We have our 11 year old daughter about once a month and several times each year for longer visits. She is technically my step daughter but in my family ‘step’ was never a designation that we made for people.
“Steps are for walking up slopes,” my dad would say. I moved in with my father and his second wife at age 10 and from that point on my mom was the one who never turned her back on me.
When I was 8 my dad left town and my brother, then 14, and I were left in the care of my mother. This was a terrible plan and my father knew it. I think he was 32 at the time. As a child I thought him a horrible person for leaving me. Now that I am a woman who is older than he was then, i see things very differently. I still think he made poor choices but recognize he was a young guy dealing with a bad marriage and doing what he thought was best at the time. I have grace for the man my father was. I feel healthier for seeing him through my now adult eyes. At 8 though I was grief stricken by his abandonment.
My mother was a blackout alcoholic. She would binge for weeks sometimes. My brother was in juvenile jail most of the time. Mom was too drunk to remember to come home most of the time and when she did come home she always had a different drunken slobbering creep from the bar in tow. There was rarely food to eat. I was hungry, afraid, and alone for most of that period of my life.
Finally after some details of my situation got reported to the cops, my ‘real’ mom shipped me off to live with my dad to protect her then boyfriend from being charged with being a pedophile.
[Side note: Yes, the 80s version of law enforcement to protect children and women from violence really really sucked. This is not just the stuff that happened in the ancient times of black and white photos. The cops were the ones that suggested sending me to live out of state with my father would keep them from ‘having to file the paperwork ‘ and would be better for the boyfriend. The boyfriend, by the way, owned the local ice cream shop. That is some creepy creeper stuff and it wasn’t a punchline or a movie plot. ]
So I showed up in my ‘step’ mom’s life abused, defensive, cursing like a sailor, and filled with resentment for ‘that bitch’ that stole my father away. I was a damn peach to raise I’m certain.
She never said “step daughter” when she got the calls from teachers complaining about me failing or skipping school. She never reminded me that I was not her kid when I stumbled in late.
My father died several years ago and to this day my mom loves me, is supportive of me, and sees me as her daughter. No steps involved.
But I digress…
As we drove home today from picking up my daughter we paired her phone to the radio via Bluetooth and I received an education in the joys of her favorite bands. “Panic at the Disco” doesn’t suck as bad as I would have expected but suffering through “Fall Out Boy” was an act of love. Listening to her chatter about the details of the lives of each lead singer and the meaning of the lyrics was good stuff. I love that crazy kid. I am glad she is my daughter.