What I’m going to share with you is one of my BIGGEST frustrations as step-parent that happens when I am out in public with my two boys.
This is a question that I DREAD answering!
So BIG that I stumble over my words and even awkwardly laugh at the question.
BUT at the SAME time, I am boiling inside with the degradation that it means for myself and the boys.
Busy weekday afternoon at Sams Club, or Costco (it happens at both, but more often at Sams Club), needing to get from my school, to the boys’ school, to the store, to their sports practice, to dinner, and beyond. Every one knows this struggle.
Not only that, but every parent knows the struggle of needing to get through the grocery store quickly and efficiently without a meltdown or forgetting something, because one of those is bound to happen. Thankfully with the boys’ ages, it has become a much more effective trip to the grocery store, but there are still the arguments and the “I want” and “Can I have?” even now.
The shopping is over and I have a full conveyor belt neatly organized and ready to be scanned efficiently and quickly; because let’s be real, I had a whole plan when putting the groceries into my cart and then onto the conveyor belt that clearly means business and I’m in a hurry.
The check-out lady (it’s always a lady/girl that asks this question) is scanning my items, while the boys are jumping around at the end of the cart, watching everything be loaded, while continuing to ask, “Mom, can I have?” or simply, “Hey Mom!”
When all of a sudden, the STARE happens.
The stare between looking at the boys and looking at my face. The stare of puzzlement in their head that doesn’t just stay in their head, but COMES OUT!
“These are your kids?” questions the check-out lady.
Then, the stare and smile come from not only me, but from the boys as well, where they look at me and I look at them and we smile at each other. Apparently smiling at one another is never a clear indicator that we are mother and sons, so here it comes…
The second and third question mixed into one…
“But you’re so young? How old were you when you had them?”
How do I answer?!
Do I answer with, “Yes, I was 14 when I had him”, or “No, they’re my step-sons” or “No, I’m their step-mom”?
Which one am I SUPPOSE to choose??
Because honestly, there isn’t a one correct answer for any of those options.
I would never answer the question of “How old were you when you had them?” with the answer they might be expecting. Because the simple truth is, I did not give birth to him at 14 years old. The truth is, they were was placed in my life at 21 years old. At 21 years old, I made a decision to begin a relationship with a man that I knew had “baggage”. At 21 years old, the Lord knew that this tiny family needed me to not only take care of them, but to build them all up in their faith. During my 22nd year, I became a full-time mom overnight (literally). The year I became a full-time mom, I was still 22, the boys were in 1st and 2nd grade, and I was finishing up my credentials. By the end of their 1st and 2nd grade school year, I was 23 years old, student teaching, and engaged to their dad.
When I answer those questions at the store, I know the correct answer is suppose to be “They’re my step-sons or I’m their step-mom”. I know that! I know that is what the world wants me to say. But when I look in their eyes and I say the words “step-sons”, it BREAKS my heart! Because they know those words aren’t truly either.
They are not my step-sons, they are my children. I have raised them and groomed them into the young gentleman they are today. I may not have been there for the diaper changes and the potty training, but I am here now. I’m here for the daily struggles of homework and shuttling them to different practices. I’m here every day to teach them what their responsibilities are in our home and in the world.
But how do you explain that to a check out lady at Sams Club?
Step-parents out there, how do you deal with these types of questions?
What’s your biggest frustration as a step-parent?