As you know, I read the book The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Actually it’s a trilogy of books. And as I’ve stated before, it’s about these four friends and their many adventures during their summer break from school.
One of the girls, Carmen, spends each of the three summers dealing with the people in her family. Her parents divorced when she was little. And since then she has been living with her mother and visiting her father (or him visting her). Up until the summer just before her 16th birthday she thought things were pretty good. Her mom really hadn’t dated anybody so it had always been just the two of them; hanging out, being friends, confiding in each other. And she was the apple of her father’s eye. He hadn’t remarried either and she really enjoyed going to stay with him in his apartment and going to movies and dinner and whatever else. Just Carmen and her dad.
But in the first book, Carmen’s dad surprises her. When she went to visit him for the summer she discovered that not only did he know have a girlfriend, but he was engaged to be married and Carmen was going to have a new step-brother and step-sister. Needless to say, Carmen did not handle this “surprise” very well. But by the end of the summer she had come to grips [and even began to like] her new family.
In the second book, the summer before Carmen’s 17th birthday, her mom fell in love with a new man from work. And Carmen was extremely jealous. She did not like her mom spending time with somebody else and not being home when Carmen got home. Carmen was so jealous, she even broke up her mom’s relationship. But by the end of the book, Carmen decided to take the right path and surprised everybody when she mended the relationship between her mom, Christina, and David…and her relationship with her mom.
In the third book, Christina and David were married. And within just a few chapters, Carmen finds out [on her own] that her mother is pregnant. She is very upset  that her mom didn’t tell her and  that her mom will forget all about her when the baby comes. She imagines the baby is going to be a girl and they will move this baby girl in to her room when Carmen goes off to school. Carmen is [once again] extremely jealous. But, of course, by the end of the book, Carmen decides to do the right things and is even excited about the baby [a boy].
I can totally relate to Carmen. My parents divorced when I was five. I don’t remember much about that time. I don’t remember my parents fighting or anything. I was only five years old after all. But I do remember my mom telling me they were getting divorced. At least I think so. My memories may be a little distorted since it was so long ago, and I was so young. But I remember my mom telling me they weren’t going to live together anymore. I don’t remember my dad being there, so he may have been at work or something. I think she told me that she was going to move out and I was going to live with my dad, but I’m not positive [but that is what happened]. When she told me I cried. She gave me a bath. And I cried. I was so sad that my mom and my dad weren’t going to live together anymore. Every single child wants to grow up with both their mom and their dad. But sometime it just doesn’t happen.
My mom traveled a lot with her job and my dad didn’t, so together they made the decision that I would live with my dad and visit my mom regularly. Within a year or so, mom moved from the midwest to the east coast. But she still called me at least weekly. And I visited her every Spring Break and every summer. And she came back to town for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
My parents really got along quite well. After they were divorced I don’t remember them fighting either. I’m sure they disagreed about some things, but I don’t remember a single time that I heard them disagree or argue or anything. And both them came to every single event that was important to me. My dad picked me up from my Grandma’s house every Christmas Eve and he stayed for quite a while to chit chat with my mom and her family. Both of them were at my high school graduation. They were both at my weddings; both of my weddings. They even discussed my weddings together during the planning stages. They were the perfect divorced parents.
When I was around seven years old, my dad asked my future [but now ex] step-mother to marry him. I remember the day he told me. We went to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house [I assume so dad and Linda could share their news]. But before dad told them he took me on a little walk. He took me up to the park and we walked around for a while. That wasn’t unusualy. Dad and I spent a lot of time together. But then he dropped the bombshell on me. He told me he asked Linda to marry him and he asked “if I was ok with that.” For the longest time [in my little kid brain], I thought he was asking my permission. I was quite honored that he wanted my permission to marry her. And she wasn’t half bad. So I said “sure.” Now I know he wasn’t asking my permission. He was just trying to see how I was going to react. But it was good to think my opinion mattered as a child. Up until that point I was the “woman” in his life.
As the years passed, I decided that was a bad decision. But by then it was too late.
