I never imagined myself a step-mom. I've been a step-daughter and a step-sister, and I know how the whole step thing can feel when you're a kid. It's complicated.
I can remember a gathering many years ago when I was a teenager at one of my step family's home. All the kids were called into the family room to stand in front of the fireplace for a family picture. My sister and I were having fun with all the kids and we filed in with everyone, teasing and laughing and finding our spot.
We were all ready to say "cheese" when my step-grandma stopped us and said, "No, no. Just family. Not Tracey and Melissa."
She wasn't trying to be mean. She just didn't know how awkward you feel when your family is disrupted and your normal is redefined and now you are with all these people you don't really know and trying to figure it out. And they are trying to figure it out too.
And now here I am, married for just over a year and part of the package of life with Gary, is six... count 'em, six fabulous kids. Most are adults, all are wonderful, and all are navigating this complicated thing with courage and grace. They don't live locally so it is a special treat to get to spend extended time with them. And that's what we did.
Over the holiday break, we had four of the six with us. A house full of teenagers and young adults. There was constant activity, stuff everywhere, lots of laughter, music, board games, movies...oh, and pancakes.
I am 50 years old, single for most of it, and I have NEVER made pancakes. NEVER in my life. And there I was one glorious morning in my kitchen pouring the Bisquick, while four kids who have stolen my heart sat at the table in the dining room.
And I was... I am... a step-mom.
I loved the mess. I loved the noise. I loved the smoke that filled the kitchen when my first attempts nearly caught fire... just a little. I loved how sweet and appreciative they were and how they even gave me tips on how not to burn them.
I thought of the strange circumstances that brought us together, the precious man I love and how he treasures these kids, the lovely mom back home that they adore who loves them so well, the awkwardness and beauty and tears and grace that fill each moment we're together.
I have ached to have a family and thought it just wasn't God's plan. I can't explain how longing for kids has defined me and been a sorrow that I tucked away deep in my heart.
And now here I am.
I know I am not their mom...
But, oh, what a gift, what a joy, what a grace to be...dare I say it? A step-mom!
A step-mom... who makes pancakes.