heartbreak: a stepmom’s story

via Daily Prompt: Primp

She began to primp as she looked in the mirror, but as she stared at her reflection, it stopped her in her tracks. The hand she had raised to fluff her hair dropped down to her side. When had she gotten so old? Where had the time gone? At that moment, events from the last ten years rushed to her mind.

She could still remember the day they brought the kids home, the day she became a full-time stepmom. They were, by no means, babies, but they were to her. She had never been a mom before. In a way, she was a baby as well. She vowed to do her best. She vowed that she would always put them first. She would make their happiness, their safety and their future her main priority. Along with the man she loved, her husband, they would raise some amazing children.

It wasn’t easy in the beginning. It took some adjusting for all of them. The children weren’t used to rules or discipline or even routine, but as parents, they knew these things were necessary. She and her husband were not used to life that revolved around three little ones. Again, a lot of compromising and adjusting had to take place. Eventually, things calmed down and became normal.

Days consisted of school, homework, play time, dinner, baths and eventually bed. School issues were being resolved, as all the kids were struggling in the beginning due to their previous home situation. They all strived to make things better. They fell into a consistent routine that seemed to work for all of them. Things ran smoothly for a while, with a few small setbacks here and there.

Although they gained physical custody of the children, visitation was granted to their biological mom. At first, the only issue was that they would come back from a weekend with her and be completely different kids. They would forget about rules and manners and respect. Things eventually got worse. Although her husband was giving his ex-wife, the kids’ mother, cash to pay the mortgage every month, it wasn’t being paid. She lost the house. She and her boyfriend, who’d been living in the house with her, moved into a trailer with his parents. That’s when things really got crazy.

Thinking back on it now, she knows that God had a plan and that He was in control of everything that happened, but at the time… she felt like she was living a nightmare.

The weekend visitation became less planned and more sporadic. Mom couldn’t take them this weekend because she didn’t have any food. She couldn’t take them the next because she had nowhere to take them. There was a point when stepmom and her husband allowed their mom to take kids to the trailer where they were living, but that didn’t last too long. They would come home with horror stories about what was taking place. There were drugs in plain sight and being used while they were there. Guns and knives, weapons of all sorts, were lying around where the kids could easily access them if they so desired. Needless to say, she was not allowed to take the kids there for her visitation once we found this out. For a while, stepmom and dad agreed to pay for a hotel room for the kids’ visitation with their mom. But that eventually came to an end as well, considering she still didn’t have food for them.  It wasn’t hard to believe, considering mom and her boyfriend did not have jobs. Then, they decided to go to truck driving school, paid for by her father. A few months later, they were a cross country driving team. They would show up every few months and want to see the kids and stepmom and dad usually dropped everything to make that happen. This went on for another couple of years until the couple had decided to call it quits. They broke up and bio mom had to come home. Funny thing though, she had nothing to come home to, so she moved back into the trailer with her now ex-boyfriend’s family.  And that is where she remains to this very day.  Her ex has since been married, twice. He’s actually turned out to be a decent guy. Stepmom remembers the story that the kids told her about how he once prevented bio mom from leaving the kids in a hotel room to go buy drugs and from taking them with her to buy drugs. Seems that he breaking up with her was one of the smartest things he’s done.

There were many stories like this that stepmom and dad heard from the children through the years. Eventually, it led to them deciding mom couldn’t see them anymore until she got her life together. That was not a pleasant conversation to have with her. She wanted to know if they wanted her to give up her parental rights. Of course they said no, they would never ask her to do that. They just explained that it was safer for the children if she only contacted them by phone or text. It would be months before the kids would hear from her after that. She did try, stepmom was able to get her into rehab for the drugs, but she didn’t complete the program. Maybe there was nothing she could do to get out of the situation she was in. It seemed like a lost cause most times, but stepmom was determined to try to fix everything. Stepmom and dad even offered to get her an apartment and pay her bills until she got on her feet. She turned down the offer because they told her that her boyfriend couldn’t live there with her. They did things to help quite often for the sake of the kids. Nothing worked.