It’s not that I hated Linda. She’s not a bad person. In fact, she’s really a very nice person [most of the time]. But she was a horrible step-mother. She just didn’t know how to embrace somebody else’s child. And I don’t mean embrace physically. But I never felt at home after dad and Linda got married.
Especially after my brother and sister were born.
Up until 7th grade I was an only child. On both my mom and dad’s side. I was it. I was an only child to divorced parents. I was spoiled rotten. And it was good.
I was extremely close to my dad. He raised me after all. He combed my hair. He made me spam sandwiches for my school lunch. He went to my parent/teacher conferences. He knew all of my friends. He was awesome.
I was also very close to my mom. I didn’t see her very often, but I talked to her all the time. And I considered her not only my mom, but my friend. I confided in her a lot. And I always felt like she really listened to me. And stood up for me.
So I was pretty darn happy. And then it sucked.
I don’t want to make it sound like my childhood was shit. Because it wasn’t I really had a good childhood. And Linda was a stay at home mom who made us three course meals for dinner every night. That was a far cry from those spam sandwiches.
But although she was a good person, I never felt like she was my mother. Not that I was looking for another mother. I already have a mother, but I was looking for the next best thing. She was the mother figure in my life. The one I saw every day. The one I would have to talk to when I eventually needed tampons or other feminine issues. But she never looked at me as her child.
I’m sure some stepkids would have liked it that way. They wouldn’t want their stepmom to be too attached. But I wasn’t one of those kids. I wanted to feel like we were one big happy family. I didn’t want her to replace my mom. But I wanted her to be like a second mom. And she couldn’t give that to me.
And then once my brother and sister were born, I saw that she truly did know how to be a mother. She just chose not to feel that way towards me.
I’m not saying she’s a bitch because she couldn’t do that. Now that I am a stepmother myself, I understand how difficult it is to feel a connection with a child that is not yours. Being a stepmom is the hardest job I’ll ever have. Even harder then just being a mom, I think. Because your stepkid is more resistant then your birth kids. And you don’t have that initial tie to your stepkids. They didn’t grow inside of you. You most likely didn’t see their first smile or their first steps. Somebody else raised that child and now you are there to just follow suit and do the best you can.
Growing up there were pictures of my brother and sister all over our house. In our famiy room there were big 11×14 photos of my brother and sister when they were one year old. On the headboard in dad and Linda’s room were many framed photographs of dad and Linda together and my brother and my sister, but none of me. When I was in high school we had a family picture taken at church. And I was in that photo. And that photo was on top of a tall bookshelf. A 5×7. That was about it for pictures of me.
And when we went to visit Linda’s parents I never really felt like “one of the grandkids.” I think they tried to make me feel that way, but it was still obvious I was not a real kid. I remember one Christmas we went there and my brother and sister and Linda’s two kids all got something…money or something…and I didn’t get it. I got a couple of ugly turtlenecks from Linda’s brother. But at that point I didn’t care that they were ugly. I was just so happy that he had gotten me something. At least somebody realized I was there. I was pretty upset by that. I know I told my mom about it and my mom talked to my dad about it. After that I hardly ever went with dad and Linda to her parents house.
When I was a senior in high school Linda told me that if I ever got pregnant [presumably without being married] that I would be disowned. I was not even pregnant at the time. I had had sex by that point and I believe my dad knew that [I'm not sure though], but I wasn’t pregnant. I didn’t even have a steady boyfriend at that time. I was pretty upset when she told me that too. And again I told my mom who then told my dad. My dad took me aside one day and told me there would never be a day that I would be disowned. Even if I was hurting myself or my siblings, I would not be disowned. He would find me help. But he would never stop being my dad.
Honestly, I think my dad is pretty protective of me. I don’t want to say I’m his favorite or anything, but I am [just kidding Le and Kyria...of course, dad loves us all the same.] But he did raise me. All by himself. And back in the day [but not that long ago because I AM NOT OLD], it was extremely rare for a dad to raise a kid on his own. Especially a daughter. And I think dad takes great pride in the fact that I turned out so well. [I did turn out well damn it. Stop snickering.]
