What It's Like to Gain a Wickedly Wonderful Step-Mother

At the age of 15, I became a child of divorce. It came along with the typical woes of deciding who to go with and deciphering how I felt. For me, this meant moving to London with my dad and my new step-mom, Anna. I moved at the beginning of my grade 10 year into a tiny townhouse that required sharing a shoebox sized room and bunk-bed with my younger sister and driving an hour to school every day until I could transfer high schools in the next semester.

My new step-mom was different than my first fifteen years of life. She was stylish, straight-forward and disciplined. She immediately expected better from me in school, chores, and work. My only sanctuary from this completely new life was the double bed I had and even then I had my sister above me. At first, I thought it was Anna that forced me to start over in almost every way imaginable—from moving cities to not being allowed to put ornaments on the christmas tree the way I had my entire life. I accused her of turning my life upside down.

That is, until Christmas Day in 2012. My dad picked me and my sister up from my mom’s in Brantford and took us back to London. Upon entering, my new mom and step-sister were there with presents for us under the tree. After dinner we got to open them, and there was one that changed my life forever.

My sister and I unwrapped the small boxes at the same time and opened their side which revealed an authentic Coach wristlet for each of us.

Anna smiled and explained that she recalled me saying I liked the one she had, and that every young lady should have one. “It’s a classic,” she taught us. “A staple for every wardrobe.”

I never thought I would own Coach anything. In that moment, I realized I was as new to my step-mom as she was to me. I put my presents in my shoebox room and finally took in that it was decorated in my favourite colour even though I don’t remember telling her I loved red. When I lost everything I had ever known, she gained twice as much expense and responsibility.

Being a child of divorce is messy and frustrating beyond all reason. Nothing in life is within your control and nothing ever really feels settled. We don’t take the moment to realize it is exactly how a step-parent of a child of divorce feels, too. The most gut wrenching part of that fact is we lose so much time being bitter, uncomfortable and stubborn; time that could be better spent being happy, sharing and working together.

The thing I get most sad about now is I didn’t know my Anna the first 15 years of my life, and I spent our first few months playing a useless blame game. She is now my best friend, my favourite party partner, my shoulder to cry on and my hero. She taught me to be independent, to laugh always, to work hard and to expect nothing short of the very best of myself. She is everything I aspire to be one day and it’s easy to understand what made my dad fall in love so hard and fast. She came fluttering out of a cocoon full of seemingly never-ending darkness and anger to save my family, and I am forever thankful she captured us.

So, my fellow child of divorce, take a minute to remember that even though integrating a new parent and family into your life was hard, it was just as hard for them to integrate a child and new family into theirs. Remember that every day they choose to give you whatever they can and sometimes your shoebox room is their very best. Remember what love can do, and remember that two families can be twice as much love in your life, but only if you let them in.

Merry Christmas, my Mom of almost seven years. I love you.


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