Before I met Eli’s kids, P and Z, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it would be like. I wondered if they would look the same in person as they did in their pictures. I wondered if they were silly like my kids. I wondered if they were shy or outgoing. I wondered if they were as obsessed with Eli and he said they were (newsflash: they are). But most of all, I wondered if they would like me. I needed them to like me.
I wrote briefly about our first meeting in a previous post. There were a lot of people around so I didn’t get to truly connect with them. We were introduced but they were much more interested in my kids than they were in me, which is totally understandable. About a week later, on Christmas Eve, my kids were with their Dad, so I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with P and Z. While I waited for Eli to pick me up so that we could head to his parents’ house, I was actually nervous. I remember feeling like I was heading into the most important interview of my life. Now that there wasn’t a parade and 20 other people to break the ice, what would I say to them?
Eli arrived and I walked out to his car. As soon as I opened the car door they both shouted, “Megan!” I was a little caught off guard because I hadn’t really heard them do a lot of talking the first time we met. They were so excited to see me; maybe winning them over wouldn’t be as hard as I thought. I asked them simple questions and told them things about me, and W and L as we drove to our destination. When we got there, something interesting happened. After greeting everyone, I sat down on the couch and P sat down right next to me. There were a lot of people in the room, and being the only non-“family” guest, I decided to take a passive role in the conversations. P hung out with me all evening. She looked at me, and told me what Z was doing with the horse toys he was playing with, we laughed and joked, and she really let her guard down. I could tell that she liked me.
Over the next few months, we continued to build our relationship. I remember when Z started letting himself into my apartment. He was still two at the time, but he was always first. If people were walking, he was leading the pack. If there was a line, he was at the front of it. If someone was running, he was running faster. So, very true to form, he led Eli and P as they walked on the path up to my door. He would open the door and say, “Hellooo, Megan, hellooo.” Then he would run up to me and give me a hug and move straight on to W and L. P was a little slower to warm, but she always ended up sitting right next to me; my little sidekick.
I felt like our bond was growing stronger as the kids comfort around me became more apparent. They started asking me for things and coming to me with their questions and snack requests. That is when I knew I had them! 🙂 One afternoon we were at Eli’s baseball game, and a lot of Eli’s family was there with us to cheer him on. Z was running around and fell and scraped his knee. Before he got up he started crying, so I went to comfort him. He reached up and clung on to me with his arms around my neck. He buried his face into my shoulder and held on tight while he cried. Eli ran around from the dugout and a few of his Aunts came to see if he was ok. He shrugged everyone off and kept sniffling into my shoulder. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I will never forget that moment. To me, that meant that he trusted me. I was his safe place and that is just about as sweet as it gets being a parent, or step-parent, or future step-parent.
And then there was the day when I knew that P loved me. For her 5th birthday, we took the kids to Laguna Beach. None of us has been there, so we got a hotel room and made a trip out of it. Since my kids were with their Dad, I got some really good, focused time in with P and Z. We explored, went to the library, went to the beach, and spent some time at the park. After a long, fun-filled day we got back to our room and started to get ready for bed. We had two queen beds, so we decided to push them together and make one giant bed. We brushed teeth, read books, and got into bed. Eli was on the outside of one of the queen beds and I was on the outside of the other. P wanted to sleep next to me, so we set up our pillows and laid down. I was facing her, and she was facing me with the sweetest smile on her face. All of the sudden she put her face as close to mine as possible; our foreheads and noses were almost touching. I didn’t know if she was going to stay like that and figured she was just being silly, so I stayed put and closed my eyes for a second. When I opened them, her eyes were closed too. I moved back a little bit to give her some space and she moved forward. I closed my eyes again and just laid there. She fell asleep, face-to-face with me. She was comfortable with me, and most importantly, she could be herself. I waved my arm in the air to try to get Eli’s attention so he could see because it was the cutest thing ever, but he was already asleep. A sense of peace washed over me as I laid there with Eli and my two new littles. Everything was just right.
I was so worried about them liking me, I was forgetting that all kids love me – not to toot my own horn or anything but it’s true. I am that mom you see standing at the park surrounded by other people’s kids telling me all about their sparkle shoes, and their new baby brother, and their breakfast, etc. I feel like children know who they can trust. They have a sixth sense about these sorts of things. So why was I so worried that P and Z wouldn’t take to me? After contemplating this for a while, I realized it was because I wasn’t just some mom on the playground, I was their Dad’s new love interest. I could be seen as competition or as a threat to their relationship with him. I had a flashback to when I was around 10 when I met my Dad’s new girlfriend. She was lovely and stylish and smart. Her hair was shiny, her nails were polished and she had perfectly tanned skin… I felt jealous. Until that point, I had been my Dad’s number one; it was always just me and him. Now it was me and him. And her. I loved her, but I knew that everything was changing. I actually cried at their wedding because I felt like my Dad couldn’t even see me; like I was invisible. Looking back on that day, after having a wedding of my own, I completely understand how hectic wedding days are and how I (being 12 or 13) was just a little too sensitive to not being at my Dad’s center of attention. He was getting married for crying out loud! Anyway, knowing what it feels like to have someone steal your Dad’s heart (even just part of it) made me really sensitive to how P and Z would perceive me. So I make sure to never take Eli’s attention away from them and to give them more attention than I give Eli. This way they will always feel important, and they will always feel loved. Eli and I have already discussed doing some very special things for the kids on our wedding day, which I am so looking forward to.
So they like me! Woo hoo! But will they always like me? This one makes my head hurt… because I don’t know the answer. I don’t have a crystal ball, and although I know I will always treat them with love and respect, there are outside factors that I just can’t control. The main factor is that I am not their Mom. I never will be. They have a Mother, and I’m not sure how she feels about me. That is scary. Seeds can be (and quite possibly already have been) planted early and often that may leave P and Z hating me. All I can do is show them who I am, and hope that they are able to use their own judgment. To kids, actions speak much louder than words. No matter how loud those words are that they may hear, I have to always be thoughtful and patient. Even when they are teenagers and they are angry with me, even when they repeat lies that they may have been told, I have to remember to show them forgiveness, empathy, grace, and most importantly, unconditional love. I *hope* that they will always love me; that they will always trust me and see me through their own eyes, not someone else’s. I want them to know that I won’t stop doing everything I can to protect them, while at the same time, giving them space to learn and grow into the incredible adults that I know they will be. They sure are some lucky kids to have Eli for a Dad, and I feel so lucky that I have the privilege of being a part of their lives.