Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stepmommyhood


My stepdaughter, T. Photo by Jennifer Flanagan of Image Market Photography
 I have to admit, before I met my husband Scott, I never pictured myself being a step-parent. I envisioned finding the man of my dreams, falling in love, starting a family, being super awesome ;), but never factored in the whole "what if Mr.Right already has a kid?" thing.

So when I found out the guy I was falling for had a 12 year old daughter, I must confess, I freaked out a little. This wasn't part of the plan. What if she doesn't like me? What if she's mean to me? What if I meet her, fall in love with her, and then it doesn't work out between me and her dad? What if it's too weird that I'm only 10 years older than her? (my husband is 12 years older than me, which put my age right in the middle)The what-if's piled high.

I remember the first time I met T, I was super nervous--it was like being on an awkward first date. It was a pretty big deal for me. My palms were sweaty. I actually still remember what I was wearing.  We met up at a local art gallery where T and her dad were taking part in a parent/child art exhibit (PS: both of them are awesome artists!).

And the thing is, as scary as the whole thing seemed at first, once I got to know her, I realized how lucky I was. She was (and is) really genuine, interesting, mature, smart as all get out, and hipper than I can keep up with.

My relationship with her was never really a mother/child thing, so we avoided all the drama of "you're not my real mom" and so on. Instead, it felt more like a kid sister relationship. In fact, she was actually born the exact same year as my little sister who passed away as a baby (see the post I Get It). As such, I could offer more candid advice about things like clothes, boys, friends, music. While I didn't pretend to know what it was like to be a pre-teen right then, it wasn't so far away that I couldn't remember.

The times we spent together, we formed a fun, if somewhat clunky, little family. When the three of us would go out, I think people were slightly confused about why a 34 year old, a 22 year old, and a 12 year old were all hanging out. But it worked perfectly.

When her dad and I got married 2 years ago, we had a very small wedding in Jamaica with T, my parents and sisters, and my best friend. T did us the honors of taking our wedding pictures and also serving as best man and maid of honor. By marrying her dad, I truly felt like I was also marrying her in a way--shrugging off my single status and becoming a wife and step-mom all in one day.


T's photo of me and her dad on our wedding day in Jamaica. Yes, we're really in the ocean and yes, she is a really talented photographer!
And now, she's all grown up. 18 years old and more beautiful than ever. I hope that as time goes on, we are able to become even closer, to speak more candidly, to truly be friends. I realize that as a step-mom, I probably didn't do everything right. There were likely times when I just wasn't grown up enough to handle it all (what 22 year old IS ready to take on a new relationship AND a preteen at the same time?). But I'm so glad I didn't let my preconceived notion of family get in the way, or else I may have never found this amazing girl who I'm proud to know and call daughter.

Photo by Image Market Photography

3 comments:

definemature.com said...

What a beautiful post! T seems like she made it easier for you to transition into your new role, which is very mature of a young lady. Also, are you really in the water fully decked out in your wedding gear? How brave of you guys!

Erika said...

Amira, yeah, she's pretty much awesome. And yes, we decided, screw these clothes--i mean, does anyone ever really wear their wedding attire again anyways? So we took the plunge-literally. And you know what? It was so fun and the pictures turned out great. Plus my dress actually survived and looks great still in case I ever decided to try it on and twirl in front of the mirror or something ;)

Kristin said...

Such an honest post. I like it for two reasons- one is that my stepmom joined my family when she was 22 and I was 8 and she didn't always handle it well. You're right 22 is young for so much sudden responsibility, so I'll stop holding it against her! And two, my husband is more than 20 years older than me and so I have 2 stepdaughters who are around 10 years younger than me. Unfortunately circumstances haven't allowed us to cultivate relationships (or even meet!), so I will just have to live vicariously through you!