There we were, two 28 year olds who shared the love of a football team, humor and spontaneity, falling hard for one another at the end of 2013. We made each other’s hearts pound! They raced with excitement at just seeing one another! I think about it and it wasn’t that long ago, but the naivety about this spark that turned into a burning flame of attraction was blinding! I had no clue what my future held. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. I mean that in the hopeful-Rod-Stewart-Young-Turks kind of way. I was open to the future and the possibilities! And so was Gregg, my beau, my boo thang, my man (and little did I know, my future husband!). I was still stunned when he asked me just two short months into dating to go back to his hometown in Wisconsin to meet his parents, siblings, and DAUGHTER! I said yes, of course, but the nervousness I had simmering inside me felt like it was going to boil over, every second we inched closer to road-tripping our way North. Oh, and did I mention it was going to be a 10-day trip? This was no small having-me-over-for-dinner affair. This was going to be a make-or-break meeting of our relationship. I felt ill-prepared. I wasn’t the long relationship type. I had been in the Air Force and I moved every 1 to 2 years. I was the social girl, the girl who liked new people and new adventures; but this was, by far, the scariest social experience I had ever imagined.
I could just imagine what his family thought: “They’ve been dating for how long?!” But I had to put those less-than-stellar thoughts on the back burner. I was going to meet the single most important person in his life. His heart. His world. His 7-year-old daughter.
While I had what I thought was “extensive” experience with kids and loved them, I didn’t know if it would help me out in this upcoming experience. I was raised an only child (I have 3 half-siblings, but that’s another blog for another time), and I was babysitting my newborn cousins at age nine (Ohhhh, the 90’s). I later took courses in early childhood development at my high school that let us practice in an actual daycare run in our classroom. Later, I worked at an amazing pre-school with 2 year olds and was a part-time nanny after my regular shift for a few students whose mom trusted me with their after-school care. All of that experience still wasn’t enough in my mind to meet this special little girl.
Now, let me continue by saying that meeting his parents was the most stress-free experience ever. They are the utmost warm-hearted, open-armed people I’ve ever met. They have been amazing to me since Day One. I hear horror stories of in-laws, and I truly thank my lucky stars for them. (And I’m not just typing that because they might read it, although I do hope this makes them smile.)
Imagine you are a 7-year-old girl who gets to see your dad maybe twice a year and he brings a lady with him on a visit. You might be cautious, unsure, and completely elusive to interaction with that lady. I saw myself in her. I was that little girl at one point in my life. I am a stepchild — or bonus child, as I prefer to say. I knew that being patient and understanding and letting things happen naturally between us would be the best course of action. My heart still had doubts and as a very secure woman (I was a grownup, a veteran, and I lived overseas on my own for many years, for goodness’ sake!), I felt the most insecure I had ever felt. Nothing like a kid to make you feel that way!
Once I saw the opportunities to do her hair, or get her costume and makeup prepped for trick-or-treating, or to make fun of her dad’s farting habits with her, I found that our relationship was expanding and it truly warmed my heart. When all I wanted was to provide an environment that would be filled with as much as love as her biological family could provide and I received a positive reception to that, I felt as if I could breathe. This didn’t happen in one meeting. It took years and I still walk on eggshells trying not to be a nightmare bonus mom, but our relationship has solid ground on which to grow. I love that little girl, and I hope that she feels that every day. I hope she grows up knowing that the fear I had upon our first meeting was fear born out of the best intentions for her and for us, because I wanted her to know how important I thought she was, and still is. I want her to allude to me in her own thoughts as a positive role model and I want her to connect that, most of all, to love. And I hope, one day, that she can come to me when she’s older (like 45) to tell me about how nervous she is about meeting her boyfriend’s parents so I can share with her my experience on how to ease the pounding of a nervous heart.
The video below always confirms my tear ducts’ ability to work and it reminds me what’s really at the core of step parenting, or being a bonus mom, as I refer to it.