Dear former stepchildren

Everything about you changed my life. I can never look back at my marriage to your father with complete regret; without him, I would never have had a chance to be your stepmother. I was luckier than I ever could imagine to have children like you in my life–loving, funny, compassionate, dynamic and amazing kids. You made it easy to love you.

You have no idea how much of a challenge it was becoming a stepmother! I am so thankful that I had to learn to love your mother and accept her. I am so thankful that I had to learn how to let children love both of their parents without jealously, resentment or anger. I am so thankful for the nights we read together, the dinners we cooked together, the days by the pool, the vacations (with and without your father), singing songs by the campfire with the puppers and marshmallows, the days you came to my classroom and helped me get ready for summer, the summers we spent sleeping in, the day we found annabelle, the lessons I learned in letting you make your own choices and be your own person without pressure or influence from me, the little Christmas presents you made me, the secret trips to Mcdonalds and Starbucks, the hugs from behind while I worked in the kitchen, picking veggies and eating them straight from the garden, going out to dinner just for fun, watching you become “one of the cousins,” movie nights, the nest, seeing you learn how to stand on your own, being proud of you learning how to become emotionally stable and strong, and just being able to love you and be loved in return–honestly, openly and on our own terms.

You taught me how to become a better person. You taught me that I have more strength that I ever knew I had. I was far from perfect and I made mistakes. I hurt you sometimes, but I healed you at others. I learned to love myself, both the faults and the strengths, I learned to forgive myself, because you loved me anyway.

I know now that the reason I moved in with your father, the reason I stayed so long with him, the reason I married him despite the beginnings of doubt I had growing in my mind, was because of you. When I first met you, you were so broken. You needed so much help and I couldn’t walk away from it. I fell in love with your father’s Dr. Jekyll, just like you. We all wished and hoped together that the good days would last and that Mr. Hyde would never return. But we all knew, didn’t we? We all knew that at any moment he could switch and knowing that you still live with that fear and frustration breaks my heart. I can’t stand between you and his rage anymore at 3 in the morning, when he is screaming because your room isn’t clean enough.

I came home after that weekend I left in September because I knew my children needed more than a last minute babysitter, cold pizza and an empty home during the school week while their father was in Chicago losing yet another good job or sleeping with his “shaman” girlfriend. I never told you what was really happening. I never told you the things I can put in this letter. I never told you that your father was the equivalent of emotional cancer. I never told you that he broke my heart. I never told you there was more than one woman. I never told you about the Myspace girls–yes, girls (and god, yes, Myspace, how juvenile!)–that he had so many of. I never told you that he was texting other women while we stood together as a family at your grandfather’s funeral–oh, so many little, cruel, immature and insignificant details that I never told you. I never told you what he was really doing when he didn’t go on our family trip. I never told you that I knew, but didn’t want to believe, that he would never let me see you again if I left. I only told you that I loved you and I wished I could stay. I only told you that you were not a reflection of your parents’ choices and that I would always love you and miss you. I only told you what I could, but I always told you the truth. But not the whole, painful, inappropriate truth.

I left because I had to save myself. I left you behind to save my own soul. I had no rights, no choice, nothing. I had nothing that would allow me any right or access to you. But if I had stayed, wouldn’t I have hurt you more? If I had stayed, would you learn that it is okay to let someone treat you that way? I left because I wanted to be free of him, the hurt, the pain, the cancer that was slowing choking the life out of me. I know he has lied to you. I know he told you that my restraining order meant that I couldn’t see you, but that wasn’t true. I know he told you that I didn’t want to see you. We both know that would never be true. Your mother let me see you once or twice, but as soon as he began to put pressure on her and you, it was too much fire to play with. He hated me so much, he didn’t want you to see me–I might remind you of what he had done, of what you had lost because of him. I sent you cards every month. Did you get them? Did you remember me? Did you think of me as often as I thought of you– brown, curly haired girls-on-the-cusp-of-woman, or thin, lanky, blue eyed boys….they are all around me, but they are never you.

I needed you to see that it would be alright, you can survive, you will survive, if you leave someone, someplace or something that hurts you.

I wanted you to hate him, but I knew that you could never survive living with him that way. He would break you. Hate would break you. Only love heals. I have learned how to forgive your father and I have learned how to be incredibly happy, but I will always miss having you in my life. I will always regret losing you. No matter how long it has been, I still miss and love you.

When you are old enough, please come find me if you like–I know it is coming up soon. I don’t want to talk about the past. I want to hear about boyfriends and girlfriends, college plans, friends, the books you are reading, the movies you saw, your hopes, your dreams…I just want you. The entire family wants you. We miss you, we love you, we will never forget you.

~ by Stepfamily Letter Project on January 1, 2010.

One Response to “Dear former stepchildren”

  1. Thank you so much for this! I miss my stepdaughter every second of every day, and every day I know she misses me too. We are being kept apart by her bio-mom, and it feels like her dad (my ex) doesn’t care enough to fight for the relationship she (my girl) and I have.

    It kills me with every breath.

    But I see now that I am not alone.

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