Visiting With An Old Friend
“Several years ago, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, and although I was getting out of my car as she was getting into hers, I KNEW God was prompting me to spend time with her. She mentioned going to lunch so I asked if she wanted to grab something to eat and jumped right back in the driver’s seat. Turns out, we had SO much to catch up on and I was so grateful for the chance to hear about everything going on in her life.
She asked how things were going with my stepdaughter and if I’m being honest here, I wasn’t feeling super positive that day. I tend to be brutally honest, and as I was talking (okay, mostly complaining), I noticed her eyes start to swell up with tears. I immediately stopped, asked her what was wrong, and what she said next changed everything for me as a stepmom.
She told me she’s a stepchild and even after all these years, hearing me talk about the situation with my stepdaughter was very hurtful for her because of the old, yet still painful feelings it brought up. I was told it upset her hearing me talk about my stepdaughter like she was an outsider in my family. As a child, all she ever wanted was to be her stepdad’s ‘real’ kid so she could feel like she truly belonged in her family. Her mother and stepdad had a child together who was many years younger than her, but she saw how different they were with ‘their child’ when she was at her mom’s house.
To make matters worse, her mother and biological father had a very strained relationship. Because of this, my friend instinctively felt that when her mother looked at her, she saw her father and possibly even regretted bringing her into this world with him. The worst part of all is that having an awesome relationship with her stepdad didn’t spare her from this painful experience. To this day, she still has a hard time talking about it.
In a matter of three minutes, my heart was shattered into a million pieces. It’s one thing for me to ‘put myself in someone else’s shoes,’ but sitting next to someone and physically witnessing such deep, tangible pain… that’s a whole different experience. I had been asking God to help me empathize better with my stepdaughter. He delivered most unexpectedly and it WRECKED me for the rest of the day.
A Heart-to-Heart With My Stepdaughter
That night when my stepdaughter got home, I told her to come to my bedroom so I could talk to her. I took her hands and held them in mine, looked her dead in the eye, and said, ‘Look, I know sometimes you might feel like you don’t fit in when you come here. And that you don’t belong in this family because you aren’t your dad and I’s kid like your brother is. But I want you to know right now, YOU ARE MY DAUGHTER and there’s nothing you can do to stop my love for you.
I continued, ‘THIS IS YOUR REAL FAMILY and you belong here 100%. I love you just as much as I love your brother. Yes, it’s different but you better believe my love for you is just as strong. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you and if you ever start to feel like you don’t fit in at this house, I want you to come to me. I need you to know in your heart that you always belong here. With your Dad. With your brother. With me. With your family. I need you to trust that no matter what.’ I don’t think I have ever seen more relief come over a child’s face. I held her and we cried together.
Why You SHOULD Act Like Their Mom
The experts all tell you, ‘Don’t act like your stepkid’s mom because they already have one!’ Well, you know what? I politely and completely disagree. Do you know why? My stepdaughter WANTS to be my daughter when she’s at our house. Not because she wants to replace her mother. Not because she likes me better than her mother or wants me to be her mother when she’s here, but because SHE WANTS TO FEEL LIKE SHE TRULY BELONGS in our family.
She longs for me to love and adore her the way she sees me love and adore my boys. I’ve seen the warmth flood her cheeks when a stranger asks about my kids and I point out that she is my stepdaughter. She doesn’t want to be the outsider or singled out. She doesn’t want to be reminded of the fact her parents can’t even be in the same room while her brothers have this perfect little family with two parents who are happily in love. IT HURTS HER. She doesn’t want to live in a house where another child is more special or more ‘family’ than she is.
So no, I don’t want to step on any toes but I mean honestly, would any mother ever want her child to live in a house where they are treated as anything less than REAL family? Just the thought of my boys feeling like they don’t truly belong in their own family devastates my heart. Never in my LIFE will I discourage my stepchild’s relationship or bond with her mother, but I will not take a step back from mothering this child when she’s here out of fear of hurting the feelings of grown ADULTS.
The only feelings I need to be worried about are the ones inside an innocent little girl’s heart, who has already had to do way too much growing up, way too fast. Even though I fail miserably at times, I am proud to say I act like my stepdaughter’s mother when she’s here, even if I don’t truly feel that way. Not because I want to. Not because I have to. But because nothing is as devastating to the human heart as feeling like you don’t belong.
You will always belong here, daughter.”
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