I’m thrilled to be finally working with my astute and talented editor with 4RV Publishing on my book Stepping into a New Role, Stories from Stepmoms. Because of this, I will be busy making revisions to many stories in my book. And, I will be sharing these stories on my Facebook Author Page, Stepmom Shawn Simon Says, as well as here.
I hope you enjoy the first of many!
Am I the only one? I can’t be. There must be others out there like me, other women who never had children of their own, and only “inherited” them. I meant to have them. I always thought I would. I guess I just never got around to it. Instead, I had four-legged furry ones. Sometimes, it seems as though I am the only woman who is a stepmom, but not a biological mom (or bio mom, as it is commonly referred to in the stepmoms’ world). I am not just an every other weekend stepmom. My husband and I have the kids fifty percent of the time. I had a foolish notion that, because I had been working with kids for over twenty years, this new gig would be easy. Did I mention that it was a foolish notion?
I met the man of my dreams at a friend’s party. It seemed to be love at first sight. I know, I know. Does love at first sight even exist? I’d be the first to tell you that it doesn’t. You reach a certain age and you begin to feel cynical about these things. For any of you doubters out there, I am here to tell you that it actually does exist. Well, okay, maybe not true love exactly, but we definitely felt an immediate connection. When I walked into the party and saw this handsome, tall man standing there, I was tongue-tied. My smooth opening line was, “Geez! How tall are you?” My awkwardness immediately put him at ease. He realized that with me, he didn’t have to be calm and cool. He could just be himself. We sat at our friend’s bar and talked the night away. Our conversations ran from flirty to deep. He told me that his mom died just six months before, and I told him my mom had also passed away years ago. That wasn’t something we typically freely shared when chatting with someone new. We joked that maybe our moms met in heaven and decided their kids should meet.
Brian had everything I was looking for in a man and then some. The “then some” was good and not so good. The good is that he was much cuter and taller than I required, and he cooked! I’m not much of a chef; I can barely boil water. The not so good was that he had ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). When he told me he had ADD and that his daughter did, too, I had proof that God had a sense of humor. I work with kids who have ADD as well as learning disabilities. Apparently, God did not think I got enough of it at work, and that I needed to live with it, too… in stereo. Regardless, since I was so good with kids, I still foolishly thought this new role would be easy for me. However, that first year was no cakewalk. Becoming a stepmom was the most challenging role I had ever undertaken.
About four months after we met, Brian and I knew we wanted a future together, and we decided it was time for me to meet his kids: Aiden, who was nine, and Jessie, who was five. We planned two events that included friends and their kids. At these gatherings, Brian introduced me to his kids as his special friend. I’m not sure the kids understood what he was saying, but at least we briefly met. Aiden’s eyes were darting around the room, landing anywhere but on me, and Jessie hung her head, and timidly said “ Hi” while looking at the floor. When excused, both kids quickly ran off to play with the other children. Then in June, our get-together was just for the four of us. I had knots in my stomach. My friends teased me about my nerves, saying, “You work with kids! How can you be nervous? Kids love you! You love kids!” But, this was different. These children could be my stepchildren.
It was as though I was waiting for a first date to show up. When Brian told the kids’ mom they were going to meet me, she was not happy. I was born with only one arm, and she was concerned her kids would be afraid of me. When Brian told me this, I just chuckled. He couldn’t believe I wasn’t hurt, but I reminded him of what I did for a living. I was used to fielding questions from kids about my physical difference. Kids easily accept these things, and then move on. Most likely, their mom felt threatened and was grasping for reasons for me to not develop a relationship with her children. But that afternoon while I sat on my couch, anxiously awaiting their arrival, this question kept racing through my mind: “What if his kids are afraid of my arm?” I reminded myself that I had already met them, but it was only briefly and in crowded rooms with many other people around. I was not at all sure they had even noticed. Many people don’t notice when they first meet me.
They weren’t afraid, and the “date” to the aquarium in Long Beach went well. We all had so much fun looking at the different fish, the penguins, and the puffins. In fact, Brian got a little jealous of how easily I conversed with his kids, and the kids seemed to appreciate how I genuinely listened to them. One puffin was particularly funny looking. He had yellow feathers sprouting from both sides of his head. Aiden and I decided that he was a “surfer dude puffin”. Before leaving I bought a stuffed puffin to keep as a reminder of our afternoon. We also had our first “family” picture taken inside the aquarium. Looking at the photo now, I can tell we were all a bit awkward and uncomfortable with each other. I’m still glad we took it; It’s a permanent reminder of such a momentous event in my life.
When we returned to my house, the kids chased after my cats and threw the ball for my dog, Ivy. They picked up and touched all of my breakable “tchotchkies” and played in the bar in my family room. Jessie decided she wanted to play bartender and pretended to serve drinks. “I’ll have a coke with ice, please!” I ordered. She picked a glass from the shelf and pretended to put ice cubes in it. She then grabbed a larger glass and pretended to pour coke into my glass. After drinks at the bar, we headed into my room in search of my two cats, Thumper and Charlee, who were hiding under under my bed. We sat on the floor and coaxed them both out for some petting. Aiden recalls me saying, “Your eyes are as blue as Thumper’s.” Jessie then shyly said, “What about me?” So, I turned to her and said, “And your hair is as soft as Charlee’s fur.” The kids were competing for the compliments; they seemed hungry for the praise and attention. Things were going so well, that the kids wanted to have a “sleepover”. I thought that was a good sign, but Brian and I both agreed that it was too soon to do the “family thing”. To this day, both kids remember the bar and that first visit to my house. The last thing Aiden said, with a big smile on his face, before leaving that evening was, “Hey! You could be my stepmom someday!”