There were years I was plagued with guilt for not being able to love by step-child as my own. I thought it would never happen and that there must be something wrong with me because I couldn’t automatically love such a sweet and helpful boy.
Well, as the visitations passed, that love grew and grew. I became more hurt and more sad with every visitation we were forced to miss.
Those shoes that were once left out on the living room floor after he had already left no longer irritated me. I just scoop them up with a sigh and think nothing more of it. I’d gladly take shoes in the living room if that meant he could stay.
I see the way he flinches and freezes every time he thinks he’s going to get in trouble. I wish there was some way to teach him that it is OK to make mistakes.
I see the way he is torn between the love he has for our family and the love he has for his mother. Torn between two households and the emotional devastation he has to navigate. I just want to hug him and cuddle him the way I would for my own children. But I know that’s not what he needs or wants. Instead I tenderly ask him if he would like his dad to hold him. I will distract the girls with a movie, cookies or painting their nails in order to give him the time he will need with his dad.
More than anything, I fully see and acknowledge the love and connection he has with his mother. He cries nearly every night worried about her safety when she’s home alone with his step-father. He may even call several times a night just to check on her. I just want to hug his broken pieces back together.
But the more my love for my bonus child grows, the more my irritation and animosity for his mother multiplies. The way she is careless with her partner’s treatment of her child. The way she would rather “win” at being the favorite parent rather than help him cope with the separation anxiety he STILL feels. The way she plays him against his father and the way she emotionally relies on him.
This frustration is only exacerbated when I know that I could be a better mother to him. I could teach him, love him and nurture him better than she does. Amplify that with the cruel twist of fate that I do not have a son of my own. I love both of my girls with all of my heart and would never wish them away for anything! But I do still long for a son. I long for that mother-son bond. With the realization that I will not have any more biological children the temptation to claim my step-son as my own only grows. I WANT to be his mother. I wanted to be the one to pinch those chubby baby cheeks. To catch him playing in mud. To have him bring me a frog in his pocket. To dress him up in a little suit and tie for church. To kiss his curly head goodnight after singing him a lullaby. I can’t cherish those moments I was never allowed to have. Which makes me even more anxious to claim him as my own now. I want to be there to meet his girlfriends. To teach him how to drive a car. To teach him how to flirt with the girl he has a crush on. To cheer him on in his favorite sport. To helping him choose a college and being that overinvolved and doting mother decorating his dormroom. I want to be there for his wedding not as the awkward plus-one that shouldn’t be there, but as someone with a place of honor to support him in his next steps of life.
So what would possible cause me to refrain from rescuing this little boy with the love I know I could give him? I love him too much to be his mother.
Wishing his mother away would be wishing half of him away. She is a deep and integral part of who he is. And despite all of her flaws, that little boy loves her unconditionally. Sure she takes advantage of that, but children need to know that they are not the products of a failure, because they will conclude that they themselves must also be at least half a failure. I love him too much to promote anything that would make him feel that way.
With every incident, my distain for his mother grows. I must find a way to forgive her for it. Even if I’m doing everything I can do to ensure him that I fully support his love for his mother, whether it be suggesting pictures of her by his bedside or recordable storybooks so she can “read” him a story, if I am not genuine then my love for him couldn’t be genuine either. I love him too much to even allow him to believe for a moment that he isn’t loved.
And So I pray! Every Sunday I pray and ask God to grant me the ability to forgive her “just one more time.” That’s all I need. Just once more. I ask him to take away my bitterness toward him for denying me a son and then dangling such a sweet boy right in front of me. I beg him to ease my feeling of injustice in what seems like the Lord saying to me: “Love him as your own and more than his own mother but he isn’t yours.” Above all, I plead with the Lord to let the son who is denied to me know how much he is loved and cared about, and that he will always have a loving home with us.