; I will always love you!


curiousmind said...

it's ok, I know the woman understands you.. ;)

LL&L said...

I hope so. I think it is time to talk to her about our relationship so that I can forgive myself.