To My Daughter’s “Real” Mother,
I remember the day I met your daughter. She was bright-eyed and inquisitive, barely out of her toddler years, and I was scared of her. Or rather, not of her but of what she was: my future stepdaughter, a mysterious child whom I hadn’t raised.
I was out of my comfort zone that day, afraid she would dismiss me with prejudice. I was comfortable in my role as mom to my own sons. But she was new, different, and unknown, and I feared that I would somehow fail in our first meeting.
I didn’t meet you that day. You were a mystery to me in those early days.
I read the books about how to be a stepparent . I recognized that deep within myself, I was nervous, afraid of the unknown, and worried that I might grow to resent your daughter simply for being the embodiment of my husband’s previous relationship with you.
My mind raced with unspoken fears, unable to voice them because I barely understood them myself. I braced myself for the daunting task of fitting into your daughter’s life, not quite as a mother but not as a stranger either.
II found myself entangled in a giggling mess of arms and legs as she constantly threw herself into my embrace. Instead of being ignored or disdainfully rebelled against, she demanded nothing less than my undivided attention after I got home from work, and she unabashedly folded herself into my arms while listening to her father read a bedtime story to her.
Months after your daughter’s father and I were married, I began finding little drawings. Little messages of love throughout the house, brazenly declaring her love for her father and I.
The notes were always addressed to “Mom and Dad.” The first time I found one of these, I locked myself in the bathroom and cried. I couldn’t comprehend how this sweet child could so easily decide that I was fit to fill the role of “mother” in her life.
Your daughter has always been such a brilliant girl, perceptive and quick-witted. She may not have known the details of the events over which she had no power as a young child at the mercy of your whims, but she knew that things weren’t as they should be.
And it left her longing for a mother who cared, a mother who wanted to be with her. She hungered for a nurturing voice, a gentle embrace, an affirmation of worth that only a mother can give. I’ve lost count of the number of times in which she’s cried in my arms or in her father’s arms, sobbing because she believes in her beautiful, innocent heart that her “real” mother doesn’t want her.
“Mom, my other mom says you aren’t my ‘real’ mom. But I think you’re just like a real mom because you love me and spend time with me. You make me happy.”
Those words haunt me at night and, on some days, are all that keeps me going when I feel discouraged by your hateful words and actions.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m telling you these things.. I’m telling you these things to let you know that you’ve done something right. And that I’m so very thankful for you.
Your daughter is a strong, thoughtful, intelligent little girl, and she’s learned not to follow in your footsteps.
She’s learned — and she continues to learn — to make her own decisions, to judge others based on what she herself witnesses and believes, rather than to blindly follow your views.
My heart aches for her, that she would have to learn such lessons, especially at such a tender age. But it also rejoices for she’s a strong, beautiful child who will grow up to be a strong, beautiful woman.
There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t wish that you and I could be friends.
There isn’t a day that goes by that my heart doesn’t ache for you as well, for I know that you’re floundering and desperately trying to find where you belong in this world. You just don’t realize that you’re already there.
My prayer for you is that one day you will acknowledge the value of an additional set of arms to wrap around your daughter when she needs to feel them most, an additional heart to beat with the purpose of loving your daughter’s beautiful heart, and an additional soul to nurture and care for your daughter as only a mother can.
I will always be “mom” to your daughter, for as long as she wishes. And for this gift, I will never stop being grateful to you.
Originally published on YourTango