Here it is, years later, and it’s been almost seven years since the two youngest have even seen their biological mom. They children are thriving. One has just started college and the other is in his junior year of high school. Recently, they told stepmom that they no longer desire a relationship with her. They said she is not their mom and hasn’t been for a long time. She couldn’t imagine her babies saying that about her.

The oldest baby, well that’s another story. He’s had a hard time. He didn’t want to leave his mom and move in with his dad and his new wife. He continued to struggle through school. He didn’t want to do his work or follow the rules. But there finally came a time where he was getting by. School was ok, but he only did enough to skate by. When it came time for graduation, he didn’t meet all the requirements he needed to get his diploma. He walked across the stage on that very special day, but he only received a certificate of completion. It would take him another three months to pass the test needed to get his diploma, but he did get it. Then what, his only choices were a job, the military or college. He was a self-admittedly lazy child. He used to say that he got it from his mom. He didn’t want to go to college because it was too much work; he didn’t want a job because he wasn’t qualified for anything he liked. The military it was. He didn’t graduate boot camp with his fellow soldiers; he didn’t meet the requirements needed for that. It would take him another month. That would be two graduations that dad and stepmom missed out on. After he finally graduated, he received his duty station. It would take him six thousand miles away from home, to a foreign country. He was excited. Dad and stepmom were nervous, but trusted that God would take care of him. After the first year, it seemed things took a turn for the worse. From his social media posts, they could tell he was doing things that he shouldn’t be. The phone calls home went from constant to sporadic and then to almost nothing. And then one day, stepmom received a text asking if they could pick him up from the airport “tomorrow.” He was getting out. They would soon find out that it wasn’t his choice. Now, twenty one years old, he moved back home. There were rules and expectations that stepmom and dad had for him. That was a struggle. They knew that he had been carrying on a relationship with his bio mom via phone and video chat while he was away. They didn’t mind, he was old enough to deal with that situation how he saw fit. They did, however, worry that she would break his heart again, but he would need to deal with that. She prayed he wouldn’t have to.

He lasted almost three months in their home before moving in with his mom. They were still in the trailer that would be condemned if family services were ever called. The refrigerator sits on the front porch, who knows why. The stove had to be removed because there was a nest of rats living in it. The bathroom had a huge, gaping hole in the floor. But alas, after years of being adamant that he would never live there, this is where you will find him. He’s been there for a week today. Yesterday, his stepmom asked him if he wanted to come home. His answer, “I’ll let you know.” She knew he was happy there, if only because he was with his mom. But still, she worries. Any mother would. She worries about his safety, his psychological well-being, his physical health and all the other things that real moms care about. She knows there’s nothing she can do. He will either change his attitude, move back home and get his life together or stay where he is and get his life together. Or, and she’s prays this is not the case, he will stay there and decide nothing is as important to him as being with his mom, no matter what state they are living in. No matter what happens, he will be responsible for the outcome, based on his choices. She will not blame is mom, or give credit to herself or his father, for the result. He is an adult and it is all on his shoulders now.  A part of her knows that a real mom would do what is best for her child, not encourage him to stay where there is no future. But alas, she is also a mom who has lost two of her children and will do whatever she has to in order to avoid losing the third. After all, she just got him back after missing the last ten years of his life. Again, even being a stepmom, she knows what it means to put her children’s needs above her wants. She believes that is what makes her such an amazing mom. It reminds her of the bible story of King Solomon. He was faced with two women who claimed to be the mother of one child. In order to determine who the true mother was, he told the women that he was going to cut the child in half and they could each have a piece. Knowing that the child would die, the true mother gave up the child to the other woman in order to save the child.

A woman, who never had children of her own, now realizes that they are her most important accomplishments. She will continue to love, encourage and support her children, all of her children, with her whole heart; even if the decisions they made caused that heart to break.

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