Since giving birth to Lazarus, many well intentioned people have commented to me that while I may have two step children, having my own child is “different”. I happen to agree with this statement – it IS different. However, it’s not what is being said but what is so often implied in that kind of statement that bothers me.
You see, when these well intentioned people make these kinds of comments, by manner and tone – and sometimes even more directly by words themselves – they imply that having my “own” child is somehow MORE. And that is a sentiment I must wholeheartedly stand against.
When I met Tory, I knew that he had two sons. I knew that unlike most people who start off their relationships as single non-parents, I would never have Tory’s undivided attention. We wouldn’t date through our infatuation, grow into Love, marry and move in together, get to know each other as a couple before committing ourselves to a family. No, if I decided to have a relationship with Tory it would mean forever (and from the very start) sharing his heart and our home with these two children whom I had no part in bringing into this world. I would never be his singular focus, and he could never be mine. It would mean working every day for the rest of my life to find a place in the lives of these kids who already had two Loving and capable parents. Anyone who has faced this choice can tell you that this is not something that is entered into lightly, particularly when the kids are so young. Not knowing what the future would hold, I chose very consciously to enter into a relationship not only with Tory but with these two precious children. And in doing so, I encountered what would become two of the greatest Loves of my life.
I wish I could say that from the start it was easy and happy and we all Loved each other. The truth is that at first it was easy, and then it was hard, and then it was very hard, and then it got better, and so on and so forth. I worked so hard to walk the fine line between friend and parental figure, trying to ease my way into the hearts of these two young boys as they eased their way into mine, without threatening the place of their already present mother. But while I had the wisdom (though minimal…) and insight of an adult, they had so little experience to work with and so much to work through. They struggled first with the falling apart of their old family and then with the coming together of their new one. They struggled with liking me and being afraid of betraying the Love of their mother. They struggled to understand how and where I could fit into their newly chaotic lives even while they were still trying desperately to figure out how they fit into it themselves. And so we trudged through, day by day, learning and growing and healing. And slowly but surely, Loving.
The boys still struggle – will always struggle – with my place in their lives. We are the kind of family that they never wanted but that they have come to Love and accept. Every day we work together to figure out the rhythm of our family. Our hearts continue to weave in and out of one another, knitting us together into a far more perfect pattern than anything we could have designed on our own.
So, is it different having stepchildren than having my “own” child? Yes, in so many ways. My Love for Lazarus grew alongside him, miraculously conjuring itself up within me only to burst forth in a brilliant and instantaneous overwhelming force all at once the moment I first held him in my arms. It reordered my very being in the blink of an eye in a way I will never fully comprehend. My Love for the boys grew slowly and carefully, cautiously creeping in bit by bit, only to consume me in the end, just as my Love for their brother did in a moment. My Love for Lazarus is transformative and beautiful, but my Love for his two brothers is edifying and humbling in a way that only that Love can be. Loving them has required of me to step aside and truly Love without expectation of anything in return.
At the end of the day, having Lazarus is different than having the boys, and yet, it is with my whole being that I Love them all. They are all my boys; they have forever changed me, each one. I will continue to struggle every day to be mother and stepmother, Loving each of our children in the way they need and deserve to be Loved while inhabiting my unique place in their lives and hearts just as they inhabit their unique but equally significant places in mine.