I consider the bond I have built with my stepson to be one of the most important and meaningful relationships of my life. I also consider him to be one of the major influences in how I parent my own daughter.
At the beginning of my step-parenting journey, I didn't have my own children. I was able to devote a lot of time towards building a good foundation with my stepson.
Before I even married my current partner, I had already taken on the "mom-like" duties of laundry, reading bedtime stories, and school pick-ups.
Once I became pregnant, everything changed — but not in the way I had anticipated.
I had worried that my soon-to-be baby would cause my stepson to feel abandoned and drive us apart. But that's not what happened at all. The child growing inside me became a special link to my stepson. His future baby sister tied us to one another in ways I could never have imagined.
He was included when we picked my daughter's name. He talked to her while she was in my belly. He grew more excited as each day passed for her arrival. My daughter was already a star in my stepson's eyes before she was even born.
Nevertheless, I still worried that the upcoming birth would stunt the relationship I had with my stepson and that all my effort would be lost with the 2 am feedings and constant need for attention from my baby.
But what happened was something else. When I was ready to have the baby, writhing with contractions in the hospital, my stepson insisted on visiting me. He was about 8 at this time.
There he came, walking into the room and right up to the machine next to my bed which monitored my contractions. After a minute of looking at the machine and watching me squirm from the effects of a particularly huge contraction, he stated, "Boy, that looked like a big one!"
Even in my intense pain, I managed a slight smile and literally just fell in love with him a bit more.
After I gave birth, my stepson came back to see me and asked to climb into the hospital bed with me. Of course, I was pretty out of it, but I remember him giving me a hug and telling me, "Thank you."
For his sister.
He's a teenager now. The birth of my daughter brought out parts of our relationship we may never have experienced otherwise. He's seen me grumpy, angry, crying, and running on 1 hour of sleep. He's gone to countless doctor visits with us, waited for hours in the urgent care waiting rooms, and sat with his sister as she threw up in her car seat.
My stepson has seen me at my absolute worst and has stood by and watched me as I stumbled through the experience of becoming a new mom. Little did he realize, at the same time, I was desperately struggling to be the best stepmom I could be for him.
Having my own child has taught me that the love I feel for my stepson and the love I have for my own daughter is only separated by the fact that I did not carry my stepson in my belly or give birth to him. I also missed out on the first several years of his life before meeting him. Those are big things. But they are not everything.
Going through the experience of having my own child has taught me that none of it would have been as sweet as it was if my stepson were not around. The role he plays in my life and his sister's life is something that can never be replaced.
Through my stepson, I learned to be more patient, empathetic, and more aware of how we as parents can affect our children.
By watching my stepson go through difficult times not having his biological parents together, I was able to come to a better understanding of what that must be like and it caused me to strive harder at making sure this didn't happen to our family unit.
The choice to be a step-parent was mine. Keep in mind, this is not the same thing as knowing what you're getting into. You can never fully know what you're getting into with step-parenting or even parenting. You simply commit to it and dive in.
I believe my stepson has molded me into the kind of parent I never thought I would be. He's brought out the best in me and has given me the reassurance that I am and will be a strong parent for both him and his sister going forward.
More from Michelle: 5 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Relationships (And What To Do About It)
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