Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Outsider Finally Feeling In

Since meeting my stepkids, I've always felt like an outsider when they are with my husband and I.  Their inside jokes, years of history and their ability to know just what each other is thinking without saying the words.  

My husband is an amazing father.  He knows his kids inside and out, just like any father should.  He knows what they like to eat, what they will watch when it comes to movie time, what their argument will be for not wanting to take a shower...everything.  And they know him.   Dad likes this.  Dad doesn't do that.  Dad always wears this on game days.  Dad love this.  Dad doesn't have that.  The words "he never liked that before" or "if it weren't for you, Dad wouldn't do that" seem to ring in our house constantly. 

I feel like I'm always failing when it comes to being a part of their crowd.  Pizza night? I order from the wrong place, or the wrong kind.  Movies?  We've seen that already. Dad would have known.  Dad knows what we like.  Dad makes my (fill in the blank) the way I like them.  Why doesn't Dad just make dinner?  We play this game with Dad, not that one.  Dad. Is. Perfect. (I hear: why are you here??)

Yet, even with Super Dad in place, the five of us still do everything together when they're at our house.  But at times it feels like the four of them would be better off without me.  I don't understand the ongoing battle for superiority in mini golf when we play.  I don't know who gets to hold the popcorn when we go to the movies. Even this summer when we went on their annual family vacation (much longer post on that later), I was experiencing things with their family for the first time yet this was old hat to the kids and my husband.  What I found to be exciting, was merely old news.  All of their habits have been established years before I came into the picture.  And seem to be set in stone.  Really big, super glued and concreted stone.

I've always felt I just don't have a place.  Until the other day.

We went to visit my folks while they were on one of their camping excursions and while I was inside the camper helping my mom prep for dinner, the kids and their dad were outside playing a game, "Who Knows Dad The Best".  My SD yells to me that I should play too.  This felt like a trap.  I got a knot in my stomach the size of a soccer ball wondering if they were going to point and laugh at me setting me up for failure.  Knowing that the kids would surely know everything about their dad and I'd only have what I've learned about him in the two years we've been together.  

So I tell her I'm going to be a little while but to go ahead without me.  I'd help them if they got stuck on something they didn't know.  All the while I'm trying to tell myself I'd give anything to win that game.

So, as I am licking the frosting off the spoon mixing up the frosting for cupcakes, I overhear the game begin.

"What is Dad's favorite food?".  Duh, sushi I think to myself.  

"Besides, sushi..." Crap, I would have nailed that one!  

The kids throw out their answers of tacos, steak...a lot of um...and I dunno's...and finally the youngest, my 7 year old stepson says, "Lasagna".  Of course.  This is right and I'm proud of him for knowing (while mentally high fiving myself).

The questions continue from "Dad's favorite sport" to "Dad's favorite color"...easy questions.

And then it happened.  The questions got harder and the kids were stumped.  They didn't know what his favorite time of year was.  They didn't know what his favorite soda was.  They didn't know his favorite vacation or even his favorite band.  

And I did!

Then the questions turned to the kids' favorites.  And this time, Dad didn't know them!  

And I did!!!

And though I wasn't outside playing along with them, I had a feeling inside that I had never had before.  For the first time I was thinking that I might actually "get them".  And maybe next time we did something together, I'd have a chance of doing it right.  Or anticipating their wants.  

This one little tiny moment of shimmering hope stood in my mind and shrunk down that soccer ball in my stomach.  

For the first time, something as simple as knowing my step son's favorite color was yellow, when their Dad didn't, made me feel like the Queen of the United States I wasn't always going to be an outsider.  Like all of my hard work in trying to learn everything about them was finally starting to stick.

When I became a Stepmom, I expected everything to fall in line and to be able to step into their lives and fit like a perfect puzzle.  I had been able to do that with my husband and figured the kids would be just as easy.  I. Was. Wrong.  

It hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies but finally, I'm feeling like I am making strides with the kids and we are starting to build our own super glued concrete rock.  It may have really rough edges, and may not always stick together just perfect, but it is ours.  And it is a start.

What was your "I Fit!!" moment with your new family?  Did it take time or was it instant?


  1. Love it! We play a similar game called WhooNu by Cranium. I always win. I know my husband and my kids and stepkids from the inside out. As stepmoms, we are the wife and "mom" in the home and because we love and embrace those roles we know our husband and kids/stepkids best.

    Five years in, I still feel like an outsider at times when it's just my husband and two stepdaughters but I know it has more to do with their "protective nature" of their relationship with dad and not with me personally. I know we share a special bond.

    I offer the seat next to dad when watching movies or riding rides at the amusement park, etc.... so I don't even have to put him in the position where he has to choose who to sit next to. Plus it says to my stepdaughters that I both value and encourage their close relationship with Dad.

    I love your story and hope all stepmoms enjoy that same feeling of knowing that regardless of how society wants to look at us or make us feel, we are a very central and loved member of our family.

    xoxo Heather

  2. I absolutely love this post and your writing style - especially the strikethroughs and the way you bring it all back together. Talent!

    For me, I knew I "fit" the moment I met them. I had the luxury of them still being so very young (4 and 7, respectively) and never knowing a time where their Dad was really with each of their respective bio moms (he split with both before they were really old enough to have memories).

    Having said that, though...things have gotten a bit harder in the "I fit" department as time has gone on. In the beginning, I almost felt like they were "wooing" me (kids included). Now that they "have" me, they have relaxed a bit. They usually want to sit next to Dad, hang out with Dad, do this or that with Dad. There are moments, though...when they say they want to sit with me or hang out with me and my heart sings! I can understand, though...I want to sit next to their dad, too. He's pretty awesome.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks, Ladies! I know it may feel like Ruby and I have fallen off the face of the earth, but we're back! A whole year of stories NEED to be shared and I can promise you're in for a ride!