Yeah, yeah. It’s totally cliché, but I’m going here anyway. This “open letter” to the other maternal influence on the lives of my kids was spurred by our first face-to-face meeting in over two years which occurred earlier this week.
Dear future stepmother of my children:
This is awkward, I know.
And I realize that neither of us wanted to make the first move to establish an appropriate relationship. So we just didn’t.
Until this morning when we were forced to.
You on your way to work, and me on the way home from it. My beautiful kids sat in your car as you waited for me to arrive so you could take your son into his daycare. Then we smiled at each other and exchanged pleasantries.
Like old acquaintances are wont to do.
You know, it still strikes me as completely bizarre.
And I’m still unsure whether you knew this was going to happen.
Despite my Former Spouse’s insistence that you two got together in the aftermath of our simultaneous marital separations, it certainly felt contrived.
But it’s irrelevant, really. I stopped questioning the circumstances and began to let go of the feelings of betrayal a long time ago.
I had to.
Because acceptance is crucial for moving forward. And because choosing hurt and anger over forgiveness doesn’t do anything except make my stomach churn.
Anyway, before today, the last time we spoke was two and a half years ago.
To me, you were still just his co-worker.
The sweet little boy you bathed in your tub last night was still snuggled, warm and safe, in my womb. The precious little girls who hugged you goodbye this morning as I buckled their baby brother into the car still only knew you as “Christopher’s mommy.” And the man with whom you now share a bed was still my husband.
Then everything changed.
And, somehow, you became a significant presence in the lives of the three most-important people I’ll ever love.
The first year of the separation was excruciating for me.
Sending my children to spend time with their father (still my husband, then) and knowing you would be there too – with MY family – felt so horribly wrong. At times I really thought I might die from the intensity of the heartache. I’d stand in the doorway, watching my Former Spouse drive our beautiful babies away from me and toward you and I would fight the impulse to rush after them and do whatever it took to keep them from you. Every single time.
Because picking up my little daughters and infant son from their dad and smelling your perfume all over them sickened me. The only perfume that should linger on their clothes and hair and foreheads should be mine. Ever.
And because hearing about how awesome your pancakes were, or the movie you all went to see, or admiring the manicures you gave them on their weekends away from me broke my heart even more.
It’s totally silly, but in those moments I felt like I was losing them. And they are my everything. The only thing I have left of my old life that I still sometimes can’t believe I lost.
Like a mama bear standing upright, tall and fierce, I roared a warning: these are MY kids. MINE!!!!!
I’m ashamed that ugly green monster had such a long moment in the spotlight.
But I wanted to hate you.
And I’m pretty sure I did.
It didn’t take them long to start loving you, you know. In fact, I suspect it was almost instantaneous. Kids are quick to form attachments.
And they can’t help but talk about the people they love.
So I force myself to swallow the spiteful things I want to say about you. And instead I just smile when the kids regale me with stories about the adventures they have with you and their Daddy.
I bite my tongue when the girls gush over the latest gift you lavished on them.
I pretend it doesn’t make my heart bleed a little bit when my son says your name and his eyes light up.
And, the truth is, I really am grateful. You could’ve been a complete monster and hate children. You could’ve been 22 years old and clueless about what it means to be a parent. You could’ve been an unstable, irresponsible, unsafe, crazy person.
But you’re not.
And for that, I only have an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
So, here’s to the new beginning of an important relationship. I’m hopeful we can set aside our differences and work together for the good of my children.
Every choice I make, every goal I set, and everything I want out of this life is grounded in the best interest of those three.
So I forgive you. And I trust you. And I’m rooting for you and my Former Spouse to go the distance, truly.
Because I know that it’s so important for my kids to see their father in a healthy, loving relationship. It makes him a better person and a better dad.
And that’s really all that matters.