Sometimes they call me “Mom” by accident and I suck my breath in. It’s awkward sometimes because I am awkward most times with other human beings. I can be confident, arrogant… I mean, I can play those parts. Move me to another country and suddenly I am wrestling with a little insecurity. I forgive myself for it because, well, I did move to another country right? And I am very far away from some of the people best able to talk sense to me. My Aunts, Godparents, Cousins… my best friend in the whole world.
So when they use the “M” word I get a few different emotions. First, the desire to correct them. I did not give birth to them. I did not change their diapers or teach them how to walk or talk. Being the woman who wanted so desperately to have her own children, I revere the term “Mother” more than some perhaps. “Mother is God in the eyes of a child.” Or the hand of God because God is God right? I digress.
And so it happened again tonight. I rushed to meet Kevin and the “Twin Turbos” at Cheddars. I like that restaurant because they have a little bit of everything and the booths are nice. I am a booth eating kind of person, sitting always on the inside next to the wall and closest to the ketchup. I entered the restaurant, and my three men waved and smiled at me.
As I rounded the bend, the twins came barreling at me with the grace of a herd of elephants. My boys are strong and stout, so frequently they knock me off my feet with their enthusiasm. I am learning to lean in like a quarterback now, shoulders slightly down and bracing for impact. Not that I mind the “tackle hugs”. I kind of like them to be honest. It makes me feel loved.
As I embraced each of them (you must hug, greet and kiss each twin separately or there are “issues” about favoritism) I told them what I usually tell them:
“Hi Lucas, your hair looks great. You are so handsome baby boy. I missed you.” “I missed you too Mom.” [Insert freezing motion]
“I uh.. I mean… I mean Lori.” [Insert slight stabbing pain in my heart].
Now there is no part of me that wants them to call me “Mom” because I respect and care about their Mom. She earned the title, she wears the crown. But sometimes when they forget and they call me ‘Mom’ is it wrong that my heart tingles a little bit? Almost as though I was doing something right because they got that same safe, fun, lovey feeling that they get when their Mom is around. I hit a “Mom like moment” in their heads and hearts. So I am not totally screwing up the Step-Mom thing. Woot! And this means everything to me because recall … my Dad sucked, my Mom sucked, my Step-Dad royally sucked and my Step-Mom was a dishonest, alcoholic and neurotic nightmare. I’ve seen it done wrong and done correctly. I try hard to be a good Step-Mom. But I am always learning. When Kevin went out to the car to grab something at the end of dinner (we were waiting on the bill) I spoke again to Lucas.
“You know it’s okay if you accidentally say Mom. “
Lucas: “I know you aren’t our Mom. But you are our Step-Mom and you are nice!” [Insert emphatic exclamation on the “NICE!”]
Me: “Well thank you son. Remember I am still learning about being a Step-Mom. It’s the first time I’ve had this important job. But I really like it, if you wanted to know.”
Lucas: “Well I can tell you like it because you are even learning how to share now.” [Okay… I have a problem with people eating off my plate. I am getting a little more easy going about it now that I am used to the kids poaching my plate].
Me: “Keep your hands off my broccoli!” [Insert chipmunk giggles] Me: “Well I happen to know that when you accidentally call me ‘Mom’ it really doesn’t mean ‘Mother’ it means something else.”
Lucas: “It stands for something different?”
Me: “Yep. Three letters. (M)My (O)Other (M)Mom… pretty cool huh?” Lucas: “That’s really cool! You are good at being a Step-Mom.”
And then that silent narration starts in my head. Something that I am fairly sure is being dictated from my heart. The Step-Mother’s heart. “Listen kid, you may not have come from my body but I love you. And everything I do and think of doing, wraps around your life and providing for you. I want the moon for you. I would protect you both with my life and take down anyone who messed with you. I will teach you, challenge you, reprimand you when you need it and hug and kiss you every chance I get. My heart doesn’t know the difference between being a Mom and being a Step-Mom. There is only the desire to care for you, protect you and guide you. In my heart you are my babies… I just have to keep that emotion on the down low because I’m really nothing but a woman who decided to commit her finances, free time and heart to raising you. I even share my almonds with you, for Pete’s sake. That’s growth!”
“Does Great Wolf Lodge sound cool for your birthday? We can stay over night and slide and swim all day there, and try all the water slides if you like.” [In Twin Turbo unison] “YAAAAYYYY!”
I’ve known many mothers who hated the Step-Mother. Or perhaps it is painful to think of someone else having a mother-like relationship with your kids (I do get that). But by always putting their real Mom first and elevating her in our discussions, I show her the respect that is owed to her.
And somewhere behind the scenes is a girl who wanted four kids, could have none and lives vicariously through the ten days a month we are entitled to have them with us by law. I didn’t get to be a Mom, but I am becoming a kick-ass Step-Mom because I love them enough to bring my A-Game. I love them enough to grow into the kind of Step-Mom that enhances their lives with kindness, love, wisdom and support.
And apologies when I mess up from time to time and answer “Yes?” from the heart when they say “Mommy”.