Saturday, May 5, 2012
A Stepmum's Mother's Day
Although I wrote this article many years ago, with Mother's Day just around the corner it seems rather appropriate to post it once again in the I hope that it will speak to those of you who have a conflicted relationship with one or more of your stepchildren.
Mother’s Day isn’t usually the most favourite day of the year for those of us who are stepmothers. The Mother’s Day just passed is one, however, that I will put into my memory bank as a very special occasion.
Although I was the happy recipient of lovely flowers and precious gifts, it isn’t those things that will linger in my memory. What I will however take along with me for the remainder of my life’s journey are a few words presented to me on a small gift card. Words I had longed to hear throughout the many difficult years of being “mother” to my husband’s two boys (my stepsons). Words that could have made the stepparenting experience less frustrating and more rewarding. Words, that I had almost given up on ever hearing from one of the boys who was instrumental in making the best part of my stepparenting years a living hell. What a lovely surprise it was to receive them after all these years - words of appreciation, of thanks and yes, even of love. It is amazing what power is contained in these few words. They have the ability to soften the memory of the harsh reality of our many struggles, the almost daily confrontations, anger, anguish and tears. They enable me to see his unwillingness to “fit in” more as a genuine inability; his rebellion against everything and everyone (especially me) as an expression of the deep unhappiness, powerlessness and pain of loss that he seemed to feel far more acutely than his brother. These wonderful words even help me lay to rest the remnant of guilt that occasionally rears its ugly head, telling me if only I had been kinder, more understanding, more patient, more loving, things might have been different. Isn’t it extraordinary how sometimes a few simple words can achieve what no amount of rational and logical thinking can? These words also show me how time can be a stepparent’s best friend. Time has not only softened me in many important ways, blessed me with patience which had been a complete stranger to me in my younger years, but also freed me from many of the unrealistic expectations I had of myself, my partner, my children (step-and natural) and of life in general. Additionally, it enabled me to figure out who I am and where I fit in this world, which has helped me become quite a different, more understanding, kinder and more loving person. Simultaneously, time has taught my stepson lessons which nothing else could have taught him. He learnt that life is tough, that every cause is followed by effect, that every human being is capable of making mistakes and that no one is perfect. He has found out that mother love can come in all sorts of packages and that even father’s suggestions can be useful on occasion. And best of all, as time goes on so does our learning. What a privilege it is to see him grapple with new realisations.
No doubt my stepson and I will face more difficult moments. But no matter what the future holds, nothing will take away from the joy, pleasure and delight I experienced as I was reading his heartfelt words of appreciation, thanks and love. I don’t expect his words to remove all stones from our rocky relationship path, but I do believe that their incredible power can cement the foundation we were able to lay some time ago of a happier adult connection; and if nothing else they confirm the sneaking suspicion I have long held that all the years I invested in stepparenting this child have not been in vain.
About the author:
Sonja Ridden is the parent of two stepsons who came into her life at two and three years of age. Without any parenting experience and with one of the boys suffering from severe ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a diagnosis that was later changed to Bipolar Disorder) she found stepparenting a very difficult struggle. Through her many years of stepparenting Sonja initially suffered from, and eventually learnt to deal with, every emotion commonly experienced by stepparents. Her stepmothering journey is described in her book "Hell...p, I Am A Stepmother". For more information on this book, click here.