Recently I got remarried after a long courtship. Keith and I knew each other in college. We both married others and had children and when we did reconnect, the children met. My children are living with us, and his children live with his ex-wife who doesn’t live too far away.
During the courtship, his children would visit often and spend time with us — we enjoyed each one another’s company and in the beginning, I was referred to as dad’s girlfriend and over time they used the word partner. Now that we’re married, I was wondering if it would turn into stepmother or dad’s wife. The thought of step mother started to irk me as it wasn’t an appropriate title given my relationship to the kids.
To my two children, he’s always been Keith. Nothing longer, shorter or cuter. His first name was always used and that’s how it still stands today. I have a wonderful relationship with his now adult children. No drama, saga or under current passive aggressive behavior. It’s a loving environment with open affection and mutual respect.
It was up to me to lay the groundwork and I did this by staying out of their business, not asking many questions and not giving my opinion on anything unless they asked. Not easy my friends, not easy. Even when they asked, I consciously couched my answer so it was as neutral as possible.
They have a mother whom I know. She’s been hands on and clearly loves her children. Thus, I stayed at arms length but with love. Keith’s children were brought up differently than I am bringing up my two children. The main differences are: religion, the display of affection and open topics of conversations. Not much is left to wonder in my house. All areas of bodily functions, food preparation, politics, feelings, books, movies and the like are left to ponder. No topic is left off the table.
Back to the stepmother or stepfather term. I never liked the word step as a reference either for a parent or for a sibling. It automatically gave me a visual of difference – one step either above or below. Neither applied to this situation. I love them like my own. I care, wonder and worry about the health, education and love life. We buy them clothes and provide shelter when they need it. We are there for them, bottom line, for their life.
I was searching for a fresh approach and statement or description of our relationship. When I got divorced, just hearing the word divorce made me cringe and want to jump. In fact, I couldn’t muster the word so I told everyone I was getting single. That sums it up the same and isn’t a crushing blow to anyone. Clearly, anyone who knew me understood this meant divorce, I just didn’t need to use that harsh, emotionally charged, nasty, lawyer induced word. Our getting single wasn’t easy; sorrow, regret, sadness and children were involved. Our relationship just didn't work.
Recently at a party, I overheard someone use the word...bonus. Reward. Extra. Happy. More than what I have. Perfect. Bonus daughter, bonus son, bonus mom, or bonus dad. Immediately, I introduced Ashton as my bonus daughter and she introduced me as her bonus mom. It was positive. It was clear what the message was both visually and emotionally.
I beg those of you out there reading this post to consider using bonus if all parties agree first in private. If you have a new parent that you like a lot or even love or a parent is interested in having a fresh relationship and perspective with their current wife’s or husband’s children, try out bonus when you introduce them. Watch and feel the reaction. Let’s turn a potential touchy subject into a positive one for us all.
Thanks for reading.