Anyway, it doesn't really matter what we called it. When I met Jeremy, Jordyn was six years old. She was a sweet, spunky little thing with a little bob haircut and missing teeth. I immediately felt welcomed into her dad's life... she was excited to do things with us, and though she lived full-time with her mom, stepdad, and little sister, Jeremy had her a lot, and she was part of our relationship from day one.
Since Jeremy and I got married, Jordyn has lived with her mom during the week, and been with us on the weekends
For the past 3 months, Jordyn has been living with us full-time. It was an adjustment for all of us, but once we all got into the "new groove" of things, we all settled into life, and it has been wonderful. I've gotten to know Jordyn all over again, and when I look at her, it's hard for me to see the six-year-old with a bob haircut and missing teeth. Jordyn has become an incredible young woman. (I couldn't think of any other way of saying that that wouldn't make me sound old.... so there it is... I'm old.)
Today, Jordyn turned seventeen. Last night, Jeremy, the kids and I wrote down 17 things about Jordyn that we loved and slipped them into balloons before blowing them up. This morning, with a Happy Birthday song playing from Rylee's iPod, we tossed the balloons into Jordyn's room.
If I could pick one of those 17 "loves" to share, it would be that Jordyn is incredibly loyal -- to her family, to her friends. She never brushes off an "I love you" from us, even if it's in the presence of friends (though we try really hard to keep all of the "could-be-embarassing" things to a minimum.) She is always there for her friends when they need her... she helps little sister put clips in her hair (so she can look like big sister) and she always listens to little brother's
Eleven years ago, I didn't know what being a "stepmom" would be about. And though I didn't ever try to be a "replacement" for her mom (she already had a mom, so there was no need) I was excited about the idea of being a Mom. Or "mom-like." Or whatever.
However, the last 11 years have presented challenges... being a parent is challenging enough, but to add the "step" element gives everything a different spin.
I haven't written much about being a "stepmom" on here... it's a delicate situation when you write about others, and respecting those you write about is crucial.
But on this, Jordyn's 17th birthday, I felt compelled to write. Specifically, to write to me, 11 years ago.
If I could go back 11 years, I would tell myself some things that may have helped from time to time.
I would have told myself that...
You can't take everything personal. Sometimes, when things seem like it's all about you, it's not even a tiny little bit about you.
There will be moments when you feel left out. When you feel sort of displaced. Just hold tight, because the feeling will pass.
You will realize that some years in a child's growing up are just tough... and whether you are a biological parent or a "stepparent" really makes no difference. They are tough years, and you just believe that everything you've done... everything you've modeled... everything you've said... will help everyone make it to the other side of the "tough" stuff. And everyone will make it.
There will be moments when you find yourself being able to offer guidance in a way no other person in her life can. And you will feel important. Soak it up.
There will be times when you have to hurt a little so others have the chance to learn about life and grow themselves.
When you see a quality in her that she may not have gotten if it hadn't been for you coming into her life, go ahead and smile. Feel good about it. Because whether you have the "mom" title to her or not, you will be a part of who she will become.
* * * * *
Thank you, Jordyn, for letting me be your "Carin."
I am grateful to be a part of your life.
Happy 17th Birthday, hon. I LOVE YOU!
(please excuse the photos -- a grainy, scanned photo and a not-so-great cell phone pic!)