I have the wonderful advantage of experiencing first time motherhood in two very different ways. When I was pregnant with my son people would ask me, “Oh, is this your first?” And I would have such trouble answering that question, because, well, yes, and no. He is my first biological child and this was my first pregnancy, but no, Jack isn’t my first child.
The story of how I fully became a bonus mom (a term that I LOVE from another blogger on this site) is long and sweet, complicated and wonderful, but I’ll give you the very abridged version here.
I met the girls when they were in elementary school, young and curious and full of questions. One of our first outings in the beginning was a trip to Sonic during one of Todd’s rugby games, when the oldest looks at me between sips of milkshake and says, “I know you and Daddy are dating, but he isn’t going to marry you because you’re just a teenager.”
She and I still laugh about that, how protective and no nonsense she was, and how sure she was that I wasn’t going to last. She was testing me. She did it a few times. So did the younger one. She ran away from me on our first vacation together. Walking back from the beach, she bolted away, leaving me shouting after her with armfuls of beach chairs and towels, terrified that she wasn’t going to make it the block back to the house (even though I could see her the whole way).
There were a lot of times when I wasn’t sure what to do, honestly, and I would agonize over every conversation we had, every moment we shared. I was intimidated by their pretty mother, and scared to death that if I did or said the wrong thing, they would hate me forever and I would lose Todd too. And I think that was parenting lesson #1, that we’re all doing the best we can and that worrying means we care deeply about the lives we are shaping every day through our words and actions. No pressure, right?!
Fast forward about 5 years, and we have made many wonderful memories, supported each other through hard times, grown together, strengthened our family with love and trust, and even added a new family member into the mix. They introduced me to feelings all parents have at different points– overwhelming pride when they try their best, absolute joy when they get excited, devastating pain when they hurt physically or emotionally because all you want to do is fix it. Parenthood isn’t always rainbows and flowers, but maybe that’s parenting lesson #2: life is messy and beautiful, but your family gets you through it.
I remember several key moments … the first time the oldest told me she loved me; the first time the youngest kissed me on the cheek. I remember crying both times because it was so genuine and sweet. They’re teenagers now, and they constantly challenge me to be a better, stronger person. Their pure love for me teaches me so much, and my love for them motivates me to be a strong, kind, steady woman who tries to be a good example for them. They don’t have to love me, they don’t even really have to like me, but they constantly show me that they do by trusting me with their secrets, celebrating me on Mother’s Day, giving me the best snuggles and compliments, and just choosing to accept me into their family.
The best moments of my life center around my children. The first happened our wedding day. After the ceremony, the girls ran and tackled me with a giant bear hug, both crying, saying how happy they were that I was officially their stepmom. That moment of pure love and happiness shared among the three of us ranks equally with the moment I saw my baby boy for the first time.
And I love that I get both.
I love that I have this sweet baby who is constantly changing from day to day. I get to be part of his entire childhood, watching him learn to walk and talk and become a little person. And I have these two teenagers who I have watched grow from little girls into young ladies, still full of questions and wonder, learning who they are and who they want to become.
I get baby talk, and I get serious conversations and funny chats about the latest news with the girls or how uncool I am when I try to rap (or just how I’m generally uncool). I get to pick out cute outfits for the little man, and I get to wrestle my clothes away from the oldest after she raids my closet every time she visits. I get poopy diapers and poopy mean-ager attitudes. I get slobbery baby kisses and snuggles, and then good strong hugs and I love yous from two girls who are almost taller than me these days.
And I wouldn’t trade one single second of it. Parenting lesson #3: it’s the best.