Dear Stepsons, I Love You More Than You Will Ever Know

Dear Stepsons,

I guess it shouldn't surprise me that not everyone thinks stepparents are the best thing (I know that, sometimes, you don't either). I also confess that I've had moments when assuming I could be a good stepmom was the absolute wrong step. You're both grown and out of the house now, so it's too late for a do-over, but there were many times when you were growing up that I would ask myself, "What the hell am I thinking?"

What was I thinking when I married your dad and took on two little boys who never wanted their parents to get divorced in the first place, let alone never asked for a new stepmom and sister? You may now find it amusing to know that I usually had these what-the-hell-was-I-thinking moments when one of you would say something to me like "My mom's meatloaf is better," "But my mom said I could," and, my personal favorite, "You're not my mom." Touché, boys. I probably deserved that last one for flying into your lives uninvited and many times after.

Looking back, if I had been either one of you, I would have been upset, too. I would have missed my mom so much every time I went to my dad's house, I would have resented having to share my dad with a new sister, and I would have especially hated sharing him with a new stepmom. I probably couldn't have dealt with it the way you did. In fact, most of your actions over the years have blown me away.

If I had been you, I don't know if I would have been able to hug my stepmom every night before bedtime, listen to her tell stories, or keep from rolling my eyes every time someone mistook her for my real mom. Confession: while it might have annoyed you, it never really bothered me. What can I say? It's not exactly an insult to be mistaken for your mom.

When you were growing up, I know it bothered you that some of your friends didn't understand your blended family. I used to get extremely frustrated when other adults in our lives couldn't seem to grasp it either, so I'm sure dealing with it as a kid was hard on a level I'll never understand.

I've thought a lot about why some people react with thinly veiled surprise when they discover your dad and I love you boys and your sister as if we all started out together. I like to blame it on the classic Disney movie effect. This isn't Cinderella, and I'm not an evil stepmother. No matter how many times movies and literature depict stepmoms as crazy women who marry men for their fortune and lock their stepchildren in the attic, that isn't true for most stepfamilies, and it's certainly not true for us. For one thing, your dad's not that rich, and for another, we don't have an easily accessible attic. I kid, I kid! But seriously, I've always loved each one of you independently of loving your dad.

I never felt conflicted about loving you. Loving you was easy, albeit different since I had to share you with your mom. But you boys, on the other hand, juggled loving your mom and dad with loving everyone else, as if the act of loving someone new might betray your loyalties. Yes, I always felt that, and I don't want you to feel guilty about it, either. It was natural that you wanted to be loyal to your mom, and I hated when you felt conflicted. It was always one of the pains that your dad and I wished we could take away.

Sadly, there wasn't a way to fix it, but it didn't keep us from trying to make it easier. Even though it was an impossible task, your dad and I always wanted to save you and your sister from feeling like you had divided homes and divided hearts. And speaking of your stepsister, don't forget that everything you felt, she felt, too. She and your dad have had the same journey that we've had. You're all in the same family boat. And while I know you might think that if you were me or your dad, you could have done it better, I hope you don't ever have to try. It's the hardest road to navigate.

But if you ever do find yourself the parent in a blended family home, I want you to know that you can always come to me for advice. I'll tell you the truth, the main thing being that no matter how impossible it feels sometimes, you can do it. I don't love you any less because of the "step" that gets thrown in front of our titles. We aren't a step away from you, no matter how many branches separate us on your family tree. Marrying your dad was a big step for all of us, but I'd take a million steps all over again just to find your dad and the two of you.

Your Stepmom