I am a step-mother.
And no, not in the Disney way.
But in the kind of way I would want my own children treated by another woman if they ever had to raise them with or for me.
More appropriately, I am a step-mom.
I am an incredibly blessed and lucky step-mom.
When Michael and I first began dating a million years ago, we both thought it best to hold off with meeting his then young children until we were sure our relationship was a long-term thing. He wanted to make sure I was the kind of woman he would want loving and helping raise his children, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t get sucked into a life that, to be honest, I was not exactly sure was made for me. I had a gripping fear of falling in love with such little people, with such tender hearts, that could be terribly hurt if we were to break up.
This is a decision I am so thankful we made.
Finally, when we were both ready, and we felt the children would be ready, Michael introduced his two beautiful babies to his ‘friend’ Toni. (Side note: my step-kids are incredibly smart, perceptive, and other than J adorably informing his father of his intentions to one day marry me, they saw through this ‘friend’ label faster than we thought.) Nothing could have prepared me for this moment or the million amazing and rewarding moments that would follow.
I had heard horror story, after horror story of hard, terrorizing, wicked and evil step-children/step-parent situations, and to say I was apprehensive about the whole thing would have been and understatement.
But I hit the freaking JACKPOT of step-children.
J was outgoing, loud, funny and attached himself to me quite comfortably, quite quickly. Always making sure to put a smile on my face, J’s heart is bigger than most full-grown men I have met and for that I am forever thankful.
M was a different story. When I met her, she was roughly 9 going on 40, wise beyond her years with view of the world that was a little bit different than J’s.
Slow to let in, M is an introvert by nature. Quiet, sweet, and observant, she slowly warmed to me. As I am an extrovert (SHOCKER!) by nature, and grew up in very big and loud family, this was a bit of a learning curve for me, but over time we found our groove.
Fast-forward to present day where M is my partner-in-crime and go-to girl for all things from car-ride singalongs to balancing out the testosterone/estrogen levels in our home. We share secrets, the latest gossip, nail polish and a love for shopping. More intricate than sisters, much different than mother-daughter, more fulfilling than I could have imagined, I wouldn’t trade what we have for anything.
A few years ago, my brilliant, intelligent and driven M was approached to participate in a European student-exchange program that would grant her the opportunity to host a student here and then spend three months in France. While the trip was a few years off yet, her early acceptance into the program (THAT’S how brilliant she is!) was cause for excitement, commotion, and tears of both joy and worry. We were so proud.
Our exchange student arrived this past August and fit right into our beautifully-blended family without missing a step. C was loud, loving, happy and most of all fabulous. We laughed (A LOT), shared tears of anxiety about her having to leave us, and grew together as a family with the experience.
In the days approaching M’s departure, I found it hard to sleep, hard to talk about her trip without tearing up, and my nerves, frankly, were shot. The drive to the airport was no different, and neither were the moments leading up to us having to let her go through her gate. I’m not quite sure which one of us was struggling with the reality of THREE whole months apart from our normal lives more – M or I – but watching her say goodbye to her two closest girlfriends, her boyfriend, dad, brother, step-dad and mom, made me want to grab her and make a run for the car, James Bond style. My inner monologue kept reminding me how amazing this experience was going to be for her, that she would be reunited with C, that she would never have this opportunity again, that it’s FRANCE…no amount of reasoning calmed me down, but it did allow me to hug her tightly, remind her how proud of her I was, tell her I loved her and then let her go.
While my composure only lasted until I was tightly strapped in for the return home, my pride in her bravery definitely has. I’m not sure high school me would have had the guts to take such a trip.
Yesterday we celebrated our M’s two month anniversary in France and it being only a few short weeks away from her return. I’ve already begun planning that week’s shopping trip to include all of her favourites and fully anticipate a request for dinner at Ye’s Sushi.
M, we can’t wait to hug you. We miss you a ridiculous amount.