Saturday, May 7, 2016

Autism Answer: Mother's Day, Hands Off Step-Mom Edition

My step-daughter and her boys.

I have three step-daughters but only one of my step-daughters was still a child when I married my husband. So, because two were already adults I don't really feel like a "step-mom" to them, but with the youngest I do. 

However, she is no longer a child. She is now the mother of two fabulous and funny boys! 

The other day I sent her this message:
"You know, I was just telling your dad that even though you and I are different styles of "mom" one thing we have in common is how freaking much we love our kids. It's written all over your face and soaked into the sound of your voice, as it is with me.

I hope you have a lovely Mother's Day planned for yourself!!

And her reply included this bit:
"Thank you to being a part of my life, not to be funny but i put your white girl Canadian twist to my parenting. And a Lil of my mom's white girl hood lol I love you so much. That's why I have so many pictures and books like you and Inspire my boys to think big and that they can be whatever they want to be. They can be a leader not a follower."

Now, that might not seem like much. 
But for me it meant the world!! 

When I married her dad I made a promise to myself that I would be a loving but "hands off" kind of step-mom. As a mom myself I knew that I wouldn't be comfortable overly sharing my own sons. I knew her mom wouldn't want to have me step in too obnoxiously. Also, I knew that it wasn't my privilege to step in obnoxiously, it was her mom's privileged. My step-daughter spent a lot of time with me and I loved to take her places and give her the gift of my love and my beliefs and my ideas when I could. My mom and my sister did as well. But I always remained somewhat on the sidelines. It seemed right. 

Sometimes, though, I worried that she'd think I didn't care. I am entirely different from her family. I live and love in ways that my step-daughter is unused to and I was afraid she wouldn't recognize. 

One of the greatest gifts my step-daughter has given me is letting me love her my own way. But now that greatest gift has grown bigger with her telling me that my way was not lost; that she felt it and held on to it. 

Some step-moms have a bigger role to play. When their children live with them or when the birth mom is largely absent, and you deserve to be hugely celebrated!!

But I think this post is mostly for those step-moms with a less sturdy and obvious role, with a more fluttering and inconsistent and almost unknowable role. The hands off step-mom, I guess!

For all you hands off step-moms out there, know that you have a beautiful and important role. Sometimes it's a really hard role, to step back and allow the parenting to happen with you gathering and giving from the sidelines. But you matter and your gifts are felt, your willingness to step in only sometimes doesn't mean you are forgotten but rather that you are kind enough not to take over. 

And for all of you step-children with step-moms and step-dads who are hands on or hands off, know that you are loved! Know that you are our world, even when it looks differently to you. We will certainly get stuff wrong, we might step in when we should step out, or step away when we should step up, but we know we're lucky to have you and want more than anything to do right by you. 

My step-daughter gave me a delicious gift the other day. She let me know that she felt my love, even as it fluttered about uncertainly. She offered me the opportunity to thank her for letting me know. 

And she takes care of her boys. Admittedly, in ways that sometimes makes me want to cringe, but with a love that is pure and real and willing, with a love that makes me proud of her and happy for her sons. 

Those boys are loved and they know they are loved!

And that is what a mother's first and most important job is. All of us moms. We will forever be working on the rest of that parenting stuff, but loving our kids and letting them know they are loved is our first and most important job.

For those of us who have step-moms and birth-moms and step-children and adopted children and birth children, well, we are lucky! We have plenty of ideas and love to work with!

Happy Mother's Day to every kind of mom!!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

My step-daughter and some of our boys. Too many years ago!