Happy birthday to my very sweet stepson, Austin. He has shown up here in this blog often.
When I think about my life's "wins" - Austin gets more than an honorable mention. Yes, it's true, I met him when he was very young, only five, so that improved our chances of bonding. He wasn't too baked. And there wasn't another active mother in the mix, so that didn't hurt either.
We all know that parenting works best when the adults involved are in agreement (duh!). Raising five children together, Shawn and I had many hearty discussions and never left the closed-door bathroom until we were united on whatever the current crisis was with any of them.
I'm not saying it was always The Brady Bunch, but honestly, I also can't imagine one scene during their growing up years that couldn't have been recorded.
I saw my time with Austin, in the early years, as a vocation, not unlike getting called to religious life. Like that - a lifelong choice with tons of sacrifices. But I underestimated the joys, the juice, that would come my way. I was able to avoid the step traps, like coming on too strong or bribing with gifts, because, frankly, that wasn't my role. He needed a mother, not a friend.
And that's what he received. Overnight, almost, he got a stepmom, and stepsibs, and visits with his bio mom, but he also got a huge dose of good ole-fashion family time and values, mostly void of video games and full of structure. On family outings, he was always relegated to the back of the mini-van, not because he was a step, but because he was the youngest. But he also received the most love, the most allowances, the most privileges . . . because he was the baby.
Contemplating marriage with Shawn was easy, deciding to be a stepmom was much, much harder. Austin, solitarily, decided I was a good thing, that this was a good thing, and for his acceptance and devotion I will always be grateful. He recognized my stepmom sincerity and accepted it, and me.
I had read all the books before we blended. I was braced for the refrain, "You're not my real mom!"
It never came. In fact, just the opposite. I can hear his confident voice right now. "This is my mom, Jenifer, and she is my real mom!"
Thank you son. I wasn't there 23 years ago, but thank you for letting me in for most of the rest of it. It's been a true honor. Happy Birthday Austin. xoxo, mom