This morning my little girls surprised me with breakfast and gifts in bed. Breakfast was an Egg McMuffin and hash browns on a plate and a 32 ounce Diet Coke from McDonalds. It. Was. Perfect. The gifts included two bottles of perfume, several packs of gum that I’d previously purchased for them, and several individual pieces of gum from packs they’d already opened. Oh…and a rock and a quarter. They made me cards and sat smiling and wide-eyed as I read each one.
I came into my little girls lives just after they’d turned three and four. The first couple years were a challenge for me. Not because they didn’t love me, or behave, or treat me like one of their moms. They were challenging because I was so unsure of myself AS a mom. Everything was tough. When I first started bringing my little girls to daycare I felt judged and hated by those working. I’d go to pick them up, and they’d throw a fit because they wanted to stay and play, and I didn’t know how to discipline them in front of all of these daycare workers who clearly thought I was inept already. I was nervous interacting with them in front of my husband’s family because I wasn’t his ex-wife and I wasn’t the little girls’ mom and I didn’t know if I was behaving the way I should. I always felt this enormous pressure to be a good enough mom but felt like I wasn’t a mom at all.
The first time my littlest little girl told me she loved me, we were in Target looking for tights for their Christmas outfits, and it was just the little girls and I. We were circling the socks/underwear/tights area in the children’s section and the littlest little girl yelled at me from the cart to tell me she loved me. Out of the blue. I turned and saw her looking at me expectantly. I looked around at the other shoppers, all of whom were paying no attention to us, and then looked back to my littlest little girl and said quietly “I love you too.” She was still a toddler and was still going through a stubborn stage. She tested me from the moment I entered the picture. She would stomp her feet and cross her arms when I would ask her to do things in which she had no interest or desire. While the first few months with her were tricky, she came around, and soon she was undeniably in love with me. A snuggler, and hugger, and little lover, she was finally mine.
My oldest little girl took a little more time. Having just turned four, going on 18, she was like a little mom herself. She helped her little sister get ready in the morning, helped her with her shoes, and was a little helper to me and her dad. At daycare she always helped our daycare provider with the babies. She wanted to be perfect in everything she did. But she also wanted me to know that she remembered when her mom lived in our house. When she was upset with me she would cry for her mom. Nothing compares to hearing your step-children sob for their real mom. I felt like a failure, like an imposter, and like she’d never come around and accept me as one of her moms. My oldest little girl is so smart, and has an old soul, so we did a lot of talking. And regardless of her early tactics she came around too. Surprisingly I now see me in her so often. She is a spitting image of her mom but there are days that I look at her, or listen to her playing in her room, and it is like looking at myself as a little girl. Dramatic, and imaginative, and creative, and so smart. She’s mine now too.
In those first couple years I questioned myself almost daily, suffered from depression, considered divorce, and constantly questioned the meaning and viability of our relationship. My relationship with my little girls that is. I also had to really look at the kind of mom I wanted to be and the kind of mom I actually was. Because we only have our little girls half the time, I was often worried out of my mind about what their life was like when they weren’t with us, and it resulted in my being too uptight, too rigid, and too crabby. I would get them back in my grasp but then I’d be a crazy mom. I had to consciously work to keep my worry in-check and be the kind of mom I wanted the little girls to have.
Nearly two years ago everything just kind of fell into place. I stopped worrying about what people thought about how I parent. I stopped worrying about whether others viewed me as one of the little girls’ moms. I stopped trying to compare myself to someone else. I decided that I was one of the parents and that I do in fact matter. I have something to do with how these little girls will grow up. How they will turn out. Who they will become. I am one of their moms.
As I read their cards this morning I was again struck by their adoration for me and that they feel truly loved and taken care of by me. There is nothing I want them to know more than that I love them and nothing I want them to feel more than truly cared for. No gift or Mothers Day activities can be better than getting confirmation that they do in fact know and feel those things. It allows me to let out a deep breath, sit back, and relax for just a day. In this chaos that is my life, and in the chaos that is the life of my little girls, I must be doing something right. Phew!
TODAY: What if I allow myself to bask in the great job that I’m doing as a mom (their words not mine)? What if despite my not having given birth to them I am a real mom after all?