The name Mom falls a little heavier on my shoulders nowadays. Not just because Aidan is a hellova job to parent. But also because the step daughter brought up how she feels about calling me Mom. It's a talk we've have several times over the years. I tell her the same thing every time. I don't mind what she calls me as long as she is comfortable with it. She had settled on just calling me Shannon long ago but every now and then she brings it up again and we talk about our feelings and our roles. From time to time I have heard her call me Mom when she's hanging out with her friends and it made me smile. I do know however that she has gone all red faced at school after accidentally calling her teachers Mom. I don't tend to make anything out of it and if at times the topic comes up it comes up. This time she was old enough to have a more exploratory talk about it and really wanted to. No two people follow the same path in life but I do think having real conversations about life experiences is super important. When you talk openly with your kids about how you've lived and the choices you made, it makes them feel less alone on their path. You might be giving them a choice they didn't think of as a solution. Or even better if you are an honest parent, you might help them make an alternate choice by explaining how you made a mistake and what you learned. Showing you are human does make a kid more likely to open up and ask tough stuff. On this particular topic I had very little but I told her how something similar affected my own parents when I was about her age.
I have a very best friend from when I was you and her Dad filled a major void for me though my growing pains aka Middle School. I had started calling him Dad and didn't think twice about it. Mainly because my own father worked long hours and of course, my mother and I didn't get along. Lance took the spot of my Mom really, but I didn't think that title would be a compliment for him at all. He was an ear to listen without judgement about my life and the dramatics and embarrassments I was going through. Neither of my actual parents were present for me or my emotions. So he became my second Dad. I never considered how it would make my first Dad feel and when he overheard me use his title for Lance, he was angry. Later I would look back and understand that his anger was really him feeling hurt, and slighted and replaced. Not any of the things I intended and those feelings faded for him. When he and I talked about it after I was well into college years, we agreed that I was very lucky to have more than the average amount of grown ups who really loved me and cared how I turned out. It's not even a step-parent situation but it's all I have that compares.
After Hal and I talked at length I realized with quite a bit of admiration, that she already knew and sensed this would be the same end result in her world too. That she had in fact referred to me as Mom after explaining her situation when needed to friends and teachers and others. For her it isn't weird anymore. The only part that felt weird is that she could never openly call me Mom at her actual first Moms house. Because of all the feelings that she would cause. Just as I had. Only I didn't have the respect and foresight to handle my situation with kid gloves and I commend her for sparing her mothers feelings. She even mentioned that she hopes her mom will grow to feel the same about it all too, just sooner than college for her.
Step-parenting books can tell you to say all the standard "appropriate" things but at some point you have to just listen and learn from your kids. I think she is doing a damn fine job of finding her own way to be. She is at an age where her thoughts are her own. In her own words " I like to just be Hallie. I feel like soon I am going to just get to be who I want to be". It does bum me out that she feels like she isn't fully being herself yet but maybe some of that is just the awkward tween puberty phase and I'm sure aiming to please two totally different households doesn't help much. I am proud of her for actively trying to own her thoughts and feelings. Some women three times her age aren't there yet. Her balance, problem solving and pro-active empathy is amazing to me.
It's completely her own. No one told her to be this way. She just is. I know every parent thinks their kid is great but sometimes it dawns on me that she is right in the mix of being wise beyond her years and youthful but not blissfully unaware and naive. I feel like that's major for her age.
I have always felt like I am a mother to her in so many ways. But it's extra nice to overhear her just simply call me Mom to her friends and not second guess it anymore. If I'm being honest, my heart fluttered. Being a step-parent can often be a strange place to be. You don't get the automatic credits that come with any trait deemed genetic. You don't get the natural points that fall into place with being a parent and sometimes it all feels a bit odd. But, when it's good, and nurture happens. A bond like non other can form. The person who high fives you most for being spot on and "getting them", is the kid. And at the end of the day that is who matters.