Tuesday, April 02, 2013

this one is kind of long. sorry.

for those of you that don't know this, my kid's bio-mom isn't in the picture.  not because of anything heinous i did, not because of anything heinous anyone did, as far as i can tell.  she was young when the boychik was born, about 17, and only just 21 when the girlchild was born.  my husband was older (probably too much older, he'll be the first to admit), although neither of them were exactly grown-ups when the kids came along.  about 12 years ago, she decided that she didn't want to be a mom or girlfriend anymore, and she and D split up.  for a bit they worked on co-parenting, but that fell apart quickly.  there were drugs and parties involved, but it's probably not entirely fair to blame the falling apart on that alone.  i think, more than anything, that she resented having so much responsibility, and wanted a life of her own instead.  when i was 21, i had very little responsibility.  i had a part time cat, a share of the rent to pay, some homework to do, and many parties to attend and bars to go to.  it was wonderful, and i'm glad i had that time for myself.  unlike the bio-mom, though, at 17 i had also graduated from high school, came from an intact family and wasn't in a big rush to be an adult.  when she was 17, she was a high school dropout who had essentially run away from home and gotten pregnant for the first time.  she's only a year older than me, but our lives are pretty different. 

for ten years she was completely absent from the kid's lives. no child support, no birthday cards, no calls on the phone.  she practically dropped off the face of the earth.  the boychik took it harder than the girlchild, because he remembered her, had grown up with her.  the girlchild remembers nothing of her parents being together.  two years ago, right about the time D and i were getting ready to get married, she friended the kids on facebook.  i guess if you're going to parent long-distance, with as little effort as possible, hitting the "like" button is as good a place as any to start.  her sudden reappearance caused shock waves both big and small, and we all had to adjust to knowing she was around.  unlike a lot of stepmoms, i had never had to deal with the mother of my kids.  there wasn't a lot of memory about her either to compete with, no "wrong" way of making mac and cheese, no struggle to assert that i was actually doing parenting, or to fit in and/or complement a style already in place.  the kids already had a parent who was a bit outside the norm, and they made a place for me as easily as you would put down another plate at dinner.  i've always understood how lucky i am to have had an easy, good relationship with them.  it didn't take me long to fall as in love with them as i did their dad, and to be frank, marriage to me meant primarily solidifying our family.  i always referred to it as "our" wedding, because it was about the four of us.

at the back of my mind, though, has always been the fear that she's going to want more of a relationship with the kids.  that facebook isn't going to be enough, that soon the phone calls will start, and the awkward visits will commence.  (after two years of nothing but random facebook messages between her and both kids, this anxiety should be lessened, but anxiety not being related to logic or reality, is still just as strong to me.)  being an official stepmom is great and all, but as much as i love the kids, as much as i consider them my own, she's the wildcard.  bio-moms have precedence, you know?  bio-moms are THE important mom, stepmom's are never "real" moms, and there's this prevailing idea that the love and connection a woman feels for the children she's carried is the most noble, enduring, deepest bond two people can have.  which means that even though she walked out, she loves them more than i do or could, and secretly pines for them to return to her loving bosom.  or something.   

the point of all this is this: a year ago the bio-mom had another baby.  she told the girlchild about it last week.  she's never told the boychik, but he figured it out a few months ago after a lot of photos of her with a baby showed up on facebook.  D figured it out doing a google search a few months ago as well. ( i was the last to know.)  my initial emotions were all about the kids; how did they feel, were they worried, was it strange for them, did they want to meet their new brother, would this make the bio mom more involved?  the girlchild at first was shocked and excited, and wanted to know about the baby and meet him.  she's since settled into a more cautious interest, probably in solidarity to her brother.  the boychik said he didn't care, that he doesn't know or have a relationship with his bio-mom, and that he doesn't know the baby and just because they share a parent doesn't mean they're siblings to him.  "it takes more than some shared DNA to make us family, you know?"  i admitted that it freaked me out, but that my experience with my mom is pretty different than theirs is as well.  if my mom had done something like this, i'd be heartbroken, but i grew up with my mom.  i know her.  they don't.  i was also furious at the casual way she brought it up with the girlchild, and couldn't believe that this was how she chose to act. 

after all that, after the kids had gone to bed, i was swept by other, more selfish emotions.  anger that she would treat the kids like mere acquaintances who hadn't needed or been important enough to be informed she was pregnant, or that they had a new brother.  more upsetting to me was the overwhelming grief i felt.  marrying D meant no bio-kids of my own.  i had a choice; i could have him and the kids, or a theoretical baby with someone else.  i knew him and the kids, i loved them, and i don't regret my decision; but i was a woman who thought she would have children in a more conventional sense.  which is hilarious when you consider i wasn't so sure about marriage.  knowing that she can just have babies when she feels like it, that she gets to be THE MOM no matter what, that she was reveling in new motherhood while i get to deal with parent-teacher conferences and arguing over whose turn it is to clean the bathroom and all the tedious parts of parenthood that sitcoms are written of, made me break down and weep.  it's so easy for her to get to be a mom, and no matter what i do, i'll always have come later, and i'll never have that easy assurance that i'm a parent.  i never get to say, "just do it because i'm your mom and i asked you to." 

and while all that's true, it's also all bullshit too.  family isn't just DNA and inborn emotional connections.  you don't parent your kids because you have to, obviously.  our biological imperative doesn't automatically make us good people.  just because you make a person, or are related to a person doesn't mean you have anything in common with them or even like them.  our veneration of mothers isn't always honest or accurate.  i might not be a real mom, but i am a real parent, i do have children that i love and would do anything for.  unlike their bio-mom, i can't imagine severing ties with them, for any reason.  if D and i were break up tomorrow, i'd still feel like the kids were mine, i'd still want to live with them and care for them, and cajole them into taking out the trash.  i miss them when i'm away for just a day.  i can be sad and cry about the kids i didn't have, i think that's fair. i can be upset that she can make babies when she wants to, i have that right.  more than that, though, i have a family right here and right now, who i love and am grateful for.  my theoretical bio-baby would have been cute and chubby and had a ridiculous name, but i wouldn't trade the kids i have for the kid that might have been.  i hope their new brother has a mom that sticks around, and i hope someday the kids have some sort of relationship with him.  i think he'll like them. 


Nimble said...

That sounds alarming and I'm sorry that she has so much pull. You certainly get to mourn what you haven't got. But I'm glad that you value the family you've built. You get to have all the feelings.

Rachel said...

I think you're totally right--DNA does not a family make. I have an ex-BIL who's nothing more than a mooching sperm donor as far as his kids are concerned, which drives me absolutely bonkers. It doesn't matter that you're not biologically related to your kids--I've been reading you for a few years now, and I admire how you've handled being a "step" mom, and the love you have for your kids comes through in your posts.

Lisa Watson said...

I'm an adult adoptee who is married to an adult adoptee and we adopted our daughter. My husband is a stepfather to my son. Families are what you make them. You, Amanda are the MOM. All the growing up memories are all going to involve you.

It's obvious you adore these kids and you're doing a fabulous job with them.

And besides, girlfriend friends them on FB? Seriously? She's apparently not too invested in the whole thing.