By my freshman year in college there was some tension in my house. I had dropped out of college and moved back in. And I know that pissed Linda off because she was thinking they that now that I was gone they would just be one big happy familiy. No more Christine intrusion. No more me taking up dad’s time. And I know she wanted my sister to move in to my room. But here I was getting in her way again.
Linda and I just were not seeing eye to eye and it was really frustrating to my dad. And I really think it was mostly Linda’s fault [but then I am a little biased]. There was even one night where dad went storming out of the house after yelling with Linda [about me]. After a while, when he didn’t come back I left too. I wasn’t going to stay there. With her. Without him. I went to my friend Rachel’s house and her dad drove me to my grandma’s house. However, I then walked from my grandma’s house to my boyfriend’s house…but we’ll just leave that part out when we recount this story to my dad. So anyway, I didn’t go home until morning. And dad was home by then.
A few months after that we all decided it would be best if I moved out and got my own apartment. I’m sure it was Linda’s idea, but I was ready to be on my own with my own rules anyway. So I’m sure feeling a little guilty, my dad found me an apartment and paid the deposit and first month’s rent.
And we were all happy.
Well at least until I got pregnant. And I wasn’t married. But I wasn’t living with dad and Linda either. So she could just fuck herself. And I say that in the nicest of terms.
Let’s just say Linda was not thrilled.
When Keaton was just four months old, we were all at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Christmas. My Grandma was sitting in her chair, Grandpa in his. I had Keaton on a blanket on the floor and my dad and I was playing with him. I think Linda was in the kitchen. My sister [who was almost four at the time] came over and was playing with us too. And then she goes “My mom doesn’t like your baby.” Right to my face. Right in front of my grandparents. I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned. Obviously she had heard that from the fucking bitch in the kitchen. And I was pissed. I wanted to cry. Now it was confirmed. She was not my stepmother. She never wanted to be an anything mother to me. She had no connection to me. She didn’t like my baby. She didn’t like me.
My dad quickly changed the subject and I don’t believe we have ever spoken of it since.
But you better believe I remember it like it was yesterday.
Six years ago when my dad left Linda, she decided she wanted to be my friend. But I decided it was too little too late. I was nice to her though. I’m still not really sure why she ever thought that I could be somebody she could confide in. But she started to call me and talk to me about my dad and how upset she was that he left her. And blah, blah, blah. And I had just given birth to Skyler & Spencer so she wanted to bring the kids to town so they could meet my new twins. And when she came over she brought them gifts and some old receiving blankets of mine that she still had. That was really very nice. But I was still not fooled. I knew she was just trying to get close to me because she thought it would be a way to get my dad back.
But it didn’t work. They are now divorced. And I haven’t talked to Linda in years. I do still talk to my dad regularly though. And I still see my brother and sister a couple of times a year too. I see my sister more because she is still young and still in to hanging out with our “uncool” [just kidding dad...you are always cool in my book] dad. My brother just graduated from high school and is going to college and working. Plus he plays guitar and he has his own car now. Although I’m not very close to them, I’m thrilled that I have a little brother and sister. Oddly, I never really felt jealous about them. I mean not jealous to the point that I was mad at them. I was just jealous that Linda
wouldn’t couldn’t give me the love that she gave to them.
So that, my friend’s, is why I parent Justis the way I do. Because, long story short, I never felt like a part of my family. And I never, ever want Justis to feel that way. He is very much a part of this family. He already has a mother, so I am his stepmother. But to me, he is my son. I have five children who I love equally. This is his home. That is his room. And he can put up whatever pictures he wants. And when we put famiy photos up, he’s in them. Because he is, well, family. When we plan family activities, he is part of them. And if I saw one of my relatives treating him like he wasn’t familiy, I would tell them and make sure it doesn’t happen again. A stepchild may only visit on weekends, but he’s still a child nonetheless. And I won’t have any of my kids feeling less.