I have a confession to make: I am a wicked stepmother. If you read my book, Stepmothers Anonymous, you know my story. Or at least part of it. The fantastical details are, obviously, a bit of an exaggeration, but the rest of it is true: the difficulties of blending families, the struggles of getting along, the running over your stepchild’s foot…
Yeah, I said running over my step child’s foot. While it’s usually the little actions that build up to create the Grimm’s Fairy Tale villainous (like jealousy, unchecked ambition and the promise of achieving political power by catching the prince’s attention and marrying your child into royalty after your spouse dies and leaves you penniless), it was this particular action that sealed my fate as a bad stepmom.
My stepson was spending the summer with us that year and while I’d like to say we were one, big, happy family, we were struggling to blend. The kids were pre-teens and teens and arguing over everything: for attention, for position, and sometimes, for no reason at all. And after working full-time, coming home to that was no fun at all. But you can’t resign as a parent, you can only make it work. That day, I wasn’t working as hard as I should have.
The kids were spending their summers at the YMCA, swimming, making crafts, playing games and complaining about the fun they were having. I was in the carpool line, thinking about my day and what I still had to do. My stepson was the first one out and for whatever reason, he didn’t get in the car, just stood at the passenger door on the driver’s side. The cars in front of me started moving, leaving a gap several cars wide. I was getting frustrated waiting on the other kids. Finally, I saw my son and daughter approaching. I told my stepson to get in. I heard the door shut and I know that I know that I know that I should have turned around and checked to make sure he was inside the car, but I didn’t.
I started to pull forward, but then I heard him telling me to stop. I did, only to realize then that I had run over his foot. And not just run over, but stopped on it. I immediately backed up and off his foot. He was fine, but I was not. I can’t even describe how horrible I felt. I wanted everyone around me to feel as bad as I did. But that was not the case. My husband and stepson joked around about my newfound status as the fairy tale villainous, while my kids were unmoved by the incident, wanting to know instead what was for dinner.
I want to say that day changed everything for me as a stepmother, but it only made things worse for me. I started to doubt my capability as a mother – was I being careless because he wasn’t mine biologically? Was I harboring some kind of grudge because of his parents’ history? Was I simply a terrible person?
The fact was, this incident was a careless accident, nothing more. It took me years to finally see that; but I finally did (though this post is bringing up some feelings I thought I left behind). When the idea for Stepmothers Anonymous struck, I knew I built it around this incident and how I felt. Though the story is a fantasy at its core, it is, in actuality, the story of a stepmom trying to find her way.
My stepson is an adult now, and while we haven’t talked about this incident (I doubt he even remembers it), we have developed our relationship to something better than what it used to be. And that, to me, is worthy of ‘happily-ever-after.’