You’d think the holidays would get easier as my years as a stepmom advanced, but they didn’t. I’d had this gig for six years when Christmas 2011 was upon us. That year, I was proud of myself because I had started my shopping early, and shopping for my step-kids was no easy task, either. They were the type of kids who, when asked what they wanted for Christmas, would say, “Nothing.”Or, “I don’t know.”Sometimes I was tempted to get them just that: nothing. But, I knew that when Christmas morning came, they absolutely wanted and expected to open gifts. I knew how sad and disappointed Jessie and Aiden would be if there was nothing under the tree for them. So, I wracked my brain trying to think of things they would like or want. I found games that would challenge them, clothes they would wear, and gift cards for places I knew they liked. Their dad, on the other hand, didn’t even think of gifts until Dec. 24th. I’m not kidding! Therefore, the thought behind the gifts and the shopping all fell on me. That particular year I felt I had done a good job buying fun and useful gifts for the kids, so I was eager for them to get to our house and open their presents.
For the holiday that year, the kids spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with their mom, and then came to our house around 11:00 AM. When they showed up, we were excited to see them and excited for them to open their gifts. However, when they did, my happiness was deflated. All I heard after each gift was opened was, “Thanks, Dad!”or “Thanks, Papa!”or “Thanks, Daddy!”I was not thanked once. Finally, their dad spoke up, “What, you think I did all of this? Why are you only thanking me? Shawn did most of the shopping.” Most? Sheepishly, both kids hung their heads and quietly thanked me. Even though I appreciated Brian sticking up for me, I was hurt. Suddenly, I felt demoted to just the “stepmom”all over again; the brand new, left out stepmom. In an instant those old feelings from my early years as a stepmom came rushing back. There had been times when I no longer felt like “just the stepmom”, times I felt included and connected to the kids, where no label was required. But in that moment, the label came back. I was the “stepmom”, the one who didn’t matter. It was as though I wasn’t even there. I was so hurt.
Being a stepmom is such a roller-coaster ride. The highs and lows could kill you, if you let them. I had to learn to try and take each moment for what it was, a moment. “They” say that we are supposed to live in the moment anyway, so I knew that was a good lesson for me to learn. I hoped that would help me let go of expectations. There were times when I felt so loved by Jessie and Aiden, and other times when I felt like I didn’t matter. I needed to learn to simply appreciate and savor the times when we were close and connected, and then let them go. My hope was that staying in the moment would help take the sting out of the times when they said, “Thank you, Dad”when I was the one who should have been thanked.