Being a step mother is (hold on here for the shocker) not the same as being a 'real' mom. I know, I know, this is newsworthy, for sure.
When people think of motherhood they think of something like, well, above. You go to the doctor and find out you are pregnant. You have nearly 10 months to plan for your baby. You get to do fun stuff like get the room ready, pick out adorable cloths, find the perfect teddy bear. The baby comes and you don't sleep again for what? 5 years or so, I guess. Most importantly, you bond with your child and learn all their little noises, faces, and manners. You get a chance to shape who they become when they are impressionable. That's what motherhood seems like to me, a woman who has never given birth but who was and is the world's greatest aunt.
No, when you are a step mom, you get to enjoy a different life and role. You see, by the time I came into O's life, she was 10. Now, I know what you are saying, 10 isn't old. You still have a shot. Well, this is actually true but there are some things you don't realize that makes being a step mother very different.
I have said this before and I will say it until I am 94 but I missed all the cute, funny, years when she took her first steps, said her first words, and road her bike the first time. Shoot, I even missed the first time she threw up or peed on her dad. (I would have loved to see that!) I missed a lot of bonding times.
Now let me start out by stating the obvious, just because you are around for the formative years does not mean your teenage hellion is going to respect you, but you have a way better shot. What I have is an almost 13 year old who I have to frequently remind to watch her tone, language, and attitude. This is almost always followed by the required eye roll, from her not me. (And OMG do you know how annoying that eye roll is? I may have had to stop myself from throwing something at her once or ten times.)
I will never forget the first time O reminded me I wasn't her mother. She basically told me that she was not going to eat dinner at the table like a family and I couldn't make her because....I am not her mother. 10 deep breaths, my red hair flaring, and smoke coming from my ears later and I politely but assertively reminded her of a few things. Things like who makes breakfast twice a week and dinner for her every night when she is at our house. Things like who it was that drove 45 minutes to another city to get her rabbits tagged for her F.F.A. class. Things like who it is that bakes brownies or cookies when she needs stuff for her school fundraisers. Things like who it is that normally takes her shopping for all those new cloths she needs remarkably every 7-10 days. I then very, very calmly told her that I don't know what her definition of a parent is, but if those things didn't give me some rights to make her eat dinner with us and not in her room, where the plates end up in a trash bin and the dogs end up in the trash, then I seriously do not know what would. (For the record, after about 5 minutes she was a totally different child.)
Caught in the middle:
Oddly, while O has reminded me a couple time that I am not her mom and that she feels like I am sort of her crazy aunt who just never leaves, when she has a problem (that isn't me) or just needs some girl talk, she opens up to me. That's awesome but....sometimes she says things like "Don't tell dad." Or "Please don't talk to my mom." Okay, so some things I can handle, like dealing with her fluctuating "I hate all boys" vs "I like boys" moments. Some, I feel compelled to talk to her parents about, like when she confided in me that at a local High School football game a girl was pushed down the bleachers and may have a broken neck and oh, by the way, she saw kids shooting up on drugs there too. Well, I don't know about you but I felt it was absolutely her parents right and more important their need to know these things were happening to their still 12 year old daughter.
But....I also realize that when I throw her under the bus about those things, I am going to cause her not to trust me. Then comes the talk which goes something like this "I will not tell your parents things they do not need to know but if your safety or life could be an issue, you better believe I am telling them." This did not make her happy but she still tells me things so I suppose it worked
You can love a kid that isn't yours. I mean people do it all the time. You love your nieces and nephews. You love your kids friends. I am so overly protective of O at times that I want to march to the school and have a talk with her principal about why they need to do a better job. I want to talk to the parents of the bullies and put them in their place. Tell them to do a better job with their kids. Mostly, I want what is best for O and I want her to rise above the garbage.
Nothing prepares you for:
*The teen years! Seriously, even if I had a chance to bond with this child at birth and love her from her first breath, I don't know that I would be prepared for the never ending drama that is an almost 13 year old girl. The things that go on in school. The way girls talk to one another. The way she and her friends treat each other. The number of times something was made out of nothing. The number of times since September alone that the entire world was ending. I swear to you, nobody can prepare for it. The drama becomes exhausting. The stupidity of the situation becomes exhausting. The fact that no matter how much you try to reason with or punish the kid (Oh, my GAWD, the hate I received for taking away her phone for 3 days!) becomes the most exhausting of all. Combine all of this with the knowledge that it will reappear no less than twice a month and you may want to run for the hills.
Or, do a lot of this: