Sunday, March 08, 2009


One of the hardest roles in my life has been that of step mother. My relationship with my step son, David tried and tested every single layer of who I am and the things I believe in. It is no secret to those who know us personally, and those who have come to have an awareness of our family through my blog, that there were many very unhappy years that at times had me in a very dark place.

As my 49th birthday approaches later this month, I decided to share this story now as I have wanted to since my last birthday on March 28th, 2008.

David had moved out of the house about a year prior. DDTF, Ross and I were going away on our vacation in May and I was relieved that when we returned, I would have a shot at enjoying a more peaceful situation within the confines of my home.

Within a few months of David moving out, there was a noticeable shift in our relationship. When he visited the house, which he did frequently, he would actually greet me and spend substantial time talking with me. We would engage in meaningful conversations and I realized I often felt uplifted after he had stopped by.

As much as things were looking good, I still felt the need to proceed with caution. My thoughts and feelings as time went on and the relationship grew bordered on feeling like it was too good to be true. I had to consciously prevent myself from putting out those kinds of thoughts because I wanted this to be good. I needed to support the change, and be the change as we moved in the direction of everything I had always wished for.
On my birthday last year, David stopped by and handed me an envelope. He was rushing out but explained he had wanted to come by to wish me happy birthday so it wasn’t inappropriate for me to have set the envelope aside because he was soon out the door. Much later that evening I went to get the envelope. I was surprised by this gesture before even reading the card. There had been many birthdays of mine that he had totally ignored. This had never offended me because I respected him for his honesty. Based on the quality of our relationship over those years, what was he to do? Go out and get a card that would say how much he disliked me and how unpleasant it was to be growing up with me and that either way he really didn’t give a shit that it was my birthday. As young as he was, he stood his ground and I never held that against him. I felt it showed strength of character to stand in his truth so boldly.

With a sense of nervous anticipation I opened the card. I read it very slowly to be sure I took in every word. The beautiful message in the card was one that any mother would have been thrilled to receive. It brought tears to my eyes and I felt deeply and intensely touched by this display of emotion from David.

Knowing that he was out I sent him a text message thanking him and telling him how long I had waited for something like this, and that it had been well worth the wait. Two days later he came over for dinner.

While at the table I opened up to him and told him about a conversation that had taken place between me and his sister Alexandra, during a family therapy session a few months earlier. In that session I told her that I had reached a point where I no longer needed her or her brother’s agreement to validate my feelings about the kind of step parent I had been. I told her that while there are probably many things I could have done differently, I know that I had always done my best by them. I had always done the best I knew how to do.
I explained that my wishes for Ross were exactly the same as my wishes for her and for David. I had never and would never want more out of life for Ross than for them. I told Alex that I hoped that one day she and David would reach a point where they would feel in their hearts that they could have done a lot worse in the step mother they got. I made it very clear that this wish of mine was not for my own satisfaction, because I do know they could have done a lot worse. I felt that if they reached a point where they could acknowledge this – I would be happy for THEM because this would reflect a shift in their lives. It would reflect that they had worked through stuff that would allow them to discard the baggage they carry about me – and that would make me very happy for them. I wanted them to get to that place in their lives for their own peace and contentment and not as an ego stroke for me.

By the time I got to this point in the conversation with David, I was crying because it was such a relief to be able to speak openly and show my vulnerabilities to him. For many years it felt like I had to have strength to protect myself and to stay committed in a relationship that I had so often just wanted to walk away from.

I went on to ask him if he had personally chosen that card or if his girlfriend had perhaps picked it up for him. My only reason for asking this was because if I knew he had chosen it, I would have been totally assured that he had reached that place within himself that I had wished for him to find.

He was not offended by the question and said that he had chosen the card and when he saw it he felt it was a very accurate expression of how he felt.

I thanked him again and told him how much I appreciated it and how much it meant to me.
An interesting thought comes to mind as I write this. There were many times when I would vent to my own mother on the phone about how I was struggling. I also used to vent by means of chat to my cousin on line in South Africa. They were always great listeners because they never offered advice, they just listened. The only thing my Mom would always say was, “Be patient. I promise you, one day you and Daniel will have a lot of pleasure from this boy.” My cousin simply said, “One day, one day he will hear your voice.”

I feel heard. I feel a sense of pride for what he has achieved.
It feels good. I feel like David and I are the poster people for step parent/child relationships.
They can be healed.

more pics here