I’ve been lucky enough that my experience as a mother had me wearing two separate guises. To my son I am omnipresent mother who loved him from the moment I held his wriggly, slimy body in my arms and have guided through him all manner of developmental stages, literally holding his hand as he explored life. My reward for the tribulation of pregnancy and birth, of troubled nights and early mornings, of the sick and the poop and the being weed on was an unfaltering, unconditional love.
To my stepdaughters I was a shiny new adult who was assuming a parenting role of sorts but who was untested. What if I was less permanent than I seemed? What did I know of how they liked their hair doing or of what made them feel better if they were ill or sad? Sure I got the positives of them already being toilet trained and weaned onto solids but I had to contend with the hard truth that this love wouldn’t be unconditional, this love had to be earned.
With my eldest stepdaughter it came quite quickly. She is a lot like me in many ways and so we basked on our mutual ground and were quickly exchanging snuggles and ‘I love you’s’. I was, as my new mug exclaimed, a wicked stepmother (wicked like good, I’m down with the kids).
However with my younger stepdaughter things were less simple. We always got along, there was no screaming and breaking things or locking up in towers, it just felt less like motherhood and more like I was a family friend or a teacher. Nice enough but not family. Over time the no hugging turned into quick awkward hugs and things felt a little easier but still world’s away from a parental bond.
I can’t say really when things finally changed; when things alter a little bit each time you don’t tend to notice but then one time I did. It was time to say goodbye after a weekend at ours, I got my squeeze and kisses off the eldest and offered myself to the younger daughter for our brief hug. However as I went to pull out of the hug she clung on, she squeezed tight. At that point my heart swelled, just as it did at the sight of the slimy, wriggly thing. This delivery into motherhood came with less goo and blood than the first one but the love felt just as well deserved.
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