As most of you know, I’m a step parent. The LG (Little Guy) came into my life not long after he turned 4. I love him dearly. He’s almost 10 now...unbelievable. Being a step parent is not without challenges. Parenting of any form has challenges. He is with us 50% of the time and that boils down to every other day during the week and then every other weekend (F, S, S). It’s nice to have the pattern and to see him so much. I will write more about step parenting on this blog in the future but right now I want to address why being a step parent makes me feel like a fraud.
I’m very involved in the LG’s life. I don’t know how not to be. It’s very easy for me to fall into a parenting roll when he’s with us. I worry about him all the time. I worry if kids at school are picking on him because of his slight speech impairment (he has trouble with the letter R). I worry about whether or not he’s getting enough sleep and what he’s eating and drinking. I worry that something is wrong when he sleeps late on the weekend. He’s a heart patient and his doctor says that he’s the picture of health, but still....I worry.
I also do other “motherly” things. I cook for him, I pack his lunch, I do his laundry, I help with homework, I try to teach him things, I hug him when he’s sad, I laugh at his silly jokes, I attend some school functions, I go to school meetings, I go to all sporting events, I scrapbook for him, I buy him clothes and toys, I take him out to eat and to the movies and to hockey games. I also do the not so fun things like tell him to hurry up and eat his dinner because it’s getting late, tell him to scoop the litter, to clean his bathroom, to throw his trash away, to put his clothes in the laundry basket...all those things that his future wife will thank me for later. Basically, I’m trying to teach him to be responsible, courteous of others, have some initiative and how to be independent. These things are not easy to accomplish since his mother does not make him do much of anything. That is a topic for another post.
When I’m at a scrapbooking event and people ask me about my pictures I have to say that the child in them is my stepson. I sometimes wonder if they think it’s strange that I have so many photos of him and that I’m taking such pride in making the scrapbook when he’s not “my” child. I wonder if they think I’m going a little overboard since he’s not “mine”. I wonder if they think it’s odd that I’m doing this for him instead of “just having my own”. If only they knew.
When I do all of these things, I feel like a Mom. I feel the love, the pride, the angst, the worry, the disappointment (sometimes), the joy, the excitement...all of it. But he’s not mine. He never will be. I wonder if I'm too attached. Am I too involved? Am I stepping over my bounds as a step parent? I wonder how his mother feels sometimes when she knows how involved I am. I know that if I were in her shoes I’d be happy that someone loved my child but I’d also want her back off a little (a lot??) sometimes.
I have all these parenting duties and feelings and then time and time again I’m slapped in the face with the fact that he’s not mine and that I’m not his mother. It’s like I’m playing House and pretending to be the Mom. The LG loves me, I know that. He’s very sweet and very affectionate and when BJ and I are playing around (wrestling) he comes to my defense. We are allies when BJ is in one of his moods and we stick together when one of us is feeling down and out. He never intentionally makes me feel like I’m second best, but I know that I am. He has a mother. She is very involved in his life, too, of course. I’m glad that she is but at the same time it just kills me to be the 3rd wheel of the parenting vehicle.
I had a very bitter sweet moment a couple of weeks ago when his mother was out of town. There was an event at school for kids and their moms. Since she was not available, he asked me to go. I was thrilled to be there. I also felt very out of place. There were moms and kids all around us and I knew I didn’t really belong and the only reason I was there was because the real mom was away.
Sometimes when the 3 of us are out together everyone assumes that he is mine. We have almost the same color hair and we both have blue eyes so it’s a natural assumption. People will say, “and what is mom having?” or “how does his hair look, mom?” (when he’s getting a haircut). Sometimes I ‘fess up but other times it’s just easier to go with the flow. I’ve explained my reasoning to him about why I don’t always tell people and he’s ok with it, or so he says. In the back of my mind I’m wishing that I never had to confess the truth.
I feel like a fake. I feel like I have no right to be so involved and so attached and so invested in this child. However, I just can’t help myself. I love him and I care about him and for him and who he is and who he will become. He will be the only child I will ever get the chance to parent. There are times when I tell myself that I’m going to take a step (or 10) back and just let BJ do the parenting. That doesn’t usually last very long because I just can’t seem to help myself.
And the burning question is: Would I still have all of these feelings if I were able to have or already had my own child? Would I be as attached to him? Would I be as involved? Would I feel like such a fraud if I mothered him right along with mothering my own child? That is another post waiting to be written.