My heart was heavy this morning. It was definitely shaping up to be a serenity prayer kind of day. Sometimes, in this space, I’m limited as to what I can share because while my stories are mine to tell, I tread lightly on telling other people’s stories. I have written (elsewhere) about my bonus children, and how their loving me comes at an emotional cost to them, a cost I wish they didn’t have to pay, and one that I would gladly pay for them. If I could. And I never want to make that cost to them higher than it already is.
But what I can always share and celebrate and revel in is their love for me and mine for them.
This is my comfort today. Despite the many things I cannot change, no amount of eye-rolling or lies can change the fact that I enjoy a close, loving relationship with my husband’s children. They are treasures in my life. I treasure the mundane and special moments we share, our talks, silly texts, and inside jokes. I have never, ever, ever wanted to take their mother’s place. Instead, the children have created a space for me in their lives and in their hearts, and for that I’m grateful. Children have a boundless amount of love to give and they can never have too many people in their lives who love and care for them.
All children are gifts. Just showing up in a child’s life doesn’t entitle you to anything. Giving birth doesn’t either. How we love children teaches them how to love others. How we treat children teaches them what they can and should expect from others. A child’s love is a humbling thing. All we can do as adults is try and be worthy and embrace the gift when children open their hearts to us.
I’m grateful for the four girls who freely choose to open their hearts to me. I believe my children love me for the same reason my bonus children do: Not because I’m their mother and they’re obligated to love me, but rather because they choose to love me. Being a mother doesn’t entitle me to anything that I don’t prove worthy of by my actions and commitment. And obligatory love is no love at all. No one is owed a child’s love. Even, or perhaps especially, biological parents shouldn’t take this gift for granted. None of us have that kind of time.
We have a saying in our family, one that TechBooHusband and I share with each other, and that we’ve passed along to the kids: “I don’t always like you, but I always love you.” I was texting with my bonus daughters today and one of them wrote, “Okay…stepparent who loves and likes me .” She understands that love is a choice, that we’ve chosen to open our hearts to each other, and that this is a special thing. And with that reminder, I had to get out of my earlier funk: I am blessed.