A letter to my (step)children

By my mid 30s I had not yet met the man I wanted to marry, and by then I knew that I would never have children of my own. I made peace with the fact that if I did find “Mr Perfect” he would probably come with children of his own. And that is precisely what happened.

I met the man I knew I was going to marry, and sure enough he had two teenagers, plus one tween-ager. With all my worldly experience of life, combined with the type of work that I had undertaken, I (mistakenly) believed I was more than equipped to move to a completely foreign country, knowing no-one and step into the role of “motherhood”.

I made mistakes along the way, the most fundamental being a belief that who I was dealing with were young adults capable of contributing. Instead I found myself thrown into a life of doing it all, as mothers generally do, but for three young people, who through no fault of their own were cast adrift.

Sometimes we arrive unheralded into situations we think we are equipped to handle. Often we can. Sometimes we stumble.

For whatever reasons, when we met, we each carried our own baggage. I like to think I have had a positive influence on your lives. I can look back and wish to do it all again, but differently, better, and give you all skills to go forward with confidence into a happy future.

But then I stop and assess where you each are now. Confident, happy, and pretty well balanced. Much like the majority of human beings.

Life, and time, passes on those traits. Experiences, both good and bad, have shaped the “you” you have become.

The friends you have made have become your ballast, keeping you on an even keel. The partners you have chosen have become your rock, giving you a security to return to. Family has given you a grounding to help you go forward and to remind you of where you come from. Children will give you a whole new perspective on life in general, but on your own in particular.

Sure there will be moments along the way that cause a hiccup, a stumble, perhaps even a fall. But each of you is strong enough to understand that, and sensitive enough to learn from it, and know that in time, looking back, they will be the events that have contributed to who you are.

I stand on the sidelines – and that may have been my biggest fault – because you were not “mine”. But I desperately wanted you to know that I was there for each of you. I have held each of you when you cried, my heart breaking on your behalf.  I have been hugely proud of each of you with every achievement you have made – knowing that those achievements were all your own. I have been excited with every discovery you have made as you have explored and expanded on the lives you have chosen to lead, knowing that those discoveries were of your own making. I have delivered cross words when I felt you were giving up and taking the easy route -not because I was disappointed, but because I wanted you to be able to have the widest of options and to understand the consequences of your choices.

I take no credit for the adults you have become.

In my mind you are not my step children, because the term comes from old English meaning “orphan”. And whilst technically correct, “orphan” has lonely and sad connotations, and I strive to ensure you have a supportive and loving home base you could always return to.

For me you are my children through marriage – an additional dimension to the promises I made 18 years ago.

For me you are strong individuals, who, like all of us, have flaws, and yes, who carry baggage, but whose company I enjoy.

For me, you are my children.


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