Step-grandma? by Peggy Bogaard-Lapp
I became a step-mother nearly 20 years ago. I have always hated the term “step” since it is impersonal and is usually referred to in describing what you do with your foot. And in the early years, I did feel stepped on. A lot. I was very naive to children, and the mess divorce creates between them and their parents.
I met this wonderful man by chance, on a Sunday in September back in ’92. His blue eyes caught mine, and his smile – wow! (it’s still that way for me today – wow). After a few dates, I found out that he was also divorced, and had two young daughters, 2 and 6, who he had every other weekend for visits. I remember thinking, well, every other weekend isn’t that bad. The truth, which I found out gradually, is that every other weekend is not good. For anyone. It’s too few days for a daddy and his girls to bond. It’s too few hours for a new woman in daddy’s life to form a relationship with his girls. It’s far too few minutes for those innocent children to continually re-attach themselves to their father. But somehow, inch by inch, day by day, year by year we all made it work, and kept working at it. It got easier as they got older and could make the choices for themselves to come over to our house. And one day, the younger daughter, Natalie, who was 14, decided she wanted to live with us. This hit us like a bolt of lightning. By this time Erica was eighteen months, but we both knew this would be an important and necessary move. Natalie was struggling in school and at home, and she clearly understood that something needed to change for her to stay on track. And I’m happy to say that she lived with us almost three years and it made a huge impact not only on her but on her dad and I. We became closer.
With families, it seems that something always bubble up to the top and needs attention – and next it was news that we were going to be grandparents. Mark’s older daughter, Mallerie, was 19 when she brought us the news. This brought many different feelings. We were in our forties, for goodness sakes, and had a toddler! But as we always had done, we accepted the news, and adjusted to our new status as grandparents. I was just getting used to hearing “mommy” and “grandma” or “granny” just wasn’t going to sit well. I suggested that I be called “Oma” (which is Dutch for grandma) by my future grandchild. And those days when I took both my daughter and my grandson Corban out in public and I got the raised eyebrows when I explained my relationship with both kids, I began to understand that being Oma was just as important as being Mommy. I was not his “step-grandma.” He doesn’t see me any differently. He just knows that I am a grown up that loves him. I always felt compelled to explain that the was my step daughter’s son. And that always made me feel like I was less important because of the “step”. Now I’m going to be an Oma again. Natalie is due in January, and I have to admit that I am pretty excited, as is Erica, who will be an aunt again. This time it’s going to be different.
Over the last twenty years, I have wrestled with the relationship I have with my step-daughters. It’s sometimes been strained, and sometimes very smooth. As they (and I) have grown older, it has been easier to connect with them. I woke up this week, birds chirping, a beautiful summer morning, and in thinking about the new baby that is on the way, and I saw it so clearly. After all these years, and all we have been through, these are really my daughters. I have raised them, even if it was in a different way, and created a relationship with them. They are important to me. I hope I am important to them. I know they won’t be able to call me their mom, because their mom deserves that title alone. I will always be their step-mom , but I hope that they see me beyond the title, more than dad’s wife. As of now, I am referring to them as my daughters. No more explaining the back story. They are my daughters and grandchildren. I feel like I have made it to the top of a mountain, and the view at the top is beautiful.