Dear Step-Daughter

I told you this day would come, but I’m sad to say that I just wasn’t ready for it. Do you remember when you were 9 and begging me to share hopes and dreams while you played in the tub? We talked about how you would always think I was the coolest and I took this opportunity to tell you that there would be a short period of time when I would become the enemy. You didn’t believe me then, and it seems that even though I knew the reality, I didn’t believe me either. All I hope now is that the “short period of time” is not too painful.

Being a teenager is a time of growth and separation. It is inevitable this mother-daughter split. Every woman has gone through it in some way. Although I am not your mother I am the only parent you have that will love you unconditionally through your separation and I know that you realize that on a psychological level. While you might not recognize it your feelings towards me are a testament to the health of our relationship and will continue to speak volumes about us. This will stay true as long as I remain accepting to your need to separate from me, as well as being willing to make the necessary changes in myself to help you break free instead of holding you too close.

I know that this stage is normally reserved for true mothers and daughters but our world is so much more complicated than “normally.” I know that you love your mother, as any girl should. I will never, have never, tried to take that away from you or her. Having my own daughter I know the depth of that relationship and have no hang ups about it. But the fact of the matter is  – you are your mom’s parent, she is incapable of mothering you, so I have stepped in and mothered you for her. I chose this role, and I still do it with great pleasure. Watching you grow into the young woman that you are has been an amazing journey and I know that I am a huge part of that, even if it goes unacknowledged. I do not do this to win your affection I do it because I love you with every part of my heart.

It’s amazing to me that you’re so grown up now, going into the 8th grade already. Our 7 years flash before my eyes pretty regularly: you on your 7th birthday – standing on the fire escape with your stuffed Garfield doll, looking back now your personality is still as precocious; you performing in the turkey costume – just a vision of the young woman you are today; the day we got the puppy – you and him jumping on the bed, his ears akimbo and your hair wild; you, 8 years old – standing on a stool in dad’s kitchen helping me make pancakes while I teach you about fractions; standing in your grandparents house with you wrapped around my legs saying “you can’t go, I’ve got you;” your 9th birthday – sitting in court with that god awful dress that was worn and too small, telling the GAL that you were afraid of your dad; two weeks later – watching your rock back and forth, banging your head against the wall because you thought that if “daddy takes (me) away it’s all (my) fault;” that same Christmas – getting your first big kid bike and the beautiful grin and flash of excitement in your eyes; you sitting on dad’s lap -driving the car through a lake; campfires and s’mores; friends and giggles; wrestling dad in the living room, attending to your sister with more heart than you thought you had; the first time you saw the mountains I thought you would drift away with all the day-dreaming going on in your mind. All of these things are your history, our history, and it is these visions that will get me through this trying time.

Here’s the thing though, I know that you feel like an adult now that you’re almost 14 and that’s cool, I totally remember the feeling. But the reality is, you aren’t and that’s ok. I’m still here to help you, just in different ways. I promise to give you the space to establish who you are and I will always strive to nurture the uber-unique and awesome personality that you have exhibited since the first day we met. That being said, I will also establish boundaries in our relationship. I know this is uncomfortable for you because no one ever has, but it is essential so that you can establish your own boundaries in your romantic relationships that are quickly approaching. I will also continue to share my life experiences with you. Woman to woman is the communal way in which we learn to live our lives and it would be a disservice to withhold them from you because you think it’s weird right now. I will also ask you a lot of questions, about everything. This is not because I think I’m your mother, it’s because I see you as my friend, my family, and that’s what friends and family do. I don’t ask to be a bother or to get in your business, I ask because I am interested in you and your world, because I love you, no matter what.

What’s the most difficult is that this year has been so hard on you. You have lived more life in the past 365 days than most adults see ever and for that I am greatly saddened. Everyone has a path to take and this is yours, good and bad. Although we don’t know the reasons now I trust that you’re experiences will be for a purpose undetermined. I see that it affects you so deeply, it would affect anyone that way, but hang tight kiddo. This life can be challenging, but I will always be here for you, and I have faith in you.

As I stand here on the pinnacle of your development I am having serious pain in letting you go. I am so afraid for you, after all that you have been through. I am terrified of what you stand to become. This is where my desire to control and intrude come from and I’m so sorry if it has caused you pain. I just want you to be free from the agony that I suffered from not having someone involved appropriately in my life. But I just can’t protect you from that because you live a life where the person who needs to be involved is not. It’s slowly that I realize I cannot fill that void by doing more. When you were 8 I told a friend that I wished I could take you away forever from the drama of your life, to shield you from the insanity, and I still feel like that today. It’s almost if I forgot to grow with you, but not quite. I know now that it’s time to watch you go towards adulthood.

~ by Stepfamily Letter Project on May 10, 2010.

2 Responses to “Dear Step-Daughter”

  1. What a stunningly beautiful letter. If my stepdaughter were close to her teens I would be sorely tempted to copy it and give it to her. As she is only 7, it reminds me to cherish the times I have with her now, and continue to lay the solid foundation that will hold us through the teen years.

    You sound like an amazing mom!

  2. I agree totally with the last comment! Once mine hit the teen years I could not display this kind of acceptance but I did have heartwarming moments in their younger years.

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