by Keli Spanier
In the beginning when I came onto the scene, it was really hard. All of the sudden, not only did a new man come into my life, but two beautiful little blonde girls came with him. I was living in an apartment, single in my thirties, and independently successful. The girls were sweet at 5 and 7 years old, such unassuming ages that they welcomed me right away.
I now had three relationships to nurture and learn from. Back then, I watched them miss their daddy terribly. I was an observer of the very important struggle kids have when they only see their dad every other weekend and a few sporadic weekdays. When we picked the girls up from school on the one weekday we had them, I watched the girls urgently scan the parking lot for sight of him. I watched them run hard, collapsing into his arms, not paying attention to the other kids trying to talk to them. Just being held by him, nothing else mattering. The love they have for their “dada” is fierce and unrelenting.
The standard court-appointed schedule put him at a constant disadvantage to be involved in their lives otherwise, because he simply wasn’t considered “in the picture.” It was convenient for you, because you didn’t want him to be in the picture at all. I watched you “forget” to give him their school pictures every single year. I saw you send medical and dental bills for appointments he never knew the girls had. I watched them ask him why he wasn’t there. I watched them tell us they were never allowed to call their daddy, and that the phone was locked so they couldn’t even try. I saw the emails you sent, berating his fathering skills and commandeering all extra curricular activities in their lives. I watched your husband threaten to call the police when we pulled into your driveway to drop off the girls at your house. I heard stories of gifts the girls had made for you, that you had thrown away because they were made in his presence. I heard that during your court battle, you accused him of molesting your babies, putting them through an examination that will never be forgotten.
In spite of all of this, I had an open mind about you. I smiled at you, I never spoke badly of you to the girls. I knew in my heart that your words came from a place of good, as my mother had taught me to judge others as I do myself.
My first message to you and to my husband is to thank you. For the part you did in having enough love between you to create these two girls, watching them learn to walk and talk, being their first loves. A mama’s bond to her little girls is so important. And you will always have that, for I am never here to be a replacement. They will always have you in their hearts and I appreciate that so much.
We had struggles as every relationship does, but we tied the knot and I now have an actual title after spending 3 years loving them all.
Many court arguments later, the parenting time is now 50/50 and the girls are finally getting what they’ve always wished for. Even though this was not your decision, this is the second time I need to thank you. Every day I am with these girls, I am so thankful for it. I know I am an “extra” in this movie, and I didn’t do much of the hard work to raise these girls to be the loving beings that they already were when I met them.
My next message to you is that I am sorry. In the beginning, I didn’t realize how much my existence hurt you. I was spending a lot of time with your girls, falling in love with them and vice versa. I didn’t consider that it probably broke your heart when you realized how much they loved me. I am sure it hurts to drop the girls off at the beautiful home that we’ve created together, to see their excitement to see us. I have the life that you had originally thought would be yours.
But the love I have with them is different. It is not a motherly love, or a friendly love. It is a new kind of love that exists only between us. These girls have hearts as big as the ocean, and there is so much room in each one for so many people to love. This is not a competition, and never will be no matter how many years go by. You are and still will be their number one. And you must understand when I tell you that I am so glad for that. As someone who lost her mom much too young, I am so glad I had that relationship at all. Some little girls don’t even get to have that bond at all, and I am sure you would agree that we both want them to have the most important relationships in their lives, the ones that shape them into such caring and observant beings. I even told the girls this in my wedding vows to them, before I began my vows to my husband. That I am not there to replace you and never would be.
We don’t have to have a relationship, you and I. I have come to peace with that although I once thought we could. Over the years, your words to me have stung, for I am a human being that feels pain when someone badmouths them. I used to respond to you and let myself be caught up in an endless stream of arguments. I am sorry for that.
I no longer take this path, as I know there is no argument to win or lose. My number one concern is the family we are a part of, and how to make it the best it can be. I encourage the girls to love everyone that is close to them and never pick sides in any aspect of their lives. The truth is, these girls have so many more family members than most little girls have, and we love that about them. Their situation is certainly unique, but what joy it must be to know so many people love you?
The girls are free to tell us about their entire lives and never segregate things into sections and sides. We hope someday this can be true for everyone. I know I am naive to think that someday everyone will get along. But I will work tirelessly to make their lives as stress-free as I can. So one day, when these girls get married, or have a little baby, they will never worry about having their family not get along. They will never concern themselves with who dislikes who. Because we will make it our priority every single day to never engage in the negativity you may tempt us with, for we know it will only ultimately hurt them. You can continue sending hate our way – you have your own reasons to feel the way you do, and I understand. I don’t fault you for it, but I will never encourage it.
A stepmom has a difficult role, and every day I wonder if I “measure up.” When you tell my husband that I have no experience with children, I guess you’re right. But I did have some fantastic parents, so hopefully I am better than you think I am. Please know that I am trying the best that I can.
You can do what you will to try and prevent us from succeeding. Our lives are completely dedicated to the girls. We do everything for them, and there is so much happiness in our home, it is nearly exploding. I refuse to let them see anything but love. And in the end, there is no winning or losing, there is just the adoration these girls have for all of us. To me, that is what will make me a good stepmom. I am happy to stand back and watch the girls hug each of you as hard as they can. There is no jealousy or resentment. There is only admiration and joy.