Historically the word "stepmom" doesn't conjure a pleasant image (I'm looking at you, Cinderella). So when I realized that I was actually going to be one, I was terrified. I was nervous the kids were going to hate me forever, that I was going to screw something up, that their father would change his mind about me because I couldn't French braid. I was inept. The extent of my experience with children was limited to one babysitting job over the course of one summer. And if I'm being honest, I hated it. I had nothing to offer these kids. They already had two pretty fantastic parents. They didn't need me.
|It's not a French braid but it's progress!|
But then there was this silly little girl with bright eyes and a ponytail that reached all the way down her back (which just added anxiety to the whole "can't French braid" thing) who loved Strawberry Shortcake and Littlest Pet Shop. To my surprise she didn't throw a Hollywood tantrum upon meeting me. She asked me to push her on the swing. She let me color a picture with her. She let me brush her hair when it was time for bed. She let me pick out her clothes for her. She let me into her life, no questions asked. A privilege that still to this day I do not feel worthy of. She never treated me like a stepmom. She treated me as a friend. We would joke around and share books. I would tease her about her huge crush on Markiplier (look him up...I had to) and she would tease me about my love of Pride and Prejudice (which she eventually grew to like as well, I mean, it's Jane Austen...duh). She would put up with my endless pictures and crazy ideas with grace. She is my muse. It was never complicated like most blended families are portrayed. It was love and respect. It is love and respect. Pretty simple really.
Now, I've always been a shy person and because of that a lot of the time you end up a spectator on the sidelines of life. Watching. Observing. You learn a lot doing this. I have watched this girl grow from a sweet, happy child into a sweet, caring adolescent and then into a sweet, confident, loyal, beautiful powerhouse of a woman. I've watched her fiercely protect her friends and family with unwavering loyalty. I've seen her triumphantly conquer her goals, even if it meant trying again after falling down. She did it without batting an eyelash. I've seen her care for her younger siblings with so much love and tenderness you wonder if she's even real. She's never seemed to question herself or anyone else, loving completely and unconditionally. She is unapologetically unique and that is why everyone, and I do mean everyone, is drawn to her like a root fighting through the dirt for water you didn't even realize you were thirsty for. She has a compassion for everyone, deserving or not, that this world desperately needs and that she's preparing to share. She has made the incredibly difficult and amazing decision to join the Army. She's leaving in just a short week. Taking a free dive head first into adulthood. She's chosen to leave her family and friends for almost a year so that she can attain her goals in life. I wish I'd had it HALF as together as she does when I was 17.
It often feels like I've been watching this life of hers as part of an audience looking past the 4th wall. Sometimes I slip into the front row and contemplate this beautifully made work of art. Now it seems like I'm watching her walk through a door. Slipping quietly from childhood into the world I know and it's terrifying. I'm holding on to the doorknob with just the tips of my fingers until I have to let go. I know I have to. This part of the story is hers alone to write. She's skipping towards her future without abandon and I admire that. I'm so glad she let me tag along. I'm glad she let me brush her hair and push her on a swing.
She's off to set the world on fire. I'll bring the marshmallows.