To my stepson, on his 10th birthday
My son Ferris turns 10 today — our oldest child and our first foray into parenting a child in the double digits. Ferris has been in my life since he was 4; that’s when his dad and I got married, and I went from a single mom of one to a married mom of three. I stopped using the term “step” a long time ago. He’s my son, even if I’m not his biological mom.
Since combining our families nearly 6 years ago, and having two more children after that, I’ve tried to make sense of our arrangement — for myself and for others. I’ve answered questions from friends and frankly, from some nosy strangers, about how our blended family “works” and I’ve written many posts for this blog about the combined family topic too. I’m happy to share my story if it enlightens someone else, and that includes the hard parts. Most days are wonderful but some days are tough.
As my son barrels full speed toward the ‘tween years I’m left wondering, with new freshness, what it all means. What is my role in his life and my (step) daughter’s? What, at the end of their lives, will my impact have been? There’s no way to know the answer of course so I just barrel forward too, with a very conscious resolve every day to be the type of parent they need that day.
Sometimes for my son, that’s a parent who talks very little but offers his favorite oatmeal for breakfast. Sometimes it’s a parent who pushes him past his comfort level, even though he wants to take the easy route and coast by. Sometimes I tell him when he’s wrong and he doesn’t like that. Sometimes he agrees that he’s wrong and asks me how to fix it – those are my favorite moments, as I see the desire to take the right path struggling to break through the layers of adolescent stubbornness.
Lately, I’ve been a listening ear a lot more than ever before when he encounters conflict that shakes him or something academic that is making him feel inadequate. Today I made him a Funfetti cake (from a box) with strawberry icing (store-bought) because that’s what he said he wanted for his birthday. Some days I am his foil. Some days I am his rock. Every day, I am his parent and my fierce loyalty in protecting him from, and preparing him for, the world grows with each decision he faces.
I’ve read a lot of posts about how stepparenting is difficult. I’ve seen many memes about the strength of stepparents who “step up” and make a difference in their children’s lives. There aren’t many posts about how much fun it is to be a stepmom or stepdad — but to be fair, I don’t read a lot of those about regular parenting either.
The truth is that stepparenting is a privilege. I’ve been gifted with two children I get to walk beside until adulthood, and hopefully for many decades after that. I get to watch my son blow out his birthday candles tonight, alongside his grandparents, father, siblings and mother. I get to be part of it all — even though he wasn’t my child at the beginning. That’s a privilege and I feel so lucky, on his birthday and year round.
So happy birthday Ferris. You’re a beautiful person and an inspiring child. I look forward to what this year brings for you and our family. You are loved, today and every